Parl IT panel to take up Pegasus issue on 28 July

Parliamentary panel on IT headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor will take up the Pegasus spyware issue on 28 July.

The decision come a day after upheaval in both the Houses of Parliament by Opposition uproar demanding investigation into reports that the Narendra Modi-led central government used the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware to snoop on scores of journalists, activists and politicians across the country. Even former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa was on the list, suggests investigations by various media organisations.

The Congress has also demanded a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Tuesday.

The Standing Committee will discuss “citizens’ data security and privacy,” said a statement, adding that representatives of the ministry of electronics and IT, the Union home, communications ministries will be called and asked to depose on the issue.

In 2019, WhatsApp’s vulnerability to the Pegasus spyware was brought before the committee.

An investigation published by 17 media organisation including The Wire, Washington Post in the “Pegasus project” led by Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden Stories have revealed that the numbers of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, other opposition politicians, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, two union ministers, Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee and some 40 journalists were selected as potential targets of snooping.

There is no evidence that all numbers found on a leaked database were hacked.

The government has denied any role in snooping. There is no substance to the reports of spying, said new IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in parliament on Monday, hours before he was revealed to be one of the potential targets.

The country has a well-established procedure in which lawful interception of electronic communication was carried out for the purpose of national security, particularly in the case of a public emergency or in the interest of public safety, the minister said, adding that the rules ensured that “unauthorised surveillance does not occur.”

NSO has said its product intended only for use by vetted government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to comabt terrorism and crime.

Tharoor said the Pegasus reveal was a matter of “serious national security concern” and the government needed to give an explanation on it.

“Since this product is only sold to vetted governments, the question arises which government? If the Government of India says they have not done it, some other government did it, then it is a more serious national security concern,” Tharoor said.

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