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Polish parliamentary panel set to probe use of Pegasus spyware

19.02.2024 07:00
A Polish parliamentary commission on operational and reconnaissance activities using Pegasus spyware is set to convene for its first meeting on Monday, the commission's chair, Magdalena Sroka, has announced.
Magdalena Sroka
Magdalena SrokaPR24/AK

This parliamentary probe aims to scrutinize the deployment of Pegasus, a sophisticated cyber-surveillance tool, within Poland's political landscape under the country's previous government.

Marcin Bosacki, a commission member representing the governing Civic Coalition (KO) group, has said that the February 19 meeting will involve submitting evidential requests and proposals to question individuals and officials from state institutions.

The commission's focus will be on understanding the use of Pegasus against political opponents under the previous conservative government.

Pegasus spyware is traditionally intended only for tracking terrorists and major criminals, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

"Certainly, the most prominent politicians of the Law and Justice party (PiS) will have to answer before the commission and explain how Pegasus was purchased, with what funds, the role here of the former Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, and why this spyware, this cyber weapon, was used in Poland against the political opposition," said Bosacki.

Leftist lawmaker Tomasz Trela has told reporters that "this could prove to be one of the biggest scandals in Poland since 1989."

He criticized the use of public funds to acquire spyware for monitoring political competitors, prosecutors, judges, and possibly ordinary citizens with no public office, the PAP news agency reported.

Paweł Śliz of the Poland 2050/Third Way group said the commission would prioritize substance over speed in its investigations.

The KO's Witold Zembaczyński stressed the commission's "preparedness and dedication" to uncovering the full extent of Pegasus's use in Poland, suggesting the involvement of an organized criminal eavesdropping group within the country's Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA).

Sroka revealed that initial witnesses would include politicians "responsible for the Pegasus purchase," including former Prime Minister Beata Szydło and former Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński.

She told reporters that since Pegasus was developed by an Israeli technology company operating under strict supervision of the Israeli government, appropriate approval would have been necessary for its sale, indicating a need for high-level negotiations.

The commission also plans to summon EuroMP Krzysztof Brejza. Sroka emphasized the need to uncover how politicians utilized special services for personal gains in electoral campaigns, referencing "the Brejza case" as a pivotal example.

"Many facts have emerged that the citizens should hear about," she said.

Brejza, currently a member of the European Parliament, was a senator and a leading opposition politician at the time. His phone, and those of many other opposition figures, were hacked using the Pegasus software, according to reports.

Sroka stated that all commission members are expected to undergo appropriate training, including in counterintelligence, reflecting the sensitive nature of the information involved.

Additionally, she has requested the Internal Security Agency (ABW) to grant commission members access to classified materials, a process that may take time.

The commission has a broad mandate to investigate the legality, correctness and purpose of operational and reconnaissance activities using Pegasus. This includes actions by the government, special services and police from November 16, 2015 to November 20, 2023.

The commission aims to identify those responsible for purchasing Pegasus and any similar tools for Polish authorities, and to determine whether operations involving Pegasus against citizens were legal, warranted and appropriate.

Source: PAP