French President Emmanuel Macron, WHO head and Imran Khan also in Pegasus Target list

NSO has denied the allegations that its spyware was used to target the world leaders.

The latest victims of the Snoopgate scandal that has rocked Indian political and media world are some of the prominent politicians and world leaders. The recently published report in The Guardian show that the pegasus target list included the mobile phone numbers of French president, Emmanuel Macron, Pakistani PM Imran Khan and 12 other heads of state and world leaders.

The list also included King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African president and WHO head Tedros Ghebreyesus.

The leaked list includes numbers selected by governments that are clients of NSO Group, the Israeli spyware firm. However, this does not mean the targets were subject to an attempt or their phone was successfully hacked. NSO insists the database has “no relevance” to the company.

NSO denied the allegations that Macron was a “target” of any of its customers  or that he was selected for surveillance using Pegasus, its spyware. It also added that the fact that an individual’s number appeared on the list does not indicate if the number was selected for surveillance using Pegasus. NSO also says that King Mohammed VI and Tedros Ghebreyesus, head of WHO “are not, and never have been, targets or selected as targets of NSO Group customers.”

The list is believed to be indicative of those identified as persons of interest by the government clients of NSO. It majorly includes people who were targeted for surveillance later, according to the forensic analysis of the phones of these targetted individuals.

NSO further insists it requires its government clients to only use its powerful spying tools for legitimate investigations in the areas of terrorism or crime.

The Guardian is working along with other media partners in the Pegasus project investigation as part of an international consortium. The Pegasus project identified those governments which are possibly responsible for selecting the phone numbers in the data by closely examining the patterns of selection. The list of the leaders is published in the Gaurdian.

Political figures whose numbers appear in the list include:

  •  The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who appears to have been selected by Rwanda in 2019.
  •  Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who appears to have been selected as a person of interest by Morocco in 2019. An Élysée official said: “If this is proven, it is clearly very serious. All light will be shed on these media revelations.”
  •  Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s director general, who also appears to have been of interest to Morocco in 2019.
  •  Saad Hariri, who resigned as prime minister of Lebanon last week and appears to have been selected by the UAE in 2018 and 2019.
  •  Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, who appears to have been chosen as a person of interest by Morocco in 2019, when he was prime minister of Belgium.
  •  King Mohammed VI of Morocco, who was selected as a person of interest in 2019, apparently by security forces in his own country.
  •  Saadeddine Othmani, Morocco’s prime minister, who was also selected as a person of interest in 2018 and 2019, again possibly by elements within his own country.
  •  Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, who was selected as a person of interest by India in 2019.
  •  Felipe Calderón of Mexico, the former president. His number was selected in 2016 and 2017 by what is believed to have been a Mexican client during a period when his wife, Margarita Zavala was running for the country’s top political job.

The Saudi and UAE are believed to have selected Barham Salih, the president of Iraq as a candidate of interest to their governments, owing to his close relations with the US. Salih’s UK number also appeared in the list.

The surveillance company says although it does not have access to the data of its customers, the clients are obligated to provide the firm with such information when they have placed them under investigation. The company appears to have undertaken such an investigation into Morocco, which is believed to be one of its clients.

Read: Congress demands SC probe into Pegasus spying, to hold protests


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April 2024


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