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Poland admits using Israel's Pegasus spyware

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the social conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, arrives to cast his ballot in the Polish presidential election during the coronavirus pandemic on June 28, 2020 in Warsaw, Poland [Sean Gallup/Getty Images]
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the social conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, arrives to cast his ballot in the Polish presidential election during the coronavirus pandemic on June 28, 2020 in Warsaw, Poland [Sean Gallup/Getty Images]

Poland's ruling Conservative Party leader has acknowledged that the country bought Israel's Pegasus spyware, which has been found to be used by numerous governments to crackdown on opposition groups.

"It would be bad if the Polish services did not have this type of tool," Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in an interview to be published in Monday's edition of the weekly Sieci.

He denied that it was being used to target his political opponents and noted that the Pegasus spyware, developed by Israel's military spyware firm the NSO Group, represents a technological advancement over earlier monitoring systems, which limited the services to monitor encrypted messages.

Israel's Pegasus spyware global weapon to silence critics? - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel's Pegasus spyware global weapon to silence critics? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The claims come despite reports by the Associated Press that Citizen Lab, a cyber watchdog group at the University of Toronto, revealed the three Polish government critics had their phones hacked using the Pegasus spyware.

Amnesty International independently verified the finds, revealing that Krzysztof Brejza's phone was hacked 33 times from 26 April 2019 to 23 October 2019 when he was running the opposition's parliamentary election campaign.

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

Text messages were extracted and edited from Brejza's phone and leaked to local media and broadcasters as part of a smear campaign, during the election campaign.

Brejza is now determined that the election was unfair and has elicited calls for an investigative commission in parliament. Kaczynski, however, says he sees no reason to set up such a commission.

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"There is nothing here, no fact, except the hysteria of the opposition. There is no Pegasus case, no surveillance," Kaczynski said. "No Pegasus, no services, no secretly obtained information played any role in the 2019 election campaign. They lost because they lost. They shouldn't look for such excuses today."

NSO software is capable of not only capturing encrypted messages, photos, and other sensitive information from phones but also turning them into recording devices to monitor surroundings.

The company has come under US sanctions as a result of its use against world leaders and rights groups and fears that its use has led to the targeting and assassination of activists.

According to the Polish paper Gazeta Wyborcza, the purchase of the Israeli spyware was made through the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) but made use of funds belonging to the Justice Ministry, which is run by the ruling party.

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Europe & RussiaIsraelMiddle EastNewsPoland
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