DailyPost 1953

Journalists and news organizations can do yeomen service to the world by opening our eyes to the wheeling dealing, which happens in the name of statecraft, diplomacy and internal security. They also give us a peep into the world’s underbelly, which is greasy and is kept intact  in the name of security, territorial integrity, sovereignty and the ultimate power of the nation states not to divulge anything. The voters are supposed to keep on mandating them to make believe fig leaf of hope and fear, which is precisely their creation. Glenn Greenwald made Edward Snowden known to the world. How tech is used for things it is not meant for and not  made public.

Moving further the Panama Papers, Paradise Paper and the humongous journalistic / tech research (Pegasus Project) earlier last year has proven to the world what a band of dedicated journalists can do. They are truly the guardians of the world and not just the fourth estate in democratic states. And now we have the New York Times story on the world’s most powerful weapon, NSO’s Pegasus. This has turned into the ultimate weapon for large variants of annihilation. Pegasus can be very safely be termed as the most potent weapon, since the atom bomb. A year-long investigation including inputs from government officials, leaders of intelligence and law enforcement agencies, cyber weapon experts and lots others has clearly proven, ’how Israel’s ability to approve or deny access to NSO’s cyberweapons has been entangled with its diplomacy.’

The NSO story might be new to the Indian audience, but it has been making waves since its inception. Pegasus as a tool for the first time took the law enforcers and that ilk in a winning situation, provided it was used only for the right purpose. Israel had always favoured the US, got the Pegasus programmed that it was incapable of targeting US numbers. NSO had offered the FBI a workaround. Known as Phantom was tried and tested for a long time, but given the furore over the Pegasus Project, it has been shelved. The legality of this tool was also a part of serious study and scrutiny. The capability to control this tool directly or indirectly, gives nation states immense powers without any effort. You can make a guinea pig out of anybody or any organization or a whole nation itself.

Selling weapons for diplomatic purposes is a strategic tool of a seasoned statecraft is well accepted globally and now Pegasus has become an honourable member of that arsenal. Cyber weapons have changed international relations in a transformative manner. Most of it still remains unknown. ’For Israel, the weapons trade has always been central to the country’s sense of national survival.’ As cyberweapons began finding a place, in place of fighter jets in the military strategy and cyber space becoming the most fascinating and a decisive frontier, a different kind of weapons industry emerged in Israel. The complexity of the world completely changed with the advent of cyberweapons in general and Pegasus in particular. India has to decide how to take this battle in the favour of our national interests.


Sanjay Sahay

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