Friday, June 14, 2024

TDP alleges Jagan Reddy government used Pegasus to tap phones of Chandrababu Naidu, son Lokesh

The Telugu Desam Party has alleged the outgoing Jagan Mohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh illegally tapped phone of Opposition leaders using Pegasus spyware and is systematically destroying evidence before demitting office.

TDP leader and incoming Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu alleged the former YSRCP government improperly acquired and used the controversial Pegasus spyware to illegally tap phones of the Opposition leaders, including that of himself and his son Nara Lokesh.

“I have been targeted twice, once during my Yuva Galam yatra in March 2023 and once this April during campaigning,” Lokesh told The Indian Express.

“We both received the alerts from Apple. We suspect that Pegasus was used by the Jagan government to tap our phones.”

Lokesh claimed the illegal spyware was acquired “off the books” and operated from outside Andhra Pradesh to cloak the surveillance. He vowed that once in power, the new TDP government will thoroughly investigate how Pegasus was procured, where it was run from, and who was targeted.

Pegasus is a potent spyware made by Israeli cyber intelligence firm NSO Group. When surreptitiously installed on electronic devices, it can access calls, messages, photos and location data without the user’s knowledge. NSO says it only licenses Pegasus to “vetted governments” for tracking criminals and terrorists.

However, a 2021 global media investigation found Pegasus was widely misused by government agencies to monitor journalists, activists, politicians and others. Potential Indian targets included Rahul Gandhi, ministers, businessmen and officials like former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa.

The Supreme Court subsequently appointed an expert panel to examine the allegations. Last year, the panel reported finding some malware on a handful of devices, though could not confirm if it was Pegasus. The court also criticised the Modi government for not cooperating with the inquiry.

On Friday, Lokesh claimed there was “clear intelligence” that the outgoing YSRCP regime was destroying records before the transition. “The chief minister designate, Naidu has directed the DG to stop all that and seize all the offices till further instructions,” he told ANI.

The TDP and allies BJP and Jana Sena scored a narrow victory in last week’s state elections, ousting Jagan Reddy’s YSRCP. Naidu, the former chief minister who lost to Reddy in 2019, is set to return to power when sworn in on June 12.

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