A politician whose phone was hacked by military-grade spyware when he was running the opposition’s election campaign says that his case is just “the tip of the iceberg”. He claims that the hacking helped influence the outcome of the election and has called for an official inquiry.
Last week, Associated Press revealed that Krzysztof Brejza was hacked 33 times with Pegasus spyware during the parliamentary campaign of 2019. At the time, some text messages from his phone appeared in altered form in state-controlled media.
An outspoken prosecutor opposed to the government’s judicial overhaul and a lawyer who has represented senior opposition politicians were also hacked multiple times using the same spyware.
In 2019, evidence emerged indicating that the Polish government had bought Pegasus from its Israeli producer, though this was never officially confirmed. A spokesman for the security services denies wrongdoing and says surveillance is always conducted legally.
A Polish politician’s phone was hacked multiple times with military-grade spyware when he was running the opposition’s parliamentary election campaign in 2019.
Some of his text messages ended up being published in altered form by state-controlled media https://t.co/yTwGUKEnqr
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 23, 2021
Speaking to TVN24, Brejza noted that, during the election campaign, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party was always “a step behind us. Wherever we travelled, they appeared very quickly”. He suggested the hacking had “influenced the course, as well as the freedom and fairness, of the elections”.
He demanded a sitting of parliament in which Jarosław Kaczyński – chairman of PiS and the deputy prime minister responsible for security – along with interior minister Mariusz Kamiński and justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro should “inform who from the world of politics and media and which lawyers, judges and prosecutors have been hacked”.
They should then resign, as this is “tangible destruction of public life and democracy”, Brejza added. He urged colleagues from his Civic Platform (PO) party involved in the election campaign to have their telephones investigated.
Two critics of the Polish government, lawyer Roman Giertych and prosecutor Ewa Wrzosek, had their phones hacked using Pegasus spyware developed by Israel’s NSO Group
In 2019, reports (never officially confirmed) indicated the government had bought Pegasushttps://t.co/j24w6fqee4
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 20, 2021
Brejza revealed that he asked the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) in April this year about the alleged spying. Its head refused to answer what he called “insinuations”. The senator has also asked the Supreme Audit Office (NIK) to investigate the issue.
Tomasz Grodzki, the speaker of the Senate and a PO member, demanded an explanation from the prime minister, calling the revelations about his fellow senator “scandalous and unacceptable”.
“I will not leave Senator Brejza alone in the struggle with this authoritarian and base government”, he added, quoted by Polsat News.
Szef CBA 4 maja 2021 zaprzecza inwigilacji, nazywa moje pytania „insynuacjami”.
Nawiązywałem w interwencji do wycieku korespondencji @GiertychRoman , zadałem precyzyjne pytania o moje sms.#SystemKłamstw pic.twitter.com/VUqOP8Mf3A
— Krzysztof Brejza (@KrzysztofBrejza) December 26, 2021
The spokesman for Poland’s security services, Stanisław Żaryn, says that allegations that such operational methods are used for political purposes are “false”. He confirmed that “procedures are kept to and the Polish services act in accordance with the law”, including obtaining court orders for surveillance.
Ziobro says he had “no knowledge of unlawful activities taking place in Poland” regarding invigilation of citizens. But he added that “the Polish state is not helpless regarding people about whom materials have been collected pointing to the possibility that crimes have been committed”, reports TVN24.
Kaczyński that he does not believe the reports of hacking, but also pointed out “there were serious accusations about Krzysztof Brejza’s criminal activity”, reports Gazeta Wyborcza.
However, after President Andrzej Duda’s chief of staff, Paweł Szrot, yesterday said that Brejza’s case “is not about politics, but about business-related crimes”, he later apologised and retracted the claim after it was pointed out that Brejza has not been charged with any crimes.
Powiem wprost. W przypadku Pana senatora @KrzysztofBrejza zdecydowanie się zagalopowałem. Nie przedstawiono mu zarzutów prokuratorskich, co uzasadniałoby stwierdzenie o “podejrzeniach dokonania przestępstw związanych z biznesem”. Nie sprawdziłem. Przepraszam
— Paweł Szrot (@PSzrot) December 27, 2021
Olga Semeniuk, a deputy development and technology minister, dismissed the affair as another “red herring” by PO. In an interview with Radio Zet, she added that she “would not have any problem” with being tapped or invigilated “as a public person” who has “nothing to hide”.
Roman Giertych, the opposition lawyer who evidence indicates was hacked at least 18 times in 2019, at a time when he was representing former prime minister and current PO leader Donald Tusk, has announced that he and colleagues have submitted an application to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
They want to “bring to justice those responsible for mass detention of people for political reasons and the use of criminal procedures for political struggle against opponents of the current government”, including “using PEGASUS software to obtain information about political opponents and to prepare evidence for detention purposes”.
Ben Koschalka is a translator and the assistant editor at Notes from Poland. Originally from Britain, he has lived in Kraków since 2005.