Polish president says Pegasus use should be verified

If concerns over the alleged use of the ultra-invasive spyware system Pegasus by Polish government agencies are confirmed, they should be clarified in an open manner, President Andrzej Duda has said.

In late December, US news agency Associated Press reported that a specialist IT department at the University of Toronto had confirmed that the Pegasus software had been used to hack the mobile phones of some members of the opposition, including Senator Krzysztof Brejza, who at the time of the attack was head of a parliamentary campaign for the main opposition bloc, the Civic Coalition (KO).

The president said in Poland's mountain resort of Zakopane on Sunday that the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, has all the necessary competence to clear up the Pegasus allegations.

"The Sejm has its Special Services Committee," Andrzej Duda said.

But the ruling party, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS), which dominates the Sejm, has already ruled out the establishment of a special investigative commission. This prompted the opposition-dominated Senate to establish its own commission to deal with the problem.

But, unlike the Sejm's investigative bodies, the Senate's commission has no prosecution powers.

PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński recently said that the creation and use of Pegasus was an outcome of technological change and the widespread use of encrypted communication apps which could not be cracked by old-style surveillance methods.

"It would be bad if Polish agencies did not have such a tool," Kaczyński said, but refuted allegations that it was used against the opposition.

Pegasus, which is made by Israeli firm NSO and sold mainly to government agencies to spy on the most dangerous criminals and terrorists, can gain full access to the victim's mobile phone and all its content, including emails and communication apps. It can also remotely turn on the microphone and camera to transmit sound and vision.