Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s ruling conservative party, claims that the technology is being used to combat crime and corruption in the country.

Kaczynski denies that the surveillance technology played a role in the outcome of the 2019 elections.
Kaczynski denies that the surveillance technology played a role in the outcome of the 2019 elections. (Reuters Archive)

Poland's most powerful politician has acknowledged that the country bought advanced spyware from the Israeli surveillance software maker NSO Group, but denied that it was being used to target his political opponents.

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

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

He noted that Pegasus represents a technological advancement over earlier monitoring systems, which did not allow the services to monitor encrypted messages.

The interview follows reports by The Associated Press 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 member of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland Krzysztof Brejza had been hacked multiple times in 2019 when he was running the opposition’s parliamentary election campaign.

Text messages stolen from 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.

READ MORE: Palestinian activists ‘hacked’ by Israeli Pegasus spyware

Call for investigation

The revelations have rocked Poland, drawing comparisons to the 1970s Watergate scandal in the United States and eliciting calls for an investigative commission in parliament.

The other two Polish targets confirmed by Citizen Lab were Roman Giertych, a lawyer who represents opposition politicians in a number of politically sensitive cases, and Ewa Wrzosek, an independent-minded prosecutor.

Media reports say Poland purchased Pegasus in 2017, using money from the so-called Justice Fund, which is meant to help the victims of crimes and rehabilitate criminals.

According to investigations by the TVN broadcaster and Gazeta Wyborcza daily, it is used by the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, a special service created to combat corruption in public life that is under the political control of the ruling party.

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

Dozens of high-profile cases of Pegasus abuse have been uncovered since 2015, many by a global media consortium last year, with the NSO Group malware employed to eavesdrop on journalists, politicians, diplomats, lawyers and human rights activists from the Middle East to Mexico.

READ MORE: Heads of state on NSO spyware potential target list include Macron, Khan

Source: AP