Former Polish PM Kaczynski questioned over spyware allegations in parliament

WARSAW, Poland — Former Polish prime minister Jarosław Kaczyński appeared before a special parliamentary committee Friday to testify about the purchase and allegedly illegal use of advanced spyware by a government headed by his Law and Justice Party.

The NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware was used to spy on mobile devices belonging to opponents of the party. Recent findings suggest it was also used to eavesdrop on some key members of the right-wing party, as well.

The revelations, first reported by the Associated Press in 2021, shocked Poland and added to the European Union’s concerns that the Law and Justice government was undermining the rule of law.

Kaczyński was prime minister in 2006-2007, but continued to play a key role in Poland’s politics after leaving the job, especially when his Law and Justice party ruled again in 2015-2023. He was considered Poland’s most powerful politician during the period the spyware was used and held a variety of posts, including deputy prime minister for security.

In January 2022, Kaczyński, 74, acknowledged that the country bought advanced spyware from the Israeli surveillance software maker, but denied that it was being used to target his political opponents.

The opposition leader insists he has nothing to tell the investigative commission and has insisted that many countries use spyware to combat crime.

Current prime minister Donald Tusk has said the previous government used Pegasus illegally and targeted a “very long” list of victims.

As the hearing began Kaczyński, who has a doctoral degree in law, argued he should have not to testify, saying that he has only marginal knowledge of how the Pegasus spyware was used, but what he does know is classified and should not be revealed in a public hearing.

Kaczyński refused to repeat a portion of the witness oath promising “the whole truth,” causing a delay as the committee debated whether he had been validly sworn in.

Pegasus gives operators complete access to a mobile device, allowing them to extract passwords, photos, messages, contacts and browsing histories, and to activate the microphone and camera for real-time eavesdropping.

Law and Justice lost power in December, following an electoral defeat, and a new parliament dominated by a pro-EU coalition has set up a special commission to dig into the previous government’s use of the spyware.

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