Pegasus, NSO Group, India Exclusive | Pegasus Snoopgate: Shashi Tharoor Calls for Independent Probe | The Quint
There is freedom of expression. You don’t expect the government to be interfering with journalists doing their duty, whether the government of india did this or whether a foreign government is tapping uh or surveilling indian force Music. Over 40 indian journalists are believed to have been targeted by israeli uh, made software pegasus and to talk about it, we have dr shashi thiru who’s, a former union minister and most notably the chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on it, dr taro. Thank you so much for speaking to us. What is your initial first reaction to this list of 40 journalists that we are hearing have been targeted by this uh notorious software well, it’s a matter of concern because, obviously in our country we are a democracy. There is freedom of expression. You don’t expect the government to be interfering with journalists doing their duty, so that is a real concern. Second, we know that apparently more details are scheduled to emerge tomorrow, in which politicians, ministers and, according to the article, even a constitutional authority, also seemed to have been surveilled in this manner, and this raises some very serious questions about how the people who deployed this software Were operating, i don’t believe the government has acknowledged any responsibility for doing so. The nso that sells pegasus software claims they only sell it to vetted governments. So the question that comes up is whether the government of india did this or whether a foreign government is tapping.
Uh, our surveilling indian phones, these are all very serious questions: the exceptions of things in national security, sovereignty of india, india, relations with friendly states, the usual stuff we’ve, seen even going back to article 19, one of the constitution, those exceptions, um in any case, is a Formal procedure under which the home secretary with a committee has to approve this and then within a certain number of months. That has to go before a review committee. And in no case can the surveillance continue for more than two years uh and explicitly under section 43 of the iit act? Hacking there is a placement of of a virus on somebody’s device or a snooping um software on somebody’s device is actually explicitly forbidden. So if pegasus was deployed on the phones of journalists, politicians and so on, that’s certainly i mean almost certainly i’m, not a judge, so i can’t say it, but almost certainly would be illegal and if that’s the case then obviously consequence should follow. I would like to draw your attention to uh the people. Who’Ve allegedly been snooped on uh a lot of people from the wire two of its founding editors uh. Their phones apparently have been snooped uh. We also know someone who covers the election commission for the indian express uh. Her phone also was uh snooped upon so given the profiles of people who’ve been stooped upon. Does it seem a little interesting to you in that case, which i can tell you? What we have done so far is we’ve actually had discussions on this one.
The first time the pegasus story broke two years ago, when the citizens lab in toronto notified some people in india that their phones may have been compromised. Those people wrote to me, and i summoned some representatives of the victims as well as the ministry is concerned, the home ministry, the i.t ministry and so on. No one was prepared to concede that they had actually deployed this software even for under the official national security exemptions that could be permitted, so we had kind of more or less reached a dead end there. This is now a fresh bit of evidence. I think it’s becoming very clear that there is a case for an independent inquiry, perhaps headed by a judge who would act. A supreme court judge, ideally, who have the power not just to summon witnesses and documents, but also to weigh the evidence in a judicial manner. One final question: i would like to ask you: are you personally afraid of your phone being hacked you as a politician, you also have a personal life. There are conversations that you do not want anyone else to know. So how does that affect you? How does that bother you now? It does bother me and at the same time since i don’t know, and so far in any case, i don’t, i don’t, believe my phone has been hacked um. I shall i shall assume that um that the government has not found my personal life or that much interest at this point.
But having said that, nobody, i think in public life, should have to feel that their privacy is being compromised on a daily basis. I think that’s unfortunate. We even have the buddha swami judgment of the supreme court. That says that every indian citizen has a right to privacy, and i think it would be a shame if this kind of thing were to happen so regularly that people in india went around, assuming that nothing is truly private, that that would be something that assaults the Quality of their lives, and i think it would really be in many ways it would dilute the quality of our democracy. We are truthful, unafraid and independent because of you. Now you can help our reporting from the ground go to the quinn.com. Click become a member tab.