A few days after accusing the Israeli firm – the NSO Group of supplying its ‘Pegasus’ spyware to governments and linking it to a list of smartphone numbers, Amnesty International has now taken a massive u-turn saying they never claimed that the so-called ‘list’ of the phone number of activists, journalists, politicians was of persons who were spied on through the Pegasus spyware.
Using a lot of contradictory words, and excuses, Amnesty International is now claiming that their so-called list that was published in multiple media portals worldwide is nothing but a list that they think would be the NSO’s potential interests.
According to a report by Israeli media outlet Calcalist, Amnesty International has now clarified that they never said that the leaked list of numbers had any connections to the NSO Group’s Pegasus project, however, it was the media that portrayed the ongoing controversy to Israeli firm NSO.
The list of 50,000 phone numbers that have been at the centre of the investigation into NSO, which has caused a global storm in recent days, is not a list of Pegasus software targets, Amnesty International has admitted in a statement giving closure to the ongoing Pegasus snooping controversy across the world.
“Amnesty, and the investigative journalists and media outlets they work with have made clear from the outset in very clear language that this is a list of numbers marked as numbers of interest to NSO customers” – meaning they are the kind of ppl NSO clients might like to spy on— Kim Zetter (@KimZetter) July 21, 2021
As shared by cybersecurity journalist Kim Jetter, Amnesty is now claiming that the list contains the ‘kind’ of people NSO’s clients would ordinarily be interested in spying on, but the list isn’t specifically a list of people who were spied on — though a very small subset of people on the list were indeed spied on.
Earlier on Sunday, Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based non-profit group along with Amnesty International, had accessed a database of 50,000 phone numbers claiming that the Israeli firm may have provided its software to entities to snoop on these targets. The list was then published by several media outlets to claim that clients of the NSO Group used Pegasus to “hack, or try to hack,” phones of opposition leaders, journalists, human rights activists and others.
However, the so-called expose by the global media outlets alleging of spying with spyware Pegasus turned out to be a rather damp squib as there was no substantial evidence to prove any links to the NSO group.
Similarly, in India, a far-left website – ‘The Wire’, known for its anti-India propaganda and habitual fake news peddling, came up with a dubious list of names of alleged activists, journalists, politicians to claim that they were all spied on by the Indian government using spyware Pegasus. However, it failed to provide any proof to back the claim. The timing of this so-called exposes was rather looked at as an effort by adversarial governments to coerce Indian journalists into peddling their agenda, given that the Pegasus spyware was in possession of foreign governments as well.
Leftist propaganda website The Wire, and the motley group of the usual far-left media persons, Congress leaders and Mamata Banerjee, had made a big hue and cry over the report. The government of India had already clarified that the media reports are baseless, and without any factual basis. IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had stated in the Parliament that similar allegations have been made before, without any evidence whatsoever, and the current outrage is also bereft of any credible proof.
Amnesty International says the leaked list of names are NOT Pegasus targets
In the light of these events, Amnesty International has now reportedly admitted that they have never said that the database containing names of activists, journalists, politicians from across the world belonged to NSO, rather it was the media that manipulated its readers.
“Amnesty International has never presented this list as ‘NSO’s Pegasus Spyware List’, although some of the world’s media may have done so,” the organisation said in a statement released on Wednesday.
According to journalist Kim Jetter, Amnesty essentially said that the list contains some of the people, whom NSO’s clients would ordinarily be interested in spying on, however, these people have not been spied on as claimed by media outlets.
“Amnesty and the investigative journalists and media outlets they work with have made clear from the outset in very clear language that this is a list of numbers marked as numbers of interest to NSO customers, who are different regimes in the world. This is a list indicative of the interests of the company’s clients, who have expressed interest in monitoring journalists and human rights activists, political rivals, lawyers and so on, not only other suspects of paedophilia, other serious crime and terrorism,” said Amnesty in its press release.
Amnesty is saying they were very clear from the start that the list was *not* a list of NSO spying targets. But their tweets were not clear about that at allhttps://t.co/GDrx8SGwpw— Kim Zetter (@KimZetter) July 21, 2021
The recent admission by Amnesty International may now put an end to accusations against both NSO and various national governments, who have been accused of illegal spying on the alleged activists, journalists, politicians in a number of sensational headlines and news shows all over the world.
NSO Group had clarified earlier that they have nothing to do with this so-called list
Earlier, NSO Group, which owns spyware Pegasus, had categorically stated that the list that is being circulated as containing “targets” did not belong to them in any manner. The Israeli company had clarified that they are “not related to the list published by Forbidden Stories”.
According to the company, the list of Indian phone numbers that were supposedly “potential targets” of surveillance was “not ours, never was”. Along with Amnesty International, Forbidden Stories had provided information to several media outlets, including The Wire.
“It is not an NSO list, and it never was – it is fabricated information. It is not a list of targets or potential targets of NSO’s customers,” a spokesperson for the NSO Group said, adding that “repeated reliance on this list and association of people on this list as potential surveillance targets is false and misleading.”
The company had also said that it does not have access to the data of its customers and added that its clients “are obligated to provide us with such information under investigation”. “If and when NSO receives credible proof of misuse of its technologies, it will conduct a thorough investigation, as it always had and always will,” the spokesperson stated.
The Israeli firm had threatened to file a defamation suit against The Wire for publishing a report that claimed phones of journalists, Indian ministers, Supreme Court judges, opposition leaders and other notable personalities were targeted for surveillance.
The Israeli firm, through its defamation counsel, Clare Locke, sent a letter to The Wire threatening defamation suit against them for making unsubstantiated claims through their reports about the surveillance of eminent individuals in India.
Yesterday, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had announced that she had plastered her smartphone because she doesn’t want to be snooped on.
Update: After their epic U-turn, Amnesty and tried to do a reverse U-turn by issuing a statement. In the statement, they have reiterated their previous stand, however, they have failed to categorically state that their purported list was a leaked one from NSO itself.
Amnesty International categorically stands by the findings of the Pegasus Project, and that the data is irrefutably linked to potential targets of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. https://t.co/usImSFOYBc— Amnesty Tech (@AmnestyTech) July 22, 2021