‘Pegasus Project’ brings back memories of snooping scandals that shook us


Even though more intriguing pieces of evidence of large-scale snooping using modern technologies have emerged post-2000, no heads were rolled over those.

US former President Richard Nixon (left), Karnataka former Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde. | Photos: AFP, Mathrubhumi.

Snooping and surveilling opponents while in power has a long history. Many politicians in India from time to time alleged have that the government tap their phones. However, a US president and a state’s chief minister in India had to resign after they tapped the phones of their citizens. Both happened before 1990.

Even though more intriguing pieces of evidence of large-scale snooping using modern technologies have emerged post-2000, no heads were rolled over those.

Former Republican President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s engaged some ‘burglars’ to tap phones and steal documents of the opposition. Known as the Watergate scandal, members of Nixon’s re-election campaign committee broke into Democratic National Committee’s Watergate headquarters to bug the phones.

They were caught by the police red-handed when they tried to break in again, after being tipped off by the security guard. Nevertheless, Nixon got re-elected in 1972 and started to cover up the crime by even misusing the power of the President.

Two journalists of Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, got in touch with a secret informer, known as ‘Deep Throat’, who leaked the information about the crime and they published it following which Nixon resigned from the post. He is the only President who resigned in the history of the independent USA. 30 years later, an FBI former associate director told the world that he was the ‘Deep Throat’.

Exactly 14 years later, Karnataka Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde resigned following a similar controversy. Subramanian Swamy in 1988 released a letter of Hegde which requested the telecom department chief to tap the phones of politicians, businessmen and journalists in the state. Politicians included Janata Party dissidents and opponents.

After his resignation, he sued Swamy for defamation and joined JDS. He joined the union ministry of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998 after being expelled from the JDS.

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