Amid a political storm in the country over alleged snooping attempts using the Pegasus spyware, with several high-profile politicians and ministers believed to have been targeted, the latest in a series of reports suggests that the technology might have been used just before the toppling of the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka, in July 2019.
According to The Wire, former deputy chief minister G Parameshwara and the personal secretaries of then chief minister HD Kumaraswamy and former chief minister Siddaramaiah were selected as possible targets for surveillance.
Here are the highlights of the report:
Two phone numbers belonging to Satish, the personal secretary of former CM Kumaraswamy, were potential targets in mid-2019. He refused to comment on the matter but confirmed using the phone number at the time.
The phone number of Congress leader Siddaramaiah’s personal secretary Venkatesh was also in the records during the same period. Speaking to The Wire, he said, “I don’t know whether my phone was a target for snooping. All I can say is that I don’t do anything illegal. If what you are claiming is true, it is wrong and I strongly condemn such an action.”
The then deputy CM G Parameshwara was also a potential target amid the political unrest in the state, that later led to the fall of the Karnataka government.
The phone number of a policeman, Manjunath Muddegowda, who was reportedly one of the security personnel of JD(S) president HD Devegowda, also appears in the records from mid-2019. He, too, refused to comment on the matter.
The records, as checked by The Wire, also suggest that several key political players in the state were also chosen as potential targets.
The Fall of the Congress-JD(S) Govt
Seventeen Congress and JD(S) MLAs resigned in July 2019, leading to the collapse of the two-party coalition government headed by HD Kumaraswamy.
The resignation of the 17 MLAs, who were later disqualified, reduced the majority mark (113) in the Karnataka Assembly and paved way for the BJP with 106 MLAs to form the government in the state.
All 17 MLAs that were disqualified later joined the BJP.
The report comes as a part of a series that has revealed the possiblity of snooping attempts on several high-profile journalists, political leaders and ministers as targets or 'potential' targets. Multiple reports being published since 18 July have revealed the names of Rahul Gandhi, Prashant Kishor, Ashok Lavasa, and Union Ministers Prahlad Patel and Ashwini Vaishnaw among others.
The alleged snooping attemps 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 'infected with Pegasus or subject to an attempted hack,' The Wire has said.
(With inputs from The Wire)