Information and Technology minister Ashwini Vaishnaw today questioned the timing of the ‘Pegasus Project’ report, urging the Opposition benches to read the report in detail. Vaishnaw also said that the mere presence of a phone number does not confirm snooping.
“We can’t fault those who haven’t read the news story in detail and I request all members of the House to examine issues on facts and logic. The basis of this report is that there is a consortium that has got access to a leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers,” said Vaishnaw.
The Union IT minister termed the report as ‘highly sensational’. “Many over-the-top allegations made around this story. The press reports appeared a day before the monsoon session of Parliament. This can’t be a coincidence,” he said.
Citing previous incidents, Viashnaw said that the report appears to be an attempt to malign Indian democracy. “In the past, similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp. Those reports had no factual basis and were denied by all parties. Press reports of 18 July 2021 also appear to be an attempt to malign Indian democracy and its well-established institutions,” said the minister.
He also urged the MPs to examine the issue based on facts and logic. “We can’t fault those who haven’t read the news story in detail and I request all members of the House to examine issues on facts and logic. The basis of this report is that there is a consortium that 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 report says that the presence of a phone number in the data does not reveal whether a device was infected by Pegasus or subjected to an attempted hack,” he claimed.
Ashwini Vaishnaw said that without subjecting a phone to technical analysis, it’s not possible to conclusively state whether it witnessed an attempted hack or successfully compromised. “The report itself clarifies that presence of a number in the list doesn’t amount to snooping,” he said.
The opposition benches have raised the issue of phone snooping alleging the government’s hand behind it. They demanded a discussion in the house over the issue.
Yesterday, a report was published by The Wire which claimed that spyware Pegasus software developed by the NSO Group of Israel may have been used for snooping upon around 300 Indians including about 40 journalists belonging to different media groups, two Cabinet ministers, three opposition leaders, a sitting Supreme Court judge and scientists. The Wire and 16 other global organisations including Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International were among those who came out with the report.