Purchase of Pegasus spyware was illegal says Poland's upper house
Poland's Senate, the upper house of parliament, has stated that the purchase of the Israeli-made Pegasus software was illegal and that Poland's current legal system does not ensure effective control over special law-enforcement services.
The Senate, in a 51-to-38 vote with no abstentions, adopted on Thursday a resolution approving a report on the work of a special commission appointed at the upper house to investigate the alleged use of the Pegasus spyware for surveillance of opposition figures in Poland.
Earlier, the commission announced that it would notify the prosecution about the possibility of a crime allegedly committed by Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński and former head of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) Ernest Bejda.
Referring to the charges made by the commission, Minister Kamiński told Polish public radio on Thursday that all the operations conducted by special law-enforcement services were fully legal.
The commission stated in its report that the purchase of the Pegasus software was illegal and that Poland's current legal system did not ensure effective control over special law-enforcement services.
"After the year-and-a-half-long work of the commission, one can be absolutely sure that Pegasus was being used in Poland by a body, the CBA, which could be seen as political police of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party," senator Marcin Bosacki, of the main opposition party, Civic Coalition, said while presenting the report.
Bosacki added that the commission, in cooperation with the Supreme Audit Board (NIK), found out that Pegasus had been illegally bought for "millions of zlotys" coming from the Justice Fund, which was to be used to assist victims of crime.
According to Bosacki, Pegasus was used to spy on at least 12 persons in Poland, including not only politicians.
Poland's opposition had earlier accused the ruling party of purchasing Pegasus from the Israeli firm NSO to spy on government opponents, citing reports from Citizen Lab, a specialised unit at the University of Toronto, phone maker Apple and Amnesty International.
According to Citizen Lab reports, Pegasus was 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 Civic Coalition. Other Pegasus victims included Roman Giertych, a lawyer representing Donald Tusk, a prosecutor who launched an investigation that was unfavourable to the government and the leader of a farmers' movement criticising the government's rural policies, among other people.
One of the first witnesses heard by the commission was John Scott-Railton, senior researcher at Citizen Lab, which confirmed that the Pegasus software was used to hack the mobile phones of some members of Poland's opposition.
Scott-Railton said on Monday that Citizen Lab had evidence that Brejza's phone had been hacked 33 times between April 26 and October 23, 2019.
The ruling party has rejected the accusations and its leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, has 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.