Poland's prime minister says authorities widely used spyware under the previous government

WARSAW, Poland — Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Tuesday that he has documentation proving that state authorities under the previous government used the powerful Pegasus spyware illegally and targeted a “very long” list of hacking victims.

Tusk made the comment during a news briefing alongside President Andrzej Duda, a political opponent. The use of Pegasus was alleged to have occurred under a government led by Law and Justice, a right-wing party with which Duda is aligned.

Tusk said he was sharing information with Duda that showed wide use of the aggressive spyware in Poland. He said he would provide Duda with a full set of documents, if he were interested.

“I have a disclosed document at the moment, but this is only a sample of the documents that are at your disposal, Mr. President,” Tusk told Duda at the start of a meeting of the Cabinet Council, a consultation format between the president and the government.

Duda had called the meeting to discuss other matters.

Tusk took power in December following an October election which he won as the head of a broad centrist alliance. It marked the end of eight years of rule by Law and Justice, a populist party that the European Union accused of eroding democratic norms.

Duda, who holds presidential veto power and served during Law and Justice’s years in power, has at times opposed Tusk’s efforts to implement his agenda. The new parliament has set up a special commission to investigate who used Pegasus and against whom during Law and Justice’s years in government.

“The list of victims of these practices is unfortunately very long,” Tusk said.

The prime minister said he asked the justice minister and prosecutor general to provide Duda with a set of documents which “confirm 100% the purchase and use of Pegasus in a legal and illegal manner.”

Several Polish opponents of the previous government were targeted with Pegasus, a spyware program made by Israel’s NSO Group, according to findings by the University of Toronto’s nonprofit Citizen Lab that were exclusively reported by The Associated Press.

Pegasus gives its 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.

NSO has said that it only sells its spyware to legitimate government law enforcement and intelligence agencies vetted by Israel’s Defense Ministry for use against terrorists and criminals. But evidence has emerged of human rights activists and politicians being targeted by governments worldwide.

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