Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra on Wednesday wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla flagging alerts received by several opposition leaders about “state-sponsored” attacks on their iPhones, and urged him to provide them protection to continue doing their duties.
This “illegal surveillance by the government” is the worst attack on fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the Krishnanagar MP said.
On Tuesday, several opposition leaders including Moitra, Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi, AAP’s Raghav Chadha, Congress’ Shashi Tharoor and his party’s media and publicity department head Pawan Khera, and CPI(M) general Sitaram Yechury claimed to have received alerts from Apple about “state-sponsored attackers trying to remotely compromise” their iPhones.
They posted purported screenshots of the message on their X handles.
In her letter to Birla, Moitra said opposition leaders received a message that they were “being targeted by state-sponsored attackers” who were attempting to remotely compromise the devices and access their data, communications and “even the camera and microphone”.
“This threat is doubly shocking in light of the Pegasus software (sold only to governments) that was used to compromise the devices of various members of the Opposition, dissenting journalists and members of civil society during 2019-2021. Honourable Shri Abhishek Banerjee, MP, National General Secretary of the All India Trinamool Congress, the party I represent in Lok Sabha, was one of the targets. In spite of the opposition raising this issue in the House, no debate was allowed and no conclusive report has been filed by any agency,” she said.
“We are representatives of the Parliament of India, the largest democracy in the world. This illegal surveillance by the government using software available only to state actors, is the worst attack on our fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of our great democracy. You, sir, are the proverbial keeper of the faith, the guardian of the Lok Sabha and the ultimate parent to each of its members. It is in this capacity that I ask you to immediately provide us the protection required for us to continue doing our duties as a vibrant opposition which is to question and hold to account the ruling dispensation,” she said.
Reacting to opposition leaders’ claims, iPhone-maker Apple Inc said on Tuesday that it does not attribute threat notifications, such as the ones received by some MPs belonging to opposition parties, to any specific state-sponsored attackers.
It is possible that some threat notifications may be false alarms and some attacks may not be detected, it said.
The government has ordered an investigation by CERT-In into the opposition leaders’ claims.
IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Tuesday that Apple has been asked to join the investigation with real and accurate information on the alleged state-sponsored attacks.