Otwórz w przeglądarce  
  Democracy at stake  
  By Miłosz Wiatrowski, 
Senior Editor, Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation

After numerous attempts by the members of the ruling camp to deny it, Jarosław Kaczyński admitted this week that the Polish secret services are in the possession of Pegasus spyware. At the same time, he claimed that the tool was not being used against members of the opposition.

Kaczyński’s assertion lacks basic credibility.  As recently revealed by the University of Toronto-based internet watchdog Citizen Lab and confirmed by Amnesty International, Senator Krzysztof Brejza (whose phone was hacked at the height of the 2019 election campaign that he managed for the Civic Coalition), high-profile lawyer Roman Giertych (Donald Tusk’s former attorney), and prosecutor Ewa Wrzosek (outspoken government critic), were all spied on using Pegasus. The narrative pushed by the government, according to which they might have just as well been targeted by foreign agencies, is not plausible by any stretch of the imagination.

On Wednesday, Krzysztof Brejza’s wife revealed that her phone was hacked and the perpetrators used her phone number to issue false bomb threats to numerous institutions, including hospitals. The information was confirmed by her husband. "Messages about explosive devices planted across the country are being sent from my wife’s phone number. This is an all-out cyber-attack on our family. We still don't know enough to say more, but today's decision by the Senate to set up a special investigative committee have clearly infuriated our enemies. You will not intimidate us" - Brejza wrote on Twitter. The special investigative committee that the senator referred to will be tasked with examining the Pegasus surveillance scandal.

As argued by our deputy editor-in-chief Bartosz T. Wieliński, “while parallels with the Nixon Administration naturally come to mind, calling Poland's recent surveillance scandal the "Polish Watergate" completely misses the point. President Nixon ultimately failed at spying on his political rivals, unlike PiS.” Private text messages from Brejza’s phone were apparently forwarded by the Polish intelligence agency to the state broadcaster TVP, doctored, and then used to slander the then-campaign manager of the Civic Coalition during prime time news segments watched by millions of Poles.

“Themis”, Poland’s second largest judges’ association, issued a statement enumerating multiple constitutional provisions that could have been breached by the use of Pegasus against Brejza, Giertych, and Wrzosek, including the protection of private life (Article 47 of the Constitution), the protection of the secrecy of communications (Article 49), the right not to disclose information about oneself (Article 51), the right of legal defence (Article 42), and the principle of equality of the elections (Article 96).

In the judges’ view, suspicions about the legal use of Pegasus spyware are all the greater because the coordinator of the special services, Mariusz Kamiński, "has been sentenced [but ultimately pardoned by the President ed.] in the past to mandatory imprisonment for, among others, abuse of power while using operational intelligence collection methods".

Our lead story
The PiS Spying Scandal Makes Watergate Look Pale [OPINION] >>
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More than a thousand words
Dawid Żuchowicz / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

The District Court in Warsaw has found the best-selling author Jakub Żulczyk (pictured standing) not guilty of insulting President Andrzej Duda. According to the judge, calling the president a "moron" in a post on Facebook was meant to be "sharp criticism of a citizen concerned about the fate of his country".

The case dates back to November 7, 2020. On that day, instead of congratulating Joe Biden on his victory in the U.S. presidential election, Polish president Andrzej Duda tweeted: "Congratulations to @JoeBiden for a successful presidential campaign. As we await the nomination by the Electoral College, Poland is determined to upkeep high-level and high-quality PL-US strategic partnership for an even stronger alliance".

In response, Mr Żulczyk, who holds a degree in American studies, wrote a post on his Facebook account lambasting Duda's refusal to recognize Biden's victory: "Biden won the election. He received 290 electoral votes. Eventually, once Georgia is counted, he will probably get 306. To win the race, he needed 270. The US President-elect is "announced" by news agencies, there is no federal institution or office in charge of this announcement. Everything that follows from this day on - counting the rest of the votes, voting by the electoral college - is merely a formality. Joe Biden is the 46th president of the United States. Andrzej Duda is a moron".

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