“The Wire” is a part of Pegasus project, a group of 17 media organistaions that together investigated possible snooping with the help of spyware created by Israeli-based NSO Group.
The news portal in its latest report has revealed that phone numbers of the then Karnataka deputy chief minister G Parameshwara and also of the personal secretaries of former chief ministers HD Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah were allegedly selected as potential spyware targets.
The report says: “The records indicate that the phone numbers of some of the key political players in Karnataka appear to have been selected around the time when an intense power struggle was taking place between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress-led state government in 2019, after 17 ruling alliance’s legislators abruptly resigned to force a trust vote in the assembly.”
The report goes on to state that in the absence of digital forensics, it is not possible to conclusively establish these Karnataka politics-related phones were infected or subjected to an attempted hack. However, the timing surrounding their selections as possible candidates for surveillance is crucial as it happened amid the political power game that played out during the period.
Not bothered about secretary’s phone being tapped: Kumaraswamy
Later, H D Kumaraswamy played down reports that his secretary was a possible target for surveillance using the Pegasus spyware, saying he is not bothered about it.
“I’m not bothered about all those things, because several government agencies including the Income Tax department tap important phones … these things have been happening for the last 10-15 years in a routine way,” he said.
The JD(S) leader added that he does not take these reports seriously since he has not indulged in any wrongful activities.
‘Amit Shah should resign immediately’
The Congress latched on to the latest revelations to accuse the BJP of using Pegasus for toppling the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka and demanded immediate resignation of Union home minister Amit Shah.
“This is murder of democracy. A thorough investigation must be ordered at the earliest,” said Congress leader Randeep Surjewala.
Over 50,000 numbers on leaked database
More than 50,000 smartphone numbers appear on a list of phones concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance on their citizens and also known to have been clients of NSO Group.
The leaked database of numbers was accessed by Paris-based media nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International and shared with members of Pegasus Project.
Earlier, The Wire had reported that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa, recently-appointed railways, communications and IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and junior Jal Shakti minister Prahlad Patel, along with poll strategist Prashant Kishor and Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee were allegedly targeted for surveillance by the Pegasus spyware.