At least a 1,000 Indian phone numbers are in a list of potential targets of surveillance using the Pegasus spyware sold by Israeli company the NSO Group, reports MUDIT MATHUR
The Monsoon Session of the Indian Parliament rocked with unruly protests over the exposé that Israeli based tech company NSO Group’s military-grade most intrusive remotely hacking spyware Pegasus had unlawfully snooped over 300 Indian individuals out of which 142 names have been revealed so far as its potential targets. Snooping target list allegedly contains the names of one constitutional authority, two sitting cabinet ministers, prominent opposition leaders and people in their close proximity, business people, lawyers, student leaders, trade union leaders, Dalit-social-human rights defenders and uninfluenced potent journalists who have being illegally spied upon by using most intrusive malicious spyware.
The abuse of most advanced intrusive surveillance technology over the decades has been terrifying with ‘zero-click’ Pegasus spyware hack the control of our privacy remotely. The accusation behind the exposé is of substantial consideration threat to privacy–a fundament right held by apex court. It’s mind boggling for the people of India as to what happens to the personal data? Whether or not our government is using Pegasus? Who is the man power handling this data? Where is the money coming from? “Is India going to be a Surveillance State?” opposition leaders quarried, making pandemonium stalling the house proceedings on several days.
The lack of transparency and evasive approach of the Modi government about the purchase of Pegasus spyware by NSO Group further aggravated doubts in the minds of the people about the government’s role as NSO submitted before a Northern District of California Judge Court, “It only sells spyware to vetted sovereign government clients and law enforcement agencies to track terrorists and criminals.” But its defence in response to WhatsApp law suit did not satisfy the court and it continues to go with law suit for deeper investigation and may order NSO to divulge its clints details at whose instance it intruded privacy of WhatsApp users with whom end to end encryption is guaranteed. NSO cited confidentiality clause of the contract with its clients to remain tight-lipped. The NSO Group has retained the law firm of King & Spalding to represent it in the case. Its legal team includes the Trump administration’s former deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.
Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton also pointed out that the underlying facts in the case — that someone sent malicious code and malware through WhatsApp’s servers — did not appear to be disputed. Instead, the lawsuit revolved around whether NSO Group’s “sovereign customers” were to blame, or the company itself. It puts Modi government in a Catch-22 situation. If it admits purchasing of NSO owned Pegasus spyware then government has lot to answer why it conducted surveillance of about 300 of its own citizens– including constitutional functionaries, opposition leaders, potential journalists, civil and human rights defendants? Denial may lead to further complicity as to why did it compromise national security and outsourced unlawful spying in this brazen manner intruding right to privacy –a fundamental right of a citizen?
In the Rajya Sabha on 28 November 2019, the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and senior congress party leader Digvijay Singh initiated the issue of reported use of spyware Pegasus to compromise phone data of some persons through WhatsApp by raising a calling attention motion of urgent public importance. It was admitted on the floor of the house by then Minister for information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad in clear terms that a notice has been given to NSO. Its smog some sort of flip-flop.
France-based media non-profit organisation, “Forbidden Stories,” a consortium of 17 media organisations including Indian news website www.thewire.in launched collaborative investigative “Pegasus Project” with international media consortium into charges of spying on thousands of individuals across the world through the spyware developed and sold by Israeli technology firm NSO Group. The Pegasus Project deployed more than 80 reporters from 17 media organizations in 10 countries with the technical support of Amnesty International’s Security Lab — sifted through these records of phone numbers and were able to take a peek behind the curtain of this surveillance weapon, which had never been possible to this extent before.
Pegasus contacts the attacker’s command and control (C&C) servers to receive and execute instructions and send back the target’s private data, including passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages, and live voice calls (even those via end-to-end-encrypted messaging apps). The attacker can control the phone’s camera and microphone, and use the GPS function to track a target. It can remotely plant any document, photo and video sneaking into the mobile phone.
The modus operandi of spyware is to avoid extensive bandwidth consumption that may alert a target. Pegasus sends only scheduled updates to a C&C server. The spyware is designed to evade forensic analysis, avoid detection by anti-virus software, and can be deactivated and removed by the attacker, as and when needed. The Forbidden Stories had accessed the records of phone numbers selected by NSO clients in more than 50 countries since 2016. It revealed unprecedented leak of more than 50,000 phone numbers selected for surveillance by the customers of the Israeli company NSO Group found in the exposé, how this technology has been systematically abused for years.
The leaked data showed that at least 180 journalists have been selected as targets in countries like India, Mexico, Hungary, Morocco and France, among others. Potential targets also include human rights defenders, academics, business people, lawyers, doctors, trade union leaders, diplomats, politicians and several heads of states. The consortium reported that the company’s military-grade spyware was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, business executives, and two women close to the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The consortium relies the data is “indicative of the potential targets NSO’s government clients identified in advance of possible surveillance attempts.” Amnesty International has clarified that the list by itself is not decisive proof of surveillance. “The presence of a phone number in the data alone does not reveal whether a device was infected with Pegasus or subject to a hacking bid.” The forensic examination of a cross-section of phones found traces of the spyware on 37 phones on the leaked list.
The Washington Post reported more than 1,000 phone numbers from India appeared on the list. The first list of names had 40 Indian journalists covering politics, foreign affairs and defence. Subsequently, the names of Opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi, election strategist Prashant Kishor, newly-appointed IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and top virologist Gagandeep Kang also surfaced in the list though such lists are not conclusive proof of snooping.
NSO group refuted the claims of Pegasus project investigation, carried out by Forbidden Stories and termed the report, “full of wrong assumptions” and “uncorroborated theories” that raise serious doubts about the reliability and interests of the sources.
In an interview with The Washington Post the founder of NSO group Shalev Hulio said he and his partner Omri Lavie who established it on the base of three guiding principles that remain in place today. In the first weeks after founding the company, in 2010, “before we’d even written a line of code, 1. they would license only to certain government entities, recognising that the technology could be abused in private hands. 2. they would have no visibility into the individuals targeted by customers after selling them a software license. 3. which Hulio said was the most important, was to seek approval from the export controls unit of Israel’s Ministry of Defence, an unusual decision because at the time the unit only regulated overseas weapons sales (Israel enacted a cyber law in 2017).”
The three decisions were made, Lavie said, so that, “we’d be able to sleep at night. I and Hulio strongly believed it was not appropriate to have any direct knowledge of the internal national security matters of foreign countries.” They also thought they weren’t equipped to make political decisions about whom to sell to. NSO also requires customers to sign an agreement promising to use the software only for law enforcement or counterterrorism purposes.
Hulio also acknowledged that some of NSO’s government customers had misused its software in the past — describing it as a “violation of trust” — and said NSO shut off five clients’ access in the past several years after conducting a human rights audit, and had ended ties with two in the last year alone.
NSO Group has reiterated this stand at many forums including California Court that it only sells spyware to vetted government clients and law enforcement agencies to track terrorists and criminals. It argued that critics of the company’s practices, including privacy advocates, have ignored a grave problem facing law enforcement agencies around the world, the proliferation of encrypted communications applications like WhatsApp, which it argues have made it easier for terrorists and other criminals to evade detection.
In view of NSO assertions that the advanced spyware is only sold to “vetted governments”, the consortium said, “It is safe to assume that these individuals were targets or potential targets of government or military agencies.” The news organisations working on Pegasus Project were independently able to identify the owners of over 1,500 numbers across at least 10 countries. A small cross-section of these phones was forensically examined to find traces of Pegasus. The Wire has revealed the names of 142 people who were targets or potential targets for surveillance by clients of the NSO Group.
A second list of possible targets of an alleged surveillance operation using the Pegasus spyware revealed the mobile phones used by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, and former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa. In the midst of the heated West Bengal assembly election, the phone of poll strategist Prashant Kishor was broken into using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, according to digital forensics conducted by Amnesty International’s Security Lab.
Attacking the BJP government over the Pegasus Project reports, West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee alleged that the saffron party wants to “turn India into a surveillance state instead of keeping it a democratic country.”
“Our phones are tapped. I have put a plastered tape on my phone camera now. Pegasus is dangerous and ferocious. Sometimes I cannot talk to anyone. I can’t even talk to the chief minister of Delhi or Odisha,” Banerjee said while addressing a virtual gathering to mark Martyrs’ Day on 21July.
Kishor’s current or one-time role as a key political advisor and strategist for a range of opposition parties, including the DMK in Tamil Nadu and the Congress in Punjab, besides the TMC, means the agency targeting him is also interested in gathering information about the government’s political opponents in different parts of the country.
The numbers of Union Minister Prahlad Singh Patel and Railways & IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw have figured among the 300 “verified” Indian mobile numbers in the list investigated by the global project.
The uproar over farm laws and the alleged snooping using Pegasus spyware continued to paralysed functioning of the Parliament ever since monsoon session begun. Both the Houses–Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha repeatedly adjourned amid the din. Pegasus continued to dominate and took centre stage in the both Houses of the Parliament.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “treason”, called for the resignation of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and demanded a judicial probe into allegations of surveillance using Pegasus spyware. “Pegasus is classified by the Israeli state as a weapon, and that weapon is supposed to be used against terrorists. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister have used this weapon against the Indian state and our institutions. They have used it politically, they have used it in Karnataka,” Gandhi told reporters. “The only word for this is treason.”
VETERAN JOURNALIST N. RAM, SASHI KUMAR AND CPM MP MOVED APEX COURT FOR PROBE
Veteran journalists N Ram (former Chief Editor ‘The Hindu) & Sashi Kumar (founder Asianet, Director ACJ) move to Supreme Court seeking inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge of SC into the reports of surveillance using Pegasus spyware.
The writ petition also seeks a direction to the Union of India and Ministry of Information Technology to disclose if it or any of its agencies have used Pegasus Spyware either directly or indirectly to conduct surveillance in any manner.
This is the third writ petition filed in the Supreme Court on Pegasus Spyware issue. CPI(M)’s John Brittas petition while seeking a court-monitored probe into the snooping of activists, politicians, journalists and constitutional functionaries using Israeli spyware express that the allegations lead to two inferences – that either the snooping was done by the government or by a foreign agency. Advocate ML Sharma also filed PIL on this subject.
MAMATA CONSTITUTES COMMISSION OF INQUIRY HEADED BY FORMER SC JUDGE
The West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on 26th July, announced a commission of inquiry into the alleged surveillance of phones using the Pegasus spyware developed by the Israeli cyber- intelligence company NSO Group.
Retired Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B Lokur, and former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, Justice (retd) Jyotirmay Bhattacharya, have been appointed as members of the commission. The Commission will look into the matter of the widely reported illegal hacking, monitoring, putting under surveillance, tracking, and recording of mobile phones of various persons in West Bengal,”
The announcement came shortly before she left for Delhi on a three-day visit during which she will meet several leaders of the Opposition to explore ways to build a front against the BJP before the Lok Sabha elections of 2024.
GOVT TERMS SNOOPING CHARGES AN ATTEMPT TO MALIGN INDIAN DEMOCRACY
Newly inducted Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, on the first day of the Monsoon Session of Parliament, said the allegations appeared to be an attempt to malign the Indian democracy.
The government has dismissed the allegation that Opposition leaders, journalists and activists were targeted using Pegasus spyware in a snooping attempt. “The data shared had nothing to do with surveillance and that there was no concrete basis of the allegations,” he remarked.
“In the past, similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp. Those reports had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties, including in the Supreme Court. The press reports of 18th July 2021 also appear to be an attempt to malign the Indian democracy and its well-established institutions,” the IT Minister said in the Lok Sabha.
IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, citing “facts and logic”, said, “The basis of this report is that there is a consortium which has got access to a leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers. The allegation is that individuals linked to these phone numbers were being spied upon.”
However, the IT Minister clarified, that the reports themselves say that the presence of a phone number in the data did not reveal whether a device was infected with Pegasus or subject to an attempted hack. Ashwini Vaishnaw said, “Therefore, the report itself clarifies that presence of a number does not amount to snooping.”
The IT Minister explained India’s established protocol on surveillance and said, “Any form of illegal surveillance is not possible with the checks and balances in our laws and our robust institutions.”
“In India, there is a well-established procedure through which lawful interception of electronic communication is carried out for the purpose of national security, particularly on the occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of public safety, by agencies at the centre and states,” he explained.
Earlier Home Minister Amit Shah said that the report claiming use of ‘Pegasus’ spyware for snooping was released deliberately to disrupt the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
He rubbished the Opposition’s charge against the government over the alleged phone tapping of politicians, journalists and other prominent people, calling it a ‘report by disrupters for the obstructers’.
“Disrupters are global organisations which do not like India to progress. Obstructers are political players in India who do not want India to progress. People of India are very good at understanding this chronology and connection,” Shah added. “Disruptors and obstructers will not be able to derail India’s development trajectory through their conspiracies. Monsoon session will bear new fruits of progress,” Shah tweeted.
Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad spoke on the Pegasus spyware row and said there was not an iota of evidence linking the government and the BJP with the Pegasus. He dismissed any link between the Narendra Modi-led government and the Pegasus spyware. “There is no shred of evidence to link Pegasus with either the government or the BJP,” Prasad pointed out.
EVERYONE IS TARGETTED POLITICIANS AND THEIR CLOSE CONTACTS
IN A SIGN that intrusive surveillance technologies are perhaps being deployed to gather information about the principal opposition party, The Wire and its media partners in the Pegasus Project claim that they can confirm that at least two mobile phone accounts used by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi were among 300 verified Indian numbers listed as potential targets by an official Indian client of the Israeli surveillance technology vendor, NSO Group.
Such was the apparent interest in Gandhi that the numbers of five of his social friends and acquaintances were also placed on the list of potential targets. None of the five plays any role in politics or public affairs.
Reacting over his name on the list of potential target of Pegasus spyware intruded unlawfully into his mobiles and those close to him, Rahul Gandhi demanded judicial probe under the supervision of Supreme Court so that Nation know on whose stance such seditious act happened– PM or HM?
The members of parliament of Congress Party staged protest over the issue in front of Ghandhi statue. “We know what he’s been reading- everything on your phone! #Pegasus,” Rahul tweeted. The personal phones numbers of his two close aides—Alankar Sawai and Sachin Rao, also figure in the leaked database, for mid-2019.
Priyanka Gandhi also attacked the government and tweeted “The #Pegasus revelations are abhorrent. If true, the Modi government seems to have launched a grave and sinister attack on the Right to Privacy — constitutionally guaranteed to Indian citizens as a Fundamental Right. This is an affront to democracy and has ominous implications for our freedoms.” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted, “secrecy will be exposed if veil lifted, #Pegasus.”
The list published by thewire.in mention as follow:
- RAHUL GANDHI: The Congress party leader who was presumed prime ministerial candidate for the past two general elections.
- ALANKAR SAWAI: A close aide of Rahul Gandhi.
- SACHIN RAO: Another aide of Rahul Gandhi who is a member of the Congress Working Committee.
- PRASHANT KISHOR: An election strategist who has worked for several political parties, including the BJP and the Congress. His phone was forensically analysed and showed signs of a successful hack.
- ABHISHEK BANERJEE: A Trinamool Congress MP who is the nephew of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
- ASHWINI VAISHNAW: A former IAS officer who was made a Union cabinet minister in the recent expansion.
- PRAHLAD SINGH PATEL: Another cabinet minister in the Union government, his wife, secretaries, assistants, cook and gardener, etc.
- PRAVIN TOGADIA: Former head of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
- PRADEEP AWASTHI: Personal secretary to former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia.
- SANJAY KACHROO: A corporate executive who was chosen by then human resource development minister Smriti Irani as her officer on special duty in 2014, but was never formally appointed. Listed along with his father and minor son.
ASHOK LAVASA: A career bureaucrat, he was a potential target of surveillance when he was an election commissioner. His divergent opinion on violation of election code by prime minister Modi and his dissent note over giving clean chit by the other two members of an election commission appeared in mainstream media.
CBI OFFICERS, BUREAUCRATS AND INDIVIDUALS LINKED TO THEM
Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted, “ The fear of imminent FIR in #Rafale ! The midnight coup to remove Alok Verma as CBI Chief! The spying through #Pegasus! The Chronology is complete ! Does Nation need more proof ?”
- ALOK VERMA: Former chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Verma was added to the list soon after he was ousted by the Modi government. The personal telephone numbers of his wife, daughter and son-in-law would eventually get placed on the list too, making it a total of 8 numbers from this one family.
- RAKESH ASTHANA: Asthana, then a senior CBI officer, was added to the list the same time as Verma. He is seen to be close to the Modi dispensation and currently heads the BSF.
- A.K. SHARMA: Another senior CBI official, added to the list at the same time as Asthana and Verma.
- RAJESHWAR SINGH: a senior Enforcement Directorate officer who led several high-profile investigations conducted by his agency, was selected as a probable target for surveillance by an Indian client of the Israeli spyware firm NSO Group. List included not only two of Singh’s numbers but four numbers belonging to three women from his family, implying they too were likely targets.
- V.K. JAIN: a former Indian Administrative Service officer who worked as a personal assistant to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, also appears to have marked as a person of interest. In addition, the leaked records contain details of the numbers of at least one official each from the PMO and NITI Aayog.
NATIONAL SECURITY FIGURES
Two serving colonels who challenged official policy, a retired intelligence officer who took RAW to court, and two serving BSF officers also figure in the Pegasus Project database as persons of interest for an unidentified agency.
- K.K. SHARMA: An IPS of 1982 batch he was the head of the Border Security Force (BSF) when he was selected as a potential target of surveillance. Sharma shared the stage with national coordinator of RSS Krishna Gopal, its joint national coordinator Murlidhar, a member of the ruling BJP’s intellectual cell Mohit Roy, and a former journalist and trustee of several NGOs associated with the RSS, Rantideb Sengupta. TMC MP Derek O’Brien opposing his conduct had tweeted, “his party would take up the matter with the Union home ministry.”
Soon after Sharma retired, the Election Commission (EC) appointed him special central police observer for the impending Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal and Jharkhand.
- JAGDISH MAITHANI: BSF inspector general who was integral to the Union home ministry’s comprehensive, integrated border management system (CIBMS) or smart fencing project.
- JITENDRA KUMAR OJHA: An senior official from the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). He was selected as a potential target of surveillance after he was eased out of service in January 2018 and moved the Central Administrative Tribunal against this decision.
- COLONEL MUKUL DEV: An army officer who took on the government order that scrapped free rations for officers who are posted in peace areas.
- COLONEL AMIT KUMAR: Another army officer who filed a petition in the Supreme Court on behalf of 356 Army personnel against what they apprehended was an impending dilution of the Armed Forces (Special Forces) Act (AFSPA).
UNFRIENDLY POTENTIAL JOURNALISTS TARGETED
Over 40 journalists, including several currently or formerly associated with mainstream Indian publications like The Wire, Hindustan Times, Mint, The Indian Express, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and The Hindu were allegedly targeted. Some phones of individuals on the target list that was subjected to a forensic examination was found to be remotely hacked and signs of infected with Pegasus were found in forensic analysis. Phones of seven journalists were examined forensically out of which five showed traces of a successful infection by Pegasus.
According to The Wire, Rohini Singh’s name appeared on the list soon after she reported on the business affairs of union home minister Amit Shah’s son, Jay Shah, and Nikhil Merchant, a businessman who is close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During that time, she was also investigating the dealings of Union Minister Piyush Goyal with businessman Ajay Piramal.
THE LIST CONTAINS THE NAMES OF FOLLOWING JOURNALISTS:
- M.K. VENU: A founding editor of The Wire. His phone was also forensically analysed and traces of Pegasus were found.
- SUSHANT SINGH: Former Indian Express journalist who writes on national security. After a forensic analysis of his phone, Amnesty arrived at the conclusion that it had been compromised. His number appeared on the list when he was looking into India’s controversial Rafale aircraft deal with France.
- SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN: A founding editor of The Wire, his phone was forensically analysed. The analysis showed that the phone was compromised by Pegasus.
- PARANJOY GUHA THAKURTA: Former EPW editor, who now writes for Newsclick. His phone was compromised by Pegasus, forensic analysis revealed.
- S.N.M. ABDI: Former Outlook journalist, whose phone was compromised according to forensic analysis.
- VIJAITA SINGH: The Hindu journalist who covers the home ministry. Forensic analysis of her phone showed evidence of an attempted hack, but no evidence of a successful compromise.
- SMITA SHARMA: Former TV18 anchor. Forensic analysis found evidence of an attempted hack but nothing to indicate that her phone was successfully infected.
- SHISHIR GUPTA: Executive editor at Hindustan Times
- ROHINI SINGH: Freelance journalist who has written several exposes for The Wire about controversial business dealings of politicians or their family members. Her name appeared on the list soon after she reported on the business affairs of union home minister Amit Shah’s son, Jay Shah, and Nikhil Merchant, a businessman who is close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During that time, she was also investigating the dealings of Union Minister Piyush Goyal with businessman Ajay Piramal exposing nondisclosure of vital information in his returns and his assets details on PMO website.
- DEVIRUPA MITRA: The Wire‘s diplomatic editor.
- PRASHANT JHA: Views editor of Hindustan Times, formerly the bureau chief.
- PREM SHANKAR JHA: A veteran journalist who held editorial positions at Hindustan Times, the Times of India and several other newspapers. He is a regular contributor to The Wire.
- SWATI CHATURVEDI: Freelance journalist who has contributed to The Wire. She wrote a book about the infamous BJP IT Cell.
- RAHUL SINGH: Defence correspondent for Hindustan Times.
- AURANGZEB NAQSHBANDI: A political reporter who formerly worked for Hindustan Times and covered the Congress party.
- RITIKA CHOPRA: A journalist for the Indian Express who covers the education and Election Commission beats.
- MUZAMIL JALEEL: Another Indian Express journalist who covers Kashmir.
- SANDEEP UNNITHAN: India Today journalist who reports on defence and the Indian military.
- MANOJ GUPTA: Editor of investigations and security affairs at TV18.
- J. GOPIKRISHNAN: An investigative reporter with The Pioneer, he broke the 2G telecom scam.
- SAIKAT DATTA: Formerly a national security reporter.
- IFTHIKAR GILANi: Former DNA reporter who reports on Kashmir.
- MANORANJAN GUPTA: Northeast-based editor in chief of Frontier TV.
- SANJAY SHYAM: A Bihar-based journalist.
- JASPAL SINGH HERAN: An octogenarian who is the editor-in-chief of the Ludhiana-based Punjabi daily Rozana Pehredar.
- ROOPESH KUMAR SINGH: A freelance based in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh. His name appeared on the list after he reported on the extrajudicial encounter of an innocent Adivasi in 2017.
- DEEPAK GIDWANI: Former correspondent of DNA, Lucknow.
- SUMIR KAUL: A journalist for news agency PTI.
- SHABIR HUSSAIN: A Delhi-based political commentator from Kashmir.
ACTIVISTS, TRADE UNION LEADERS, LAWYERS AND ACADEMICIANS
The names of eight of the 16 activists and academics arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case were also allegedly targeted for snooping, according to the leaked list. These are Rona Wilson, Hany Babu, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde, Shoma Sen, Gautaum Navlakha, Arun Ferreira and Sudha Bharadwaj.
Earlier this year, forensic consulting company Arsenal Consulting had revealed in two reports that evidence found in the computers of Wilson and Surendra Gadling, another of the Bhima koregaon arrestees, was planted into their devices through sophisticated hacking.
The list also included the numbers of Varavara Rao’s daughter Pavana, Gadling’s wife Minal Gadling and his lawyers Nihalsinh Rathod and Jagadish Meshram. Bharadwaj’s lawyer Shalini Gera, Teltumbde’s friend Jaison Cooper who is a rights activist; Kabir Kala Manch cultural group member and Sagar Gorkhe’s partner Rupali Jadhav; Mahesh Raut’s lawyer Lalsu Nagoti; Naxalite movement scholar and Bastar- based lawyer Bela Bhatia; and as many as five family members of another Bhima Koregaon accused.
National General Secretary of Railwaymen’s Federation Shiva Gopal Mishra is most vocal voice opposing privatisation of Railways assets. “Previous governments used to be sensitive and sympathetic towards the people but this government only wants to work for the capitalists.” “Attempted surveillance show that the BJP government at the Centre does not care about the people,” Mishra added.
- HANY BABU M.T.: Professor at Delhi University who is an accused in the Elgar Parishad case.
- RONA WILSON: A prisoners’ rights activist who is another accused in the Elgar Parishad case.
- VERNON GONSALVEs: A rights activist. He is also accused in the Elgar Parishad case.
- ANAND TELTUMBDE: An academic and civil liberties activist who is accused in the Elgar Parishad case.
- SHOMA SEN: Retired professor and one of the accused in the Elgar Parishad case.
- GAUTAM NAVLAKHA: A journalist and rights activist who is accused in the Elgar Parishad case.
- ARUN FERREIRA: A lawyer who is also accused in the Elgar Parishad case.
- SUDHA BHARDWAJ: Activist and lawyer and accused in the Elgar Parishad case.
- PAVANA: The daughter of Telugu poet Varavara Rao, who is accused in the Elgar Parishad case.
- MINAL GADLING: The wife of lawyer Surendra Gadling, who is accused in the Elgar Parishad case.
- NIHALSING RATHOD: A lawyer and associate of Surendra Gadling.
- JAGADISH MESHRAM: Another lawyer who is associated with Surendra Gadling.
- MARUTI KURWATKAR: An accused in several cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He was represented by Surendra Gadling.
- SHALINI GERA: A lawyer who has represented Sudha Bharadwaj.
- ANKIT GREWAL: A close legal associate of Sudha Bharadwaj.
- JAISON COOPER: Kerala-based rights activist who is a friend of Anand Teltumbde.
- RUPALI JADHAV: A member of cultural troupe Kabir Kala Manch.
- LALSU NAGOTI: A lawyer who is a close associate of Mahesh Raut, who is accused in the Elgar Parishad case.
- SONI SORI: Tribal rights activist who is based in Bastar.
- LINGARAM KODOPI: A journalist and the nephew of Soni Sori.
- DEGREE PRASAD CHOUHAN: An anti-caste activist who is the Chhattisgarh state president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.
- RAKESH RANJAN: An assistant professor at the Sri Ram College of Commerce.
- ASHOK BHARTI: Chairman of the All India Ambedkar Mahasabha, an umbrella association of Dalit rights’ groups.
- UMAR KHALID: Former student of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). He was first arrested on sedition charges during the infamous JNU sloganeering case. He is now in jail, awaiting trial as an accused in the Delhi riots conspiracy case.
- ANIRBAN BHATTACHARYA: Another former JNU student who was arrested along with Khalid on sedition charges.
- BANJYOTSNA LAHIRI: Also a JNU student.
- BELA BHATIA: A lawyer and human rights activist based in Chhattisgarh.
- SHIV GOPAL MISHRA: A railway union leader.
- ANJANI KUMAR: Delhi-based labour rights activist.
- ALOK SHUKLA: An anti-coal mining activist and convenor of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan.
- SAROJ GIRI: A Delhi University professor.
- SHUBHRANSHU CHOUDHARY: A Bastar- based peace activist.
- SANDEEP KUMAR RAI: Former BBC journalist and trade union activist.
- KHALID KHAN: A colleague of Sandeep Kumar Rai.
- IPSA SHATAKSHI: A Jharkhand-based activist.
- S.A.R. GEELANI: Delhi University professor who was convicted and later acquitted in the parliament bombing case. His phone was forensically analysed and showed signs of an infection by Pegasus.
- G. HARAGOPAL: A retired professor who taught at the University of Hyderabad. He was chairman of Saibaba Defence Committee. Three of his phones were forensically analysed and the results were inconclusive.
- VASANTHA KUMARI: The wife of former Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba, who was convicted for links with a banned Maoist organisation.
- RAKESH RANJAN: An assistant professor at Delhi University. He was a supporter of the Saibaba Defence Committee.
- JAGDEEP CHHOKAR: Co-founder of the watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms.
FIGURES FROM THE NORTHEAST
- SAMUJJAL BHATTACHARJEE: An advisor to the All-Assam Students Union and member of the high-level committee to look into the implementation of Clause Six of the Assam Accord.
- ANUP CHETIA: A leader of the United Liberation Front of Assam.
- MALEM NINGTHOUJA: A Delhi-based writer who is from Manipur.
A former Supreme Court staffer:
Three phone numbers belonging to the Supreme Court staffer who accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment in April 2019 were selected as potential targets for surveillance by an unidentified Indian agency that is a customer of the Israel-based-NSO Group. She was dismissed from service in December 2018, weeks after her allegations, “she rebuffed the judge’s advances.”
Several members of her family were also potential targets for surveillance. Leaked data accessed by The Wire shows 11 numbers used by the former court assistant and her family, and that they were of apparent interest to an unidentified official agency prior to a potential hack.
- ATEM VASHUM: A leader of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-Isak Muivah) who is assumed to be the successor to the group’s chairman Th. Muivah.
- APAM MUIVAH: Another NSCN (I-M) leader who is Th. Muivah’s newphew.
- ANTHONY SHIMRAY: The commander in chief of the Naga Army of NSCN (I-M).
- PHUNTHING SHIMRANG: The former commander in chief of the NSCN (I-M)’s Naga Army.
- KITOVI ZHIMOMI: Convenor of the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs). The Narendra Modi government was in parleys with the groups to find ‘one solution’ to the Naga issue.
Scientists or those involved in the health sector
- GAGANDEEP KANG: One of India’s foremost virologists who was involved in the fight against the Nipah virus.
- HARI MENON: The Indian head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The latest revelations by the Pegasus Project show businessman Anil Ambani, his Corporate Communications chief Tony Jesudasan and his wife were on the list of snooping targets. Also added in the list between 2018 and 2019 were international aircraft manufacturing company Dassault Aviation’s representative in India Venkata Rao Posina, Swedish aerospace company Saab’s former India head Inderjit Sial and American aerospace company Boeing’s India boss Pratyush Kumar.
All these persons were linked to the Rafale deal signed between India and France in 2016. Dassault Aviation’s Rafale jet emerged as the first choice of the Indian government over Saab’s Gripen, Boeing’s F/A-18, Lockheed Martin’s F-16, Europe’s Eurofighter Typhoon, and Mikoyan’s MiG-35.
- ANIL AMBANI: Reliance ADAG chairman. The phone numbers that have been used by Anil Ambani were added to the list in 2018, when controversy over the Rafale deal had intensified.
- TONY JESUDASAN: Corporate communications chief at ADAG. His number was added at the same time as Ambani’s. A number used by Jesudasan’s wife is also on the list.
- VENKATA RAO POSINA: Dassault Aviation’s representative in India.
- INDERJIT SIAL: Former Saab India head.
- PRATYUSH KUMAR: Boeing India boss.
- HARMANJIT NAGI: Head of the French energy firm EDF.
TIBETAN OFFICIALS, ACTIVISTS, CLERICS IN INDIA
- TEMPA TSERING: Dalai Lama’s long-term envoy in New Delhi.
- TENZIN TAKLHA: Senior aide of the Dalai Lama’s.
- CHIMMEY RIGZEN: Senior aide of the Dalai Lama’s.
- LOBSANG SANGAY: Former head of the Tibetan government in exile.
- BILAL LONE: A separatist leader and brother of Peoples Conference leader Sajad Lone. His phone was forensically examined. Even though the device he was using is not the same as the one he used when he was potentially targeted as per the leaked database, forensic analysis revealed signs of Pegasus spyware.
- TARIQ BUKHARI: Brother of Apni Party leader Altaf Bukhari. He is a businessman and political leader who was questioned by the NIA in April 2019 for a ‘terror funding’ case.
- SYED NASEEM GEELANI: A scientist who is the son of prominent separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
- MIRWAIZ UMAR FAROOQ: A separatist leader and head of the Hurriyat Conference, he is the chief cleric of the Jama Masjid.
- WAQAR BHATTI: Prominent human rights activist.
- ZAFFAR AKBAR BHAT: An influential Shia cleric who is associated with the Hurriyat and a prominent separatist leader.
- ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR: He is now the president of Mexico, but was targeted before his election in 2018. Several of his aides were also targeted.
- EMMANUEL MACRON: The president of France.
- IMRAN KHAN: The prime minister of Pakistan.
- MOSTAFA MADBOULY: The prime minister of Egypt.
- SAAD-EDDINE EL OTHMANI: The prime minister of Morocco.
- BARHAM SALIH: The president of Iraq.
- CYRIL RAMAPHOSA: The president of South Africa.
- MOHAMMED VI: Morocco’s king.
- SAAD HARIRI: Former prime minister of Lebanon.
- 10: RUHAKANA RUGUNDA: Former prime minister of Uganda.
- NOUREDDINE BEDOUI: Former prime minister of Algeria.
- CHARLES MICHEL: Former prime minister of Belgium who is currently the president of the European Council.
- PANAH HUSEYNOV: Former prime minister of Azerbaijan.
- FELIPE CALDERON: Former Mexican president.
INDIVIDUALS LINKED TO DUBAI RULER
- SHEIKHA LATIFA: A member of the Dubai royal family and the daughter of UAE’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al- Maktoum. When she attempted to flee her father’s custody, she was captured by Indian forces near Goa and sent back to Dubai.
- HAYA BINT HUSSEIN: Estranged wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
PEOPLE LINKED TO JAMAL KHASHOGGI
Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi dissident who wrote for the Washington Post. He was murdered in the Saudi embassy in Turkey by assassins who were allegedly sent by the Saudi government. Several people who were associated with him or the investigation into his deaths were targets or potential targets for surveillance.
- HATICE CENGIZ: A Turkish doctorate student who was engaged to Jamal Khashoggi. Her phone was analysed forensically.
- HANAN ELATR: She was married to Khashoggi. Her phone was also forensically analysed.
- WADAH KHANFAR: The former director general of Al Jazeera television network. His phone was forensically analysed.
- TURAN KISLAKCI: A Turkish journalist who introduced Khashoggi to Cengiz.
- IRFAN FIDAN: The Turkish chief prosecutor in charge of investigations into Khashoggi’s murder.