Poland admits purchase of Israeli NSO spyware

By Joe Middleton
AP

Poland has admitted that it bought advanced spyware from controversial Israeli surveillance software maker NSO Group.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the country’s ruling conservative party, Law and Justice, said in an interview that the software, Pegasus, is being used by secret services in many countries to combat crime and corruption.

He noted that Pegasus represents a technological advancement over earlier monitoring systems, which did not allow the services to monitor encrypted messages and denied it was being used to target political opponents.

“It would be bad if the Polish services did not have this type of tool,” Mr Kaczynski said in an interview to be published in the Monday edition of the weekly “Sieci,” excerpts of which were published Friday by the wPolityce.pl news portal.

Mr Kaczynski’s comments come after it was revealed that Citizen Lab, a cyber watchdog group at the University of Toronto, found that three Polish government critics were hacked with NSO’s Pegasus spyware.

On Thursday, Amnesty International independently verified the finding by Citizen Lab that Krzysztof Brejza had been hacked multiple times in 2019 when he was running the opposition’s parliamentary election campaign.

Text messages stolen from Mr Brejza’s phone were doctored and aired by state-controlled TV as part of a smear campaign in the heat of the race, which the populist ruling party went on to narrowly win.

Mr Brejza now maintains that the election was not fair since the ruling party would have had access to his campaign’s plans.

The revelations have rocked Poland and have elicited calls for an investigative commission in parliament.

Mr Kaczynski said he sees no reason to set up such a commission, and he denied that the surveillance played any role in the outcome of the 2019 elections.

“There is nothing here, no fact, except the hysteria of the opposition. There is no Pegasus case, no surveillance,” Mr Kaczynski said.

The other two Polish targets were Roman Giertych, a lawyer who represents opposition politicians and Ewa Wrzosek, a prosecutor.

Mr Kaczynski’s allies had previously denied that Poland purchased and used Pegasus.

Additional reporting by AP


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