Did Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party win the 2019 elections fairly? This is suspected by wiretapping scandal. The campaign manager of the largest opposition party, among others, was hacked.
Research by independent internet watchdog Citizen Lab shows that the Polish opposition was exploited during the election campaign with the infamous Israeli spyware Pegasus. The hack sheds a different light on the elections two years ago. The current PiS narrowly obtained the necessary majority in Parliament, which it then used to consolidate its power. The opposition is now seriously questioning the proper conduct of those elections.
According to Senator Krzysztof Brigza, who was the campaign manager of the largest opposition Civic Platform (PO) party at the time, the Polish authorities were behind the hack. His phone was hacked no less than 33 times in six months. Then it ended with text messages from his phone to the TVP channel, the government’s mouthpiece. The station edited the messages and built a smear campaign around them.
According to Bryza, this is a clear sign that the Polish authorities were behind the hacking. He is not alone. Two prominent Poles were also hacked: Attorney General Ewa Wrzyczyk and attorney Roman Gertic, both known critics of the government. “Deliberate destruction of public life and democracy,” Bariza says.
The hack was reported last week by the Associated Press and Canadian research institute Citizen Lab, which analyzes phones believed to have been hacked with Pegasus. The program gives full access to the device and provides, among other things, the ability to eavesdrop on people using their own phones. Last summer, researchers revealed that hundreds of journalists, human rights activists, judges and politicians were hacked around the world.
Victims of “Polish Watergate” refer to the government, but many government officials deny that the government is spying on the opposition or using Pegasus for political purposes. Software producer NSO does not disclose the identities of its customers and therefore cannot confirm whether Pegasus has been sold to Poland. The Polish government came under fire in 2019 on suspicion of purchasing the software, but the problem remained unknown.
Affected Senator Briza asserts that this goes beyond eavesdropping. The data from his phone was used to “create another reality”. His party colleague, Radoslaw Sikorski, a member of the European Parliament, says the scandal puts Poland in the same category as other authoritarian regimes.
The ruling party’s Law and Justice Law is attached to corruption and other incidents. In general, this does not seem to bother the Polish government. The public TVP station acts as a channel for the government and ignores such scandals in its coverage. The prosecution service is under the control of Justice Minister Szebro of the far-right Solidere Poland (SP) coalition, which has put off sensitive cases. But the wiretapping scandal just doesn’t seem to want to go away.
Senator Brize suspects his hacked phone is the tip of the iceberg and encourages his colleagues to test their devices, too. In an interview with the newspaper Republic The senator says that in his opinion there should be a secret session of the Polish parliament, during which it will be revealed who has been bugged and who has been bugged. After that, officials should resign, Brigza believes, including PiS leader Jaroslav Kaczynski.
On the critical TV channel TVN24, the former prime minister described a small Watergate beer compared to what is happening in Poland. “We can already draw our conclusions about the upcoming elections.” Poles will go to the polls again in 2023.
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