Sri Lanka opposition MP claims police tapped encrypted WhatsApp call

ECONOMYNEXT – A WhatsApp call taken by Sri Lanka opposition MP Patali Champika Ranawaka in 2018 was illegally tapped by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) using an as yet undisclosed technology, the MP told parliament on Thursday (21).

Raising a point of privilege, Ranawaka claimed that in a recent interview with CID sleuths, it had become obvious that they had listened to calls he made on the WhatsApp instant messaging platform in 2018 and 2019.

Related: Sri Lanka opp. MP Ranawaka, ex-media secy summoned by CID; MP claims witch hunt

His calls had been tapped without the authorisation of a magistrate, the MP claimed.

“It is my belief that the CID has violated my parliamentary privilege, as has the service provider. Bring these officials and the service provider before the parliamentary privileges committee and hold a preliminary inquiry,” Ranawaka told the Speaker.

The main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker also expressed his suspicion that illegal spyware might have been used to tap his calls.

“These calls were on taken on WhatsApp. WhatsApp calls are supposed to be end-to-end encrypted. It is transmitted as data. No service provider has any technology that we know of to find out that I contacted so-and-so on WhatsApp,” he said.

“The only way this can be done is if the CID is in possession of a special technology that can be used to eavesdrop on WhatsApp calls,” he added.

Ranawaka recalled that Pegasus, a spyware developed by an Israeli company, has been used controversially by authoritarian governments around the world to spy on the phones of opposition politicians and other actors. The software is reportedly capable of listening in on encrypted calls as well.

“Is the CID in possession of the Pegasus software? If not, how did they find out about a WhatsApp call which wasn’t a regular voice call. I request the Minister of Public Security and the Minister of Justice to please investigate this,” he said. (Colombo/Oct21/2021)

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