Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama’s closest circle of advisors and staff members of other Buddhist clerics were identified as potential targets of Israeli spyware Pegasus, reported The Wire, citing a leaked database of phone numbers reveals.
The leaked database, reportedly, has indicated that phone numbers of several Tibetan officials, activists and clerics were marked from late 2017 to early 2019.
According to the report of The Wire, a technical examination of a phone’s data is imperative to establish if these numbers were surveilled.
However, the presence of these numbers indicated that they were distinguished as possible candidates for surveillance.
According to The Wire, the first records pertain to the staff of Urgyen Trinley Dorji, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa and the third highest-ranking monk in Tibetan Buddhism.
The Karmapa is reported to have had a “testy” relationship with the Indian Intelligence community. In 2011 he was subjected to a police raid, and in 2018 he reportedly obtained a Dominican passport without India’s knowledge.
Tempa Tsering, the Dalai Lama’s long-term envoy in New Delhi, and presently the director, India and East Asia, Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, also figures on the list.
Tenzin Taklha and Chimmey Rigzen, senior aides, Samdhong Rinpoche, the head of the trust that will oversee the task of selecting the next Dalai Lama, Lobsang Sangay, the head of the then Tibetan government in exile have been figured in the list.
Phone numbers of several other Tibetan activists in India were also reportedly found among the records.
The Wire has reported that the Pegasus Project members had sent a questionnaire to the Indian government with names of those whose records were found, including that of Tibetan officials. The Indian government’s response, as per the digital news portal was that the ‘allegations regarding government surveillance on specific people has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever’.
Meanwhile, IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who himself figured on one of the lists of potential Pegasus targets, has claimed that the Pegasus Project is an attempt to malign India’s ‘democracy and its well-established institutions’.
Further, pointing out the contents of the report, Vaishnaw said the report itself clarifies that the presence of a number in the list doesn’t amount to snooping.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International, on Thursday, stated it “categorically stands” by the findings of the Pegasus Project. According to PTI, the group also asserted that the data is “irrefutably linked” to potential targets of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.
Amnesty’s statement came amid reports claiming that the group has denied saying that the recently leaked phone numbers was specifically a list of numbers targeted by Pegasus spyware.