France Orders Probe into Spyware Targeting, Israel Sets Up Crisis Group, India Remains in Denial

New Delhi: France has ordered an investigation into the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron’s personal telephone number in the leaked database of numbers believed to be potential targets for surveillance, less than 24 hours after the Pegasus Project consortium of media organisations reported it.

According to Reuters, Macron has called for a series of inquiries into the Pegasus spyware issue, citing remarks made by Prime Minister Jean Castex to the French television channel TF1.“If the facts are accurate, they are certainly quite serious,” Macron’s office said on Tuesday evening, shortly after the report broke. These media revelations will be thoroughly investigated… Some French victims have already stated that they will submit complaints, prompting the commencement of judicial proceedings.”

The Élysée was alluding to a criminal complaint made by Edwy Plenel, the founder and editor-in-chief of the website Mediapart, whose phone number was included in the hacked database. A Moroccan client of the NSO Group appears to have chosen both him and Macron.Forbidden Stories, a French media foundation, accessed the database of leaked numbers and shared it with 17 news organisations around the world, including Le Monde, The Wire, Haaretz, the Washington Post, and the Guardian. The numbers are believed to be those of persons of interest named by NSO Group’s clients, however the company says the data has nothing to do with them.

However, forensic examination of as many as 37 phones from the list revealed definite traces of an attempted or successful Pegasus assault. The Indian numbers on the list, which include 40 journalists, more than a dozen political figures and connected individuals, over 40 activists, scientists, and others, have been published.In contrast to the rapid investigation launched in France, the Modi government has denied any involvement of Indian officials in any surveillance of the individuals identified. Amit Shah, the Union Home Minister, has accused “disruptors and obstructors” of conspiring to “derail India’s development trajectory.”

Amnesty International, whose technical lab conducted forensic testing on phones suspected of a Pegasus infection, was banned on Tuesday by the Assam chief minister for “defaming India.”According to Reuters, Israel, which is home to NSO Group, has established a top inter-ministerial panel to investigate allegations that Pegasus has been used to target journalists, opposition leaders, and human rights defenders on a global scale.

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