Pegasus espionage targets included a supreme court staffer who accused former Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment

When the allegations against Justice Gogoi emerged in April 2019, eleven phone numbers related to the staffer and her family members were identified as targets for surveillance by an unidentified Indian agency that is a customer of the Israel-based-NSO, according to The Wire.

NSO, an Israeli spyware company, is most known for its Pegasus spyware, which the company claims is only sold to “vetted governments” and not to private groups, though it does not specify which governments it sells the contentious product to.

The staffer was fired from her job in December 2018, just weeks after she said she turned down the judge’s demands. According to an investigation into a leaked list of phone numbers accessed by French media non-profit Forbidden Stories, she recorded her charges in a written declaration on April 20, 2019, and was tagged as a person of interest just days afterwards. On the day the judgment was revealed, eight other phone numbers belonging to her husband and two of his brothers were identified as probable candidates for surveillance.

The woman, a former junior court assistant at the Supreme Court, stated in her affidavit, “He embraced me about the waist, and caressed me all over my body with his arms and by pressing his body against mine, and would not let go.” Gogoi denied the claims and was exonerated by an internal inquiry committee a month later.

A total of 11 phone numbers linked to the complainant and her family were chosen, making them the largest cluster of linked phone numbers in the India-leg of the Pegasus Project, a special investigation coordinated by Forbidden Stories and 16 international media partners with technical assistance from Amnesty International.

Finally, the findings of the Pegasus Project have sparked worries about central surveillance purportedly used to stifle dissent and resistance, especially because the NSO claims to only sell its spyware to “vetted nations.” Mexico, Rwanda, Kazakhstan, and Morocco are among the countries on the list of leaks.

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