Dalai Lama's Close Advisors Among Potential Pegasus Targets: Report
But a technical examination of phone’s data is reportedly imperative to establish if these numbers were surveilled.
The closest circle of advisors around the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and staff members of other Buddhist clerics were identified as potential targets of Israeli spyware Pegasus, reported The Wire, citing a leaked database of phone numbers reveals.
The leaked database, reportedly, has indicated that phone numbers of several Tibetan officials, activists and clerics were marked from late 2017 to early 2019.
As per The Wire, a technical examination of a phone’s data is imperative to establish if these numbers were surveilled.
However, the presence of these numbers indicated that they were distinguished as possible candidates for surveillance.
WHO ARE THESE PROMINENT BUDDHIST FIGURES?
According to The Wire, the first records pertain to the staff of Urgyen Trinley Dorji, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa and the third highest ranking monk in Tibetan Buddhism.
The Karmapa is reported to have had a “testy” relationship with the Indian Intelligence community. In 2011 he was subjected to a police raid, and in 2018 he reportedly obtained a Dominican passport without India’s knowledge.
Tempa Tsering, the Dalai Lama’s long-term envoy in New Delhi, and presently the director, India and East Asia, Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, also figures on the list.
Tenzin Taklha and Chimmey Rigzen, senior aides
Samdhong Rinpoche, the head of the trust that will oversee the task of selecting the next Dalai Lama
Lobsang Sangay, the head of the then Tibetan government in exile
Phone numbers of several other Tibetan activists in India were also reportedly found among the records.
WHAT IS THE INDIAN GOVT SAYING?
The Wire has reported that the Pegasus Project members had sent a questionnaire to the Indian government with names of those whose records were found, including that of Tibetan officials. The Indian government's response, as per the digital news portal was that the 'allegations regarding government surveillance on specific people has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever'.
Meanwhile, IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who himself figured on one of the lists of potential Pegasus targets, has claimed that the Pegasus Project is an attempt to malign India’s 'democracy and its well-established institutions'.
Further, pointing out to the contents of the report, Vaishnaw said the report itself clarifies that presence of a number in the list doesn’t amount to snooping.
WHAT ABOUT NSO?
NSO, on Wednesday, once again claimed that the list is 'not a list of targets or potential targets of Pegasus. The numbers in the list are not related to NSO group. Any claim that a name in the list is necessarily related to a Pegasus target or Pegasus potential target is erroneous and false'.
Further, according to NDTV, the company said 'enough is enough' and that it would no longer 'play along with the vicious and slanderous campaign'.
THE PEGASUS REPORTS
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. It has also been reported that the Pegasus list includes 14 world leaders, out of which at least seven are still in power.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International, on Thursday, stated it "categorically stands" by the findings of Pegasus Project. According to PTI, the group also asserted that the data is "irrefutably linked" to potential targets of NSO Group's Pegasus spyware.
Amnesty's statement came amid reports claiming that the group has denied saying that the recently leaked phone numbers was specifically a list of numbers targeted by Pegasus spyware.
(With inputs from The Wire)
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