sunny.png
Thursday May 19th, 2022 8:02PM

Polish leader admits country bought powerful Israeli spyware

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — 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 that the secret services in many countries are using the Pegasus software to combat crime and corruption.

Kaczynski said the use of such spyware arose in response to the growing use of encryption to mask data in transit, which defeated earlier monitoring technologies. By hacking phones, it lets authorities monitor communications, as well as real-time conversations where they are not encrypted.

“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 weekly magazine Sieci. The wPolityce.pl news portal published excerpts on Friday.

The interview follows exclusive 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.

On Thursday, Amnesty International independently verified Citizen Lab's finding that Sen. Krzysztof Brejza was 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 in Poland as part of a smear campaign in the heat of the race, which the populist ruling party went on to narrowly win.

Brejza now maintains that the election was unfair since the ruling party would have had access to his campaign's tactical thinking and plans.

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

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

“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.”

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.

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

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the Citizen Lab-AP findings “fake news” and suggested a foreign intelligence service could have done the spying — an idea dismissed by critics who said no other government would have any interest in the three Polish targets.

Deputy Defense Minister Wojciech Skurkiewicz in late December said “the Pegasus system is not in the possession of the Polish services. It is not used to track or surveil anyone in our country."

Polish 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 to rehabilitate criminals. According to investigations by broadcaster TVN and daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, the software 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.

“The public money was spent on an important public purpose, related to the fight against crime and the protection of citizens,” Kaczynski said.

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

The Polish hacks are considered particularly egregious because they occurred not in a repressive autocracy but in a European Union member state.

Amnesty International's Poland director, Anna Błaszczak, alleged in a statement Friday that spying on the opposition would be consistent with the Polish government's behavior under Law and Justice. The EU has increasingly criticized Poland for judicial interference and other actions regarded as anti-democratic.

“These findings are shocking but not surprising. They raise serious concerns not only for politicians, but for the whole Poland’s civil society in general, particularly given the context of the government’s record of persistently subverting human rights and the rule of law," Blaszczak said.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Elections, AP World News, AP Business, AP Elections - Campaigns
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
South Africa's ruling party marks birthday amid divisions
South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, is to celebrate its 110th anniversary this weekend amid deep divisions, graft allegations and broad challenges that saw it perform dismally in local government elections last year
2:59AM ( 9 minutes ago )
Polish leader admits country bought powerful Israeli spyware
Poland’s most powerful politician has acknowledged that the country bought advanced spyware from the Israeli surveillance software maker NSO Group
2:52AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Kazakhstan leader: Constitutional order restored amid unrest
The president of Kazakhstan has declared that constitutional order is “mainly restored” after the country was engulfed in unprecedented unrest in recent days
2:25AM ( 43 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Top Republicans mark Jan. 6 with silence, deflection
Just a year ago, many Republicans joined Democrats in reacting with horror to the Capitol insurrection
12:19AM ( 2 hours ago )
Biden warns of US peril from Trump's 'dagger' at democracy
President Joe Biden is forcefully accusing Donald Trump and his supporters of holding a “dagger at the throat of democracy” with his election lies that sparked last year’s deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol
12:05AM ( 3 hours ago )
Biden decries Trump backers' 'dagger at throat' of democracy
President Joe Biden is accusing Donald Trump and his supporters of holding a “dagger at the throat of democracy."
2:08PM ( 12 hours ago )
AP Elections
Some virus restrictions back in Australia as omicron surges
Australia’s most populous state has reinstated some restrictions and suspended elective surgeries as COVID-19 cases surged to another record
12:37AM ( 2 hours ago )
Djokovic's detention becomes political issue in Australia
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has embraced border officials' decision to deny entry to tennis star Novak Djokovic, who had earlier been issued documents allowing him to enter the country ahead of the Australian Open without a COVID-19 vaccine
12:34AM ( 2 hours ago )
Banned from the Olympics by IOC, NKorea puts blame elsewhere
North Korea says it will skip next month’s Beijing Olympics because of the COVID-19 pandemic and “hostile forces’ moves."
12:32AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP World News
Japan tycoon Maezawa returns from space with business dreams
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has returned from space with hopes of new celestial investments
12:30AM ( 2 hours ago )
Asian shares mostly higher after tech-led decline on Wall St
Asian markets are mostly higher after more declines in big technology stocks pulled major indexes lower on Wall Street
12:15AM ( 2 hours ago )
Supreme Court weighs vaccine rules affecting more than 80M
The Supreme Court is taking up two major Biden administration efforts to bump up the nation’s vaccination rate against COVID-19 at a time of spiking coronavirus cases because of the omicron variant
12:12AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
French presidential contenders adapt campaign to pandemic
The conservative candidate in France's presidential race says she will adapt her campaign to coronavirus conditions, focusing on social media and staging small gatherings with voters instead of big rallies
11:38AM ( 2 days ago )
As South Dakota campaigns launch, Thune mulls retirement
South Dakota political candidates are revving into full campaign mode this week, with one big exception — Republican Sen. John Thune
5:11PM ( 3 days ago )
Judge denies Rep. Fortenberry's motions to dismiss charges
A federal judge has rejected U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s attempts to dismiss charges accusing the Nebraska Republican of making false statements to FBI agents who were investigating an illegal foreign donation to his campaign
3:42PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
South Africa's ruling party marks birthday amid divisions
South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, is to celebrate its 110th anniversary this weekend amid deep divisions, graft allegations and broad challenges that saw it perform dismally in local government elections last year
2:59AM ( 9 minutes ago )
Kazakhstan leader: Constitutional order restored amid unrest
The president of Kazakhstan has declared that constitutional order is “mainly restored” after the country was engulfed in unprecedented unrest in recent days
2:25AM ( 43 minutes ago )
Asian shares mixed after tech-led decline on Wall St
Asian markets are mixed after more declines in big technology stocks pulled major indexes lower on Wall Street
2:22AM ( 45 minutes ago )
Sri Lanka vaccinates children as doctors warn of COVID surge
Sri Lankan health authorities have begun vaccinating children aged 12 to 15, as the island nation’s top medical specialists warned of a wave of COVID-19 infections in the coming weeks driven by the omicron variant
1:17AM ( 1 hour ago )
Men convicted in Ahmaud Arbery killing face life sentences
Three white men convicted of murder in the deadly chase and shooting of Ahmaud Arbery are due back in court for sentencing
1:07AM ( 2 hours ago )