The latest revelations from the Pegasus Project revealed that aside from a key former ED official, Delhi CM Kejriwal's close aide and PMO and NITI Aayog officials, members from the security establishment, including the former BSF chief and a former senior R&AW official could have been targeted by the spyware.
The France-based journalism non-profit, Forbidden Stories, and international human rights advocacy group Amnesty International had accessed a massive list of 50,000 numbers which are believed to have been selected as potential targets of surveillance by ten countries. The records were then shared with a group of 16 media houses across the world –including The Wire – who worked collaboratively to investigate the scope of this intended or actual surveillance over several months in an initiative termed as the Pegasus Project.
The latest reports by The Wire on Monday morning said that in February-March 2018, the phone number of K.K. Sharma, then head of the Border Security Force (BSF), was added to the list of potential targets of the yet unidentified government agency that is also believed to be a client of the Israeli company NSO Group. The Indian government has been denying all allegations of "snooping" on its own citizens.
According to the report, Sharma came under the radar after he attended an RSS function in February 2018 in uniform, creating controversy in the process. While Sharma's phone could not be forensically examined, three of his numbers, two of which he still used following his retirement in 2018, were on the list. Following his retirement, the Election Commission appointed him special observer for polls in West Bengal and Jharkhand, something the TMC and the CPI(M) had opposed.
Another name that figured from the security establishment was Jitendra Kumar Ojha, a retired senior official from the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s external spy agency. Both Ojha and his wife's numbers are on the list. Ojha had trained Indian spies in Delhi between 2013 and 2015 and was said to have been "eased" out of service in 2018, following which he moved the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in February 2018. About the same time, their numbers were added to the list. "This is brazenly criminal..." Ojha told The Wire.
Two former army officers, Colonel Mukul Dev and Colonel Amit Kumar, also figured in the list. Both were said to have been surveillance targets in 2019. Dev was involved in litigation against the government while Kumar was a legal officer in J&K when filed a petition in the Supreme Court on behalf of army personnel for diluting the Armed Forces (Special Forces) Act (AFSPA).
Aside from the above, the number of Rajeshwar Singh, a senior Enforcement Directorate officer who had been involved in the investigation of high-profile cases like the 2G Scam, Aircel-Maxis and probes into Andhra CM Jagan Mohan Reddy and the Sahara Group, was also on the list.
Singh figured in the list between the fag end of 2017 and mid-2019. A second number registered under his name was added in 2018, the same time when two numbers belonging to his wife and both his sisters' phone numbers were added too.
Following corruption allegations which Singh denied vehemently, he subsquently said then Union revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia was “siding with scamsters and their affiliates”. A letter written by him to Adhia in June 2018 claimed that the former was blocking his promotion in the ED. Singh was believed to be closer to former CBI director Alok Verma, whose name also figured on the list.
A number registered under the name of V.K. Jain, chief consultant at Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office, also figured in the list in 2018, when he was said to have handled the "most significant files" of the state government. Leaked records also showed that numbers of a senior Niti Aayog official and a junior official at the PMO were also on the list.
Some Delhi-based Kashmiri journalists and over 25 people from the Kashmir Valley were selected as potential targets for surveillance between 2017 and mid-2019 by a yet unidentified government agency that is also believed to be a client of the Israeli company NSO Group, The Wire reported on Friday.