Kolkata: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said Israeli cyber intelligence company, NSO Group, had come to the state police department four-five years ago, to sell their spyware, Pegasus, at a cost of ₹25 crore. According to an ANI input, the Trinamool Congress supremo said she had turned down the offer as the spyware could have been exploited politically and targeting judges and officials, something that was unacceptable.
Mamata Banerjee’s disclosure comes even as the Supreme Court is looking at a batch of pleas alleging that Israeli spyware Pegasus was used for surveillance of certain people in India.
Mamata Banerjee said, “If it was for anti-national activities and for security, it could have been a different thing. But it’s being used for political reasons. Its being used on officials and judges, which is not acceptable.”
Banerjee has repeatedly targetted the Narendra Modi government at the Centre for allegedly using the military grade Israeli spyware for targetting phones of journalists, politicians, activists, businessmen, and others.
She had even demanded an all-party meeting over the same.
What is Row Over Pegasus?
In India, the Pegasus Project investigations alleged that the Pegasus spyware was used on ministers, opposition leaders, political strategist and tacticians, journalists, activists, minority leaders, supreme court judges, religious leaders, administrators like Election Commissioners and heads of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).Some of these phones were later analysed and were confirmed to have been targeted by the Pegasus spyware.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, political strategist Prashant Kishor and two Union ministers (Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Patel) were among those whose phone numbers figured in the leaked list.
In July 2021, the central government dismissed the allegations of snooping, with the IT ministry saying there had been no “unauthorised surveillance”.
Meanwhile, Pegasus-maker NSO Group, an Israeli firm, had also maintained that its spyware was for use strictly by the government agencies in combating terrorism and organised crime.
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