Pegasus spying row: Modi regime can't escape blaming WhatsApp

Pegasus spying row: Modi regime can’t escape blaming WhatsApp

Science & Technology

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindutva fascist regime started a verbal brawl with Facebook-owned popular mobile messenger WhatsApp, after the latter dragged NSO, a Zionist terrorist Israeli surveillance firm, to a California court on Tuesday, 29 October 2019, accusing it of using a spyware called Pegasus to breach the mobile phones of nearly 1,400 users globally, including activists, diplomats, politicians and journalists. The Modi regime accused that WhatsApp didn’t inform it anything about the major breach in which nearly 30-40 Indian activists, lawyers, journalists and politicians were spied upon until May 2019. WhatsApp, however, denied the charge and claimed it had informed the government about the incident earlier, as soon as it identified the breach.

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government has sought information regarding the breach and what’s done by WhatsApp to protect the privacy of millions of Indians who use the app for their day-to-day communication. It’s noteworthy that India has no privacy and data protection laws, a situation that provides a big legal loophole for perpetrators of such crimes and emboldens them to act with impunity. The Modi regime, which is keen to bring new forms of digital and offline snooping acts to peek deeper into the private lives of the citizens, is reluctant to bring robust and comprehensive data security and privacy laws for the country, thereby making the Indians digitally vulnerable to all type of exploits.

Though WhatsApp gave a clarification that it had briefed the Modi regime earlier, the latter accused it of only sharing jargons, sans any in-depth details of the incident. The duet between these two over sharing the information about a breach may get prolonged, however, the news of the incident has created a ruckus and it’s important to understand this attack on the privacy of Indian citizens by Pegasus through a critical analysis of the facts.

The May 2019 WhatsApp breach has been the most severe breach by the Pegasus globally. While earlier the Pegasus spyware would get installed in a victim’s phone once the victim would click on a link sent through a phishing message, which will appear tempting or quite genuine, in the last attack, Pegasus breached phones using a bug in the popular WhatsApp messenger, even though the messenger claimed to have provided end-to-end encryption to user messages. In the new modus operandi, Pegasus will be installed in a victim’s phone through a missed video call for which no action from the victim’s end will be required. 

Once installed, the spyware will capture data like the contacts, passwords, browser history, messages and even switch on the camera or record the voice of the victim to send them to a command and control (C&C) centre. The operators in the C&C centres will then analyse the data stored in the victim’s phone.  

Between August 2016 and August 2018, the Canada-based Citizens Lab found 1,091 IP addresses linked with the Pegasus software, and activists, journalists, politicians, lawyers, etc, were targeted in 45 countries all over the world through these servers to track their activities. India was one of them at that point as well. The earlier exploits took place through the zero-day exploits of Apple iOS used on iPhones. The Citizens Lab has been tracking the usage of Pegasus by the brutal regimes and it played a crucial role in releasing the new findings. It voluntarily helped WhatsApp to identify the cases where human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, etc, were targeted. 

Along with organisations like Amnesty International, R3D, Privacy International and EFF, the Citizens Lab recorded instances where this Zionist Israeli organisation, funded by a European equity firm named Novalpina Capital, collaborated with regimes that are infamous for human rights abuses. There is a long list of litigations against NSO for human rights violation. Though the NSO claims that it sells Pegasus and other solutions only to governments to fight crime and terrorism and has listed its own human rights policy where the onus of not violating human rights is on its customers and it can only, as a penal measure, suspend the usage of the app by a customer who violates human rights, it’s a well-known fact, due to the Citizen Lab’s efforts, that it’s only the notorious regimes like Zionist Israel, Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Pakistan, etc, who rely on the NSO for Pegasus-based spying and NSO can’t cut the main source of its revenue despite human rights abuses.

After the May 2019 breach was identified, WhatsApp frantically tried to close the loophole, however, the damage was done by then. It then contacted respective governments and informed them about the breach; a claim that’s now disputed by the Modi regime. Though WhatsApp could identify NSO as the perpetrator of the crime and filed a lawsuit against the firm, the fact that the Zionist Israeli organisation was only working as a frontend service provider to its clients, who remain behind the veil of secrecy, shouldn’t be forgotten. 

Even though Prasad and the entire Modi regime is denying any involvement in the incident, there is circumstantial evidence that can nail the fact that it’s the Indian government that entrusted the NSO with the job of snooping on those who are critical of Modi’s policies or are fighting for people’s rights.

The circumstantial evidence one can think of when it comes to linking the Modi regime and the NSO’s Pegasus spyware are:

(i) Government-only clientele

The NSO doesn’t sell its products, especially Pegasus solutions, to any non-government entities. This is a written policy of NSO. Pegasus is only meant for the governments and their security establishment to carry out anti-terrorist activities. 

In the case of India, there can be two situations, viz either the Modi regime deployed the Pegasus app to snoop on those who are critical of it, raising issues concerning the lives and livelihoods of the people, or it can be a foreign regime that was snooping on those who are critical of the Modi regime. 

Why would a foreign government spend money to snoop on Indian activists critical of the Modi regime and its policies, especially the lawyers of the Bhima Koregaon case victims imprisoned more than a year now, a Delhi University professor, Dalit rights activists, etc? How can the NSO allow one of its clients to snoop on people outside its own sovereign geographical territory? That’s a breach of its service contract and the organisation, for its own existence, wouldn’t do that.

If a foreign government’s role is ruled out, then it’s only the Indian government under Modi and his heir-apparent Amit Shah that such a snooping exercise could continue unabated.

(ii) The ideological connection

The ruling Hindutva fascist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) are opposed to privacy laws and consider the state as the supreme entity with an absolute right to snoop on the private lives of its citizens. 

Under the Modi regime, India has developed stronger ties with the Zionist terrorist Israeli occupiers of Palestine. It’s their shared ideology of anti-communism and Islamophobia, driven by bigotry and chauvinism that form the basis of the Zionist-Hindutva alliance. It’s more likely that a Zionist terrorist outfit like the NSO will collaborate more happily with a Zionist terrorist ally like the Hindutva camp, rather than any other force.

With sheer disregard for the people’s right to privacy, which even the Supreme Court upheld, the RSS and the BJP would go to any extent to become the choking point for dissent and free thoughts in the country, to muzzle democratic and critical voices. It’s not impossible or ideologically taboo for the RSS or the BJP to have such a spying programme in place. It will more happily snoop into the private lives of the citizens and use national security as their argument to farther such obnoxious agenda.

(iii) The victims’ profile

The Indian victims of this Pegasus spying exercise are known as vocal critics of the Modi regime. There are activists, lawyers, political dissenters and journalists in the list. As they are strongly against the BJP and the RSS’s policies of communal bigotry, Brahminical oppression and unapologetic corporate appeasement, the Modi regime has been trying to gag them. 

Why would the NSO specifically target this group of 30-40 individuals among millions of smartphone users in India? What would it NSO gain from surveillance on a select group unless it’s paid for it through a client, which can’t be anyone but a legitimate government of a country? The only reason these people can be targeted and snooped on is when the government, which loathes them, would want to do so.

(iv) The cost factor

Above everything, Pegasus isn’t free or cheap. It comes at a premium price because it involves a huge network and operational setup of C&C centres. How would any non-government entities pay for such a gargantuan project without getting noticed by the government? 

The NSO’s charges for Pegasus and its principle of selling only to governments make it clear that it’s the Modi regime that’s able to pay for such a project of snooping its foes and can manage to use the data to build up false cases against the individuals who dare to oppose its Hindutva fascist rule and the policies of the RSS-BJP.

(v) The timings of the spying

The timing of the spying is also quite interesting. The spying ended soon after the 2019 Lok Sabha election results were out. The spying continued throughout the election period, in which Modi was countering the anti-incumbency wave over unemployment, corruptions, and economic disaster with jingoism and ultra-chauvinistic rhetoric. 

Why would someone, who isn’t ruling India, spy upon the activities of those who are continuously opposing the government’s position and are advocating an alternative path for the people? Why would someone, who isn’t ruling India, care about how the people’s alternative voices, the activists dealing with the oppressed masses, the exploited people and marginalised communities, are acting during the crucial elections?

All of these five points mentioned above shows that it’s none, but the Modi regime, that has been behind this Pegasus spying on Indians. Even if the government has denied purchasing the Pegasus software when an RTI query was filed, it still can’t wash off its hands from the controversy as the term of buying the software and the actual deed of having Pegasus executed through the wide network of NSO’s C&C centres are two different things and legally one can have the system used without buying it.

Spying on citizens and dissenting voices is a threat to democracy as it compromises the principle of privacy as a fundamental right. Under the garb of national security, the government, which could never prove any case against those it has arrested as its “enemy of the state” accolading them with the RSS-designed epithets of “anti-national” or “Urban Naxal”, will continue to violate the fundamental rights of the citizens. 

The Pegasus app or the NSO, the Zionist Israeli surveillance firm, isn’t the real transgressor here, rather, the real culprit is the Hindutva fascist ideology that is keen to pulverize all forms of civil dissent, democratic ethos and constitutional provisions to build a fascist socio-political order ruled by big corporates and their lackeys. The BJP’s attempt to distract public attention by seeking a report from WhatsApp won’t work any more, as it stands exposed as the real culprit behind the entire Pegasus snooping exercise. 

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