Opposition wants parliament probe into Apple ‘state-sponsored attack’, BJP says it cannot be done

Opposition leaders continue to fire salvos at the Centre over the iPhone-maker’s mails warning about 'state-sponsored attacks'.

BySouth First Desk

Published Nov 01, 2023 | 9:03 PMUpdatedNov 01, 2023 | 9:03 PM

Apple state-sponsored attack opposition

The government-Opposition slugfest over Apple’s threat notifications about state-sponsored attacks sent to iPhone-using MPs belonging to opposition parties continued for the second day on Wednesday, 1 November.

Senior Congress leader and former home minister P Chidambaram said the finger of suspicion pointed to a government agency.

“After the Pegasus mystery (not resolved until this date), the finger of suspicion points to a government agency. At the moment, it is only a suspicion,” he said.

Chidambaram raised a few questions: “It is undeniable that hundreds of Opposition leaders got an alert from Apple of a state-sponsored attempt to compromise their phones. Why only Opposition leaders? Who will be interested in compromising the phones of Opposition leaders?”

TMC MP Mahua Moitra wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, urging him to provide them protection to continue doing their duties. She said this “illegal surveillance by the government” is the worst attack on fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Related: Why India urgently needs a data protection law

MK Stalin targets Union government 

In Chennai, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin accused the Union government of intimidating the Opposition parties by allegedly misusing the central agencies to initiate raids.

“Whoever expresses views against the BJP government at the Centre are threatened and intimidated. The Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate are used against them. Now we have the phone tapping episode with the iPhone maker Apple Inc. issuing a security notification to opposition leaders,” Stalin said.

Stalin said the BJP’s fear of losing the next election was behind the targeting of Opposition parties.

“I think the BJP is overcome with the fear of defeat in the five states going for polls. As per the information we received, the BJP will face a total rout in all five states. Hence, the fear of defeat makes the Centre target the Opposition parties,” claimed Stalin.

BJP’s counter

The BJP countered, saying the Congress was indulging in a “mudslinging” campaign, forgetting its past record.

BJP national co-incharge of Tamil Nadu affairs, Ponguleti Sudhakar Reddy, recalled that a minister in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet had claimed his office was bugged.

In a post on X, Reddy commented: “Congress leaders have forgotten the past record, only their agenda is, mudslinging campaign on BJP leadership with Goebbels propaganda, people of Bharat will not believe, they only believe the sincere, dedicated service of Sri Narendra Modi ji for Atmanirbhar Bharat.”

Also read: Apple mails on ‘state-sponsored’ attack cause political furore

Stand-off over probe by parliamentary panel on IT

However, Dr John Brittas, CPI(M) MP in the Rajya Sabha, wanted a parliamentary Standing Committee probe into the affair.

He wrote to the chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on communications and IT, seeking an urgent committee meeting for a comprehensive examination of the issue.

His terms of reference were:

  • The nature and credibility of the security threat Apple identified
  • The extent of vulnerability of Indian iPhone users to hacking attempts
  • The potential involvement of state-supported hackers and their motivations
  • The adequacy of cyber measures in place to protect the privacy and security of mobile phone users in the country.

He said Apple’s threat notifications “raised alarm over potential attempts by state-supported hackers to compromise the security and privacy of these users of iPhones”.

Congress MP Karti Chidambaram, in a separate statement, also demanded that the parliamentary committee examine the issue.

However, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey claimed the parliamentary committee on IT could not take up the matter as it fell under the government’s jurisdiction according to Lok Sabha rules.

Dubey posted on X: “The country does not run by creating pressure by giving statements in newspapers. The Standing Committee on Information and Telecommunications is no longer headed by Shashi Tharoor and is run by Rahul Gandhi (both Congress leaders). This committee runs under the rules of the Lok Sabha.”