'Use of Spyware Against Civil Society, Journos Concerning': US on Pegasus Row

·3 min read

Amid a series of reports that evince the use of Pegasus spyware against Indian journalists, activists, as well as world leaders, the United States, on Friday, 23 July, marked its concern over the alleged snooping operation.

"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 press conference on Friday, news agency PTI reported.

Speaking about the concerns over privacy triggered by the alleged spying operation, Thompson said, "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."

Reports published by news organisations across the world on Sunday, 18 July, revealed that Israel-made spyware Pegasus was believed to have been used to snoop on at least 300 Indian phone numbers, including those of several journalists, politicians, government officials and rights activists.

Questioned about the Pegasus reports in India, the Biden administration representative said, "We – I don't have any particular special insights into the India case," PTI reported.

'Human Rights Issues to Be Raised During India Visit': US Official

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will raise the concerns of human rights and democracy with Indian officials on his upcoming visit to Delhi, PTI reported.

Blinken, who is scheduled to reach the national capital on Tuesday, 27 July, will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, as well as National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. The visit is expected to lay the groundwork for the first in-person Quad leaders' conference to be held later this year.

""With respect to the human rights and democracy question, yes, you're right; I will tell you that we will raise it, and we will continue that conversation, because we firmly believe that we have more values in common on those fronts than we don't."" - US Secretary of State Dean Thompson was quoted as saying by PTI.

"We believe India is going to be a really important part of continuing those conversations and building strong efforts on those fronts in partnership as we go forward," he stated.

Also Read: Pegasus Snoopgate: Will Centre Answer These 5 Crucial Questions?

The Pegasus Snoopgate

A series of reports that have surfaced since 18 July have revealed the possibility of snooping operations against several 'potential' targets, including high-profile journalists, political leaders and ministers.

The names of Rahul Gandhi, Prashant Kishor, Ashok Lavasa, and Union ministers Prahlad Patel and Ashwini Vaishnaw, are reportedly among those on the leaked list.

The alleged snooping attempts were reportedly carried out using spyware Pegasus, a product of Israeli cyberweapons company NSO Group.

However, the the presence of the numbers in the 'Pegasus Project' does not confirm that the device was actually 'infected with Pegasus or subject to an attempted hack,' The Wire said.

The Indian government, on its part, has denied any role in the snooping operations, slamming the reports.

IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Monday, 19 July, said in the Lok Sabha that the Pegasus Project is an attempt to malign India’s 'democracy and its well-established institutions'.

(With inputs from PTI and The Wire)

Also Read: Why IT Minister Vaishnaw's Dismissal of 'Pegasus' Reports Is Troubling

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