Pegasus Row: Use of Spy Tech on Journalists, Critics Concerning, Says US

The United States has also been accused of running the world's largest surveillance program after Edward Snowden a subcontractor with the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) revealed classified documents which revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) was running several global surveillance programs along with the help of telecommunication company.

SC extends time for submitting probe report on use of Israeli spyware. (Representative Image) (Source: Pixabay)

New Delhi: The United States on Friday said that it was against the use of spying technology on society, journalists, human rights activists, and government critics through “extrajudicial means. It added that it had no knowledge of the allegations of Pegasus Spyware being used to snoop on journalists in India.

“The whole notion of using this type of technology against civil society, or regime critics, or journalists, or anybody like that through extrajudicial means is always concerning,” Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson told reporters during a news conference here on Friday.

A joint investigation by several media organisation in collaboration with Amnesty International and French non-profit Forbidden Stories has revealed that Pegasus, spyware developed by the Israeli firm NSO, was used to snoop on journalists, human rights activists among several others.

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When asked about the Pegasus snooping case in India, Thompson said: “We – I don’t have any particular special insights into the India case.”

“I know this is a broader issue, but I will say that we’ve been, I think, quite vocal about trying to find ways for companies to be able to ensure that their technology is not used in these types of ways. And we will certainly continue to press those issues,” he said.

In India, the reports were published by The Wire which claimed that the phones of 40 journalists, bureaucrats, opposition leaders, one sitting judge, and even two ministers in the Union government were hacked using the spyware.

However, India on Monday rejected these allegations and stated that under the current laws illegal surveillance was not possible.

Minister of Information Technology, Ashwini Vaishnaw had said that these reports were published with the intent to defame India.

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“The press reports of 18th July 2021 also appear to be an attempt to malign the Indian democracy and its well-established institutions,” Vaishnaw said in Parliament.

Minister of state for external affairs Meenakshi Lekhi on Thursday said that the story on the alleged snooping through Israeli spyware Pegasus is “concocted, fabricated and evidence-less” and that the news reports based on it call for “defamation”.

The Opposition have been creating ruckus in the Parliament since the start of the Monsoon session over the issue which has led to several adjournments in both houses.

Things took a turn for the worse when TMC MP Shantanu Sen snatched a paper from Vaishnaw in the Rajya Sabha and tore it into several pieces.

The paper contained the statement from the government over the Pegasus issues.

Witj inputs from PTI