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Former intelligence, ED officials potential spyware targets: Report

Former officials of the armed and security forces, intelligence agencies, NITI Aayog and a junior official in the Prime Minister’s Office have been named in the database investigated by 17 international media platforms as potential targets of snooping using the Pegasus spyware.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: July 27, 2021 7:09:29 am
The Wire, which is the Indian partner of the investigative project, reported the names of these former officials on Monday.

Former officials of the armed and security forces, intelligence agencies, NITI Aayog and a junior official in the Prime Minister’s Office have been named in the database investigated by 17 international media platforms as potential targets of snooping using the Pegasus spyware. The Wire, which is the Indian partner of the investigative project, reported the names of these former officials on Monday.

Among the names is that of K K Sharma, who was added to the list of potential targets in early 2018, when he was heading the BSF.

“In the absence of digital forensics, it is not possible to establish whether Sharma was subjected to an attempted hack or infection. But the fact that the leaked records include three phone numbers used by him, two of which he still uses after his retirement in 2018, indicate he was very much a person of interest to the Indian client of the NSO Group during the time he was in service as BSF chief,” the report said.

After his retirement from BSF, Sharma was appointed by the Election Commission as the special central police observer for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections for West Bengal and Jharkhand, to which TMC had objected.

Another senior BSF officer was added to the list around the same time. Jagdish Maithani was the BSF commandant posted in Assam and “appears to have been of considerable interest to an Indian client of NSO between 2017 and 2019”.

The numbers of a former senior officer with the Research and Analysis Wing and his wife are also part of the database. Jitendra Kumar Ojha, the report said, “was in charge of training Indian spies at RAW’s academy in Delhi between 2013 and 2015 and also served in London, was eased out of the service in January 2018”. He had challenged his removal in February 2018, and according to the report, it was around this time that his and his wife’s phone numbers were added to the list.

Two Army officers, Colonel Mukul Dev and Colonel Amit Kumar are also part of the database. Dev, who was the deputy judge advocate general in 12 Corps, based in Jodhpur, had issued a legal notice to the Defence Secretary in July 2017, demanding the cancellation of an order withdrawing free rations to officers posted in peace areas.

Kumar was also a legal officer, working in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2018, “a few months prior to his appearance in the database, he filed a petition in the Supreme Court on behalf of 356 Army personnel against what they apprehended was an impending dilution of the Armed Forces (Special Forces) Act (AFSPA)”, the report stated.

Also in the list is Rajeshwar Singh of the ED, who handled high-profile investigations like the 2G case, and the Aircel-Maxis deal. According to the news portal, “not only two of Singh’s numbers but four numbers belonging to three women from his family, implying they too were likely targets”.

The report has mentioned a former senior NITI Aayog official whose number appears in the database, but has not named him.

Another person not named is an “officer who is currently an under secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office was also selected for potential surveillance in 2017, the leaked records show”. It mentioned that he was in charge of “Prime Minister Modi’s tours in 2017 when the Indian client of the NSO Group showed interest in him”.

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