Monday (July 19th): Pegasus Project vs. Modi

Narendra Modi

Name? Narendra Modi

Westphalian identity? Indian

Age? 70

Why is he in the news? Prime Minister Modi was accused of treason for reportedly using Israeli-NSO spyware tool Pegasus to hack the phones of several journalists, activists, cabinet ministers and opposition members prior to the 2019 parliamentary elections.

Why do we care? For starters, the surveillance software is only licensed to national governments for specific purposes such as counterterrorism–which Modi’s government has never confirmed using… If Modi were to confirm using Pegasus to tap the phones of some of his greatest political and media critics, the current political controversy in India would likely explode into political chaos. Why should you care? The Pegasus spyware allows for the remote surveillance of smartphones as it silently unlocks the contents of a target’s phone and effectively transforms it into a listening device. For example, the project also revealed that a woman who accused the former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, was targeted in the surveillance alongside 11 members of her family…so you should care 7/10 about victims being not only silenced, but surveilled.

Who else cares? Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO). Analysis of the data revealed that Mexico selected the most numbers (more than 15000), exposing multiple government agencies of buying and utilizing Pegasus. Considering the fact that many of AMLO’s advisors were included in the leaked list, AMLO is likely to come under harsh criticism like Modi.

Any further comments? It’s clear that Modi’s government’s reported use of Pegasus is bad as it is being considered treason and an abdication of national security. For that, you have Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories to thank. The two NGOs conducted the investigation now known as the Pegasus Project that revealed the use of Pegasus to target over 50000 phone numbers around the world. So it seems there is a use of watchdog NGOs in the world of IR afterall…

Sarah McFadden

General Coordinator