Pegasus: Amnesty says never claimed leaked numbers were actually hacked
Human rights group Amnesty International said in a fresh statement that it never claimed the controversial list of phone numbers leaked over the weekend were actually spied on using the Pegasus spyware. It stated the list was, however, indicative of the interests of the clients using Pegasus. According to various media reports on Sunday, thousands of numbers across the globe were allegedly snooped into.
"Amnesty International has never presented this list as 'NSO's Pegasus Spyware List,' although some of the world's media may have done so," the organization reportedly said. "Amnesty, and the investigative journalists and media outlets they work with, made it clear from the outset in very clear language that this is a list of numbers marked as numbers of interest to NSO customers."
"List contains the kind of people NSO's clients would ordinarily be interested in spying on, but the list isn't specifically a list of people who were spied on -- though a very small subset of people on the list were indeed spied on," Amnesty added.
A sensational list of 50,000 mobile numbers was released over the weekend by international media organization such as The Guardian and India's The Wire. It contained the numbers of over 300 Indian government officials, Opposition leaders, activists, and journalists, who were allegedly targeted between 2018 and 2019. Numbers of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and election strategist Prashant Kishor were also part of the list.
Several Opposition parties, including the Congress and the Shiv Sena, have slammed the central government over the scandal and demanded a probe into the allegations. Further, the Parliamentary Panel on Information Technology will likely question top government officials over the issue on July 28.
The Indian government has vehemently denied any involvement in the scandal. Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the controversy is an "attempt to malign the Indian democracy and its well-established institutions." He contended any form of illegal surveillance is not possible in India. Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah termed it a report "by disrupters for the obstructers."
The NSO Group, which developed the Pegasus spyware and says it is only available to government authorities, has also rubbished the allegations. "The report by Forbidden Stories is full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories," the company had said in a statement. "In fact, these allegations are so outrageous and far from reality, that NSO is considering a defamation lawsuit."