The Pegasus Project is a collaboration by more than 80 journalists from 17 media organizations in 10 countries coordinated by Amnesty International. Amnesty along with 17 international media outlets alleged mass misuse of Pegasus spyware by state actors around the world, including India.
They reported an unproven leaked list of over 50,000 phone numbers in more than 45 countries that were potentially targeted for illegal surveillance by misusing Pegasus. The international media organizations in the consortium include The Guardian, Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung, The Washington Post, and The Wire from India.
The objective of this article is to present a plausible scenario, beyond any reasonable doubt, on how such a crime could be committed by the Pegasus Project consortium itself by falsely implicating governments and countries.
Formation of the Consortium
First, let us examine what is the common thread running through these holier than thou members of Project Pegasus consortium. They are purveyors of deplorable and distressing news about misfortunes, disasters, and catastrophes taking place in developing countries and they profit from the publishing of such articles. And when there are no such melodramatic news to reprimand and castigate such countries, they create them, as their business model is to thrive on schadenfreude, deriving pleasure and profit derived from the misfortunes of others.
It may be noted that Amnesty International, the human rights organisation that heads this consortium, had shut its India operations alleging harassment by the government, while in fact the Government of India had accused it of money laundering and fraudulent accounting practices. There is a very detailed Wikipedia page entitled ‘Criticism of Amnesty International’ describing its covert operations in many countries, fraudulent money laundering practices, toxic work environments in its offices, and a whole lot more.
Accuser Turns Accused
There is every reason to believe that this misuse of Pegasus spyware is a murky operation orchestrated and perpetrated by the very Consortium led by Amnesty itself. Here is a plausible scenario of how it could have been carried out.
From the facts revealed by the consortium, it may be concluded that they have been planning this operation since 2016. According to Amnesty at least ten governments are believed to be NSO customers of the Pegasus system. The list that the Consortium has revealed include Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India, and UAE.
Amnesty International, by the covert and overt nature of its purported humanitarian and human rights work, have easy access to several governments as well as to the rogue and terror actors in the countries they operate. And there are countries and governments that sponsor terrorist organizations and their supporters for a wide range of purposes. Pakistan is widely known to be a leader of state sponsored terrorism.
A report by US Government Publishing Office entitled ‘PAKISTAN: FRIEND OR FOE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM?’ bearing No. 114-173 dated 12 July 2016 says: “The United States has spent tens of billions in taxpayer dollars in the form of aid to Pakistan since 9/11, all in the hope that Pakistan would become a partner in the fight against terrorism. Unfortunately, despite this significant investment, Pakistani military and intelligence services are still linked to terrorist groups.”
Access to Pegasus Spyware
NSO licenses Pegasus spyware exclusively to government agencies to combat organized terrorism and other serious crimes such as drug trafficking, paedophilia, money laundering, etc. So it is quite possible for Amnesty to request ISI of Pakistan to procure Pegasus from NSO, using the funds given by United States, as ISI was officially partnering with US in its professed fight against terrorism. Or, instead of Pakistan, this could be any other country promoting and supporting terrorist organizations.
With unhindered access to the hacking software, Amnesty, in collusion with ISI, can easily feed the Pegasus system with the target phone numbers for a network injection. In cases where remote network injections do not work, as in the case of unsupported devices or upgraded OS software, Amnesty / ISI operatives could get physical access to the target phone devices. Once infected, all these phones will be under the complete control of the Consortium.
Design of Surveillance List
Once easy access to a Pegasus system is established, the next task is to ingeniously and cunningly prepare the list of individuals and their phone numbers from several different countries meant to be supposedly targeted. The Consortium prepared two categories of people for this purpose – one belonging to a few key officials of the governments to be targetted and the second consisting of important journalists, activists, politicians, business executives, public health experts, foreign diplomats etc. who were hypercritical of these governments.
Amnesty’s objectives were two fold: the first category of government officials is to to be used to spy on and collect useful information about the policies and plans of these governments and the second category is to create hatred and suspicion in the minds of opposition parties who were critical of these governments.
Amnesty, by virtue of its nefarious activities, had a ready list of such willing and proactive activists in different countries. The plan to spy on the government officials or on the other individuals on the list was not the primary objective of Amnesty. The details list of carefully culled phone numbers was just decoy numbers merely to mislead the public and the governments as well as to accuse them of illegal surveillance.
According to Washington Post, hundreds of phone numbers on the surveillance list were from Pakistan, including the one, PM Imran Khan once used (by including which Pakistan won’t be suspected), while more than 1,000 phone numbers were from India.
Collusion by the Consortium
After all, the consortium members are in the media and non-profit business for money and power, never mind the pious pronouncements from the public pulpit about human rights, bringing out the truth, service to the humanity, etc. They are the ultimate beneficiaries of this well planned and neatly executed sting operation.
The Home Minister of India, Mr Amit Shah, has called the Project Pegasus investigation “a report by the disrupters for the obstructers. Disrupters are global organizations which do not like India to progress. Obstructers are political players in India who do not want India to progress.”
The Consortium’s disruptive operation is rather ironic on two counts:
- One, that the very spyware that the Consortium accuses many governments to have used to spy on their citizens, is the very tool used by the criminal mafia Consortium to achieve its nefarious objectives.
- Second, it has substantiated the very raison d’etre of sophisticated and technologically advanced spyware such as Pegasus and Toka.
International terrorism is one of the most serious threats India and many other countries are facing today. Many organizations in the guise of media work and purported human rights activities are also posing threats to international peace and security in many countries. These western media, human rights, and terrorist organizations are against the growth of a self-reliant India as an economic and military superpower.
They have realised that they cannot attack and subdue the Modi Government’s India through fair means. Hence they resort to such brazen attacks on governments of the developing world by forming criminal consortiums whose activities are more lethal to the public than those by the terror organizations.
India is actively working to combat financial, human, logistic, media, and terrorist propaganda networks. To achieve these objectives, it is seeking political solutions to conflicts, taking determined military action, preventing religious radicalization, spearheading the fight against terrorist financing, and enhancing international cooperation.
(The author is an ex-scientist who has worked on Bharat’s space program)
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