Cong accuses govt of ‘snooping’, urges SC to hold Centre accountable

NEW DELHI, Oct 31: The Modi government has been “caught snooping” after WhatsApp said journalists and human rights activists in India have been targets of surveillance, the Congress alleged on Thursday, and demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the “illegal hacking” of cell phones.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the government asking WhatsApp about ‘Pegasus’ was like Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking Dassault Aviation about who made money on the sale of Rafale jets to India.
“The government seeking WhatsApp’s response on who bought Pegasus to spy on Indian citizens is like Modi asking Dassault who made money on the sale of Rafale jets to India,” he tweeted.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said India woke up on Thursday to the news of “flagrant abuse” of privacy by agencies of the present BJP government.
“We urge upon the Supreme Court to take suo moto cognizance of this brazen and blatant illegal hacking of telephones and introduction of spyware by the BJP government agencies and conduct a court-monitored inquiry,” he said.
The Facebook-owned messaging service has said that Indian scribes and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli spyware ‘Pegasus’.
Pegasus is able to turn on a phone’s camera and microphone, crack the device’s security and send passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages and live voice calls, Surjewala claimed.
“The modus operandi was snooping, spying and compromising cell phones of journalists, Dalit activists, political and human right activists, lawyers, academicians and many more through a surveillance software called ‘Pegasus’ of the Israeli surveillance firm, NSO. We suspect that many opposition leaders and judges of the Supreme Court and high courts are on this list,” he said.
Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, has admitted that nearly 1,400 people, majority of them Indians, have been affected by the ‘Pegasus’ spyware.
WhatsApp said it was suing the NSO Group, which is reportedly behind the technology that helped unnamed entities’ spies to hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users.
These users span across four continents and include diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials. However, WhatsApp did not say at whose behest the phones of journalists and activists across the world were targeted. (PTI)