Indian opp disrupts house Seeks probe into Pegasus spying scandal

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New Delhi

Indian opposition parties disrupted parliament on Tuesday, demand-ing an investigation into reports that the government used Israeli-made Pega-sus spyware to snoop on scores of journalists, activ-ists and politicians, including the main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi.

Shouting out slo-gans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s govern-ment, the opposi-tion members said they wanted an in-dependent probe into the complaints of spying and the resignation of Inte-rior Minister Amit Shah.

An investigation published on Sun-day by 17 media organizations, led by the Paris-based non-profit journal-ism group Forbid-den Stories, said spyware made and licensed by the Is-raeli company NSO had been used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smart-phones belonging to journalists, gov-ernment officials and human rights activists.

Indian news portal The Wire reported that smartphones of politicians includ-ing Gandhi, a sen-ior leader of the opposition Con-gress party, and two other lawmak-ers were among 300 verified Indian numbers listed as potential targets for surveillance during 2017-19 ahead of national elections.

NSO has said its product was in-tended only for use by vetted govern-ment intelligence and law enforce-ment agencies to fight terrorism and crime.

Opposition leaders said the Modi ad-ministration was spying on journalists, activists and politicians who were opposed to its policies.

“It is an attack on the democratic foundations of our country,” Congress said in a statement.

It said the government had illegally accessed the conversation of many people by hacking cell phones with the Pegasus spy-ware.

Ashwini Vaishnaw, the minister for Electronics and In-formation Technology, told law-makers on Monday there was no substance to the re-ports of spying.

India had a well-established procedure in which law-ful interception of electronic communication was carried out by federal and state agencies for the purpose of national security, particularly in the case of a public emergency or in the interest of pub-lic safety, he said.
Indian rules ensured that “unauthorized surveil-lance does not oc-cur,” he said.

News reports said the phone of Vaishnaw himself was also hacked, but it was not clear why. —AFP

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