Poland admits use of Israeli spyware but only to fight crime

The leader of Poland’s powerful ruling party acknowledged that the country has bought Israeli spyware, but dismissed the claims used against the opposition in excerpts from an interview published on Friday.

Recent allegations about the use of Pegasus software have shaken Poland, with comparisons to the Watergate investigation that led to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon in 1974.

Pegasus can turn smartphones into pocket spy devices, allowing the user to read a target’s messages, track their location, and even turn on their camera and microphone without their knowledge.

“It would be bad if Polish services didn’t have this kind of equipment,” Jarosaw Kaczyski, who heads the Law and Justice (PIS) party and is also a deputy prime minister, told Network weekly.

Reading, Pegasus spyware – how does it work?

Asked about claims that Poland had used Pegasus eavesdropping software on government opponents, Kaczynski said the program was “used by services fighting crime and corruption in several countries”.

In the interview, which is due to be published in full on Monday, Kazinski emphasized that any use of such methods was “always under the control of the court and the prosecutor’s office.”

“In Poland, the surveillance system for such activities is one of the strictest in Europe,” he said, without elaborating. He dismissed the opposition’s allegations as “much about nothing”.

Citizen Lab, a cyber security watchdog based in Canada, has said Pegasus was used against three opposition figures, including Senator Krzysztof Brezza, of the Civic Platform party, when he was coordinating the 2019 election campaign.

John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, told AFP Previously discovered uses of Pegasus were only “the tip of the iceberg” and that its use points to “an authoritarian slide” in Poland.

Brezza has said that the use of Pegasus may have influenced the outcome of the vote, which was won by the populist Law and Justice Party.

But Kaczynski said the opposition “lost because they lost”.

“No Pegasus, no service, no secret information of any kind played any role in the 2019 election campaign,” he said.

Amnesty International said on Friday that it had also independently confirmed that Pegasus was used to hack Brezza.

“These findings are shocking but not surprising. They raise serious concerns not only for politicians but for civil society throughout Poland,” Amnesty said in a statement.

It called for “a global moratorium on the export, sale, transfer and use of surveillance equipment until a robust human rights-compliant regulatory framework is in place”.

NSO Group, the Israeli owner of Pegasus, told AFP Previously it was sold “only to legitimate law enforcement agencies that use these systems under warrant to fight criminals, terrorists and corruption.”