Polish leader admits country bought powerful Israeli spyware | Technology


WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s most powerful politician has acknowledged the country purchased powerful spyware from Israeli surveillance software maker NSO Group, but denied it was being used to target political opponents.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s conservative ruling Law and Justice party, said in an interview that the software, Pegasus, is now used by secret services in many countries to fight crime and corruption. He noted that Pegasus represents a technological advancement over earlier surveillance systems, which did not allow services to monitor encrypted messages.

“It would be a pity if the Polish services did not have this type of tool,” Kaczynski said in an interview to be published in Monday’s edition of the weekly “Sieci”, excerpts from which were published on Friday by the information portal wPolityce.pl. .

The interview follows exclusive reports from The Associated Press that Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto cyber surveillance group, discovered that three critics of the Polish government had been hacked with NSO’s Pegasus spyware.

On Thursday, Amnesty International independently verified Citizen Lab’s finding that Senator Krzysztof Brejza was repeatedly hacked in 2019 while campaigning for the opposition. Text messages stolen from Brejza’s phone were doctored and broadcast by state-controlled television as part of a heated smear campaign, which the ruling populist party narrowly won.

Brejza now argues that the election was not fair since the ruling party would have had access to his campaign thinking and tactical plans.

The revelations rocked Poland, drawing comparisons to the 1970s Watergate scandal in the United States and prompting calls for a parliamentary inquiry.

Kaczynski said he saw no reason to create a commission of inquiry and denied the oversight played a role in the 2019 election outcome.

“There is nothing here, no facts, except the hysteria of the opposition. There are no Pegasus cases, no surveillance,” Kaczynski said. “No Pegasus, no service, no secretly obtained information played a role in the 2019 election campaign. They lost because they lost. They shouldn’t be looking for such excuses today.

Kaczynski’s allies have in recent days denied that Poland bought and used Pegasus.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called Citizen Lab-AP’s findings ‘fake news’ and suggested a foreign intelligence service might have been spying – an idea dismissed by critics who say no other government would not be of interest to the three Polish targets.

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