WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Polish government came under pressure on Wednesday to clarify whether it has purchased sophisticated and potentially illegal phone surveillance technology that has been used to stifle dissent in other countries.
Opposition lawmakers asked Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki whether the special services bought Pegasus, the spyware produced by NSO Group, an Israeli company.
Morawiecki replied that “everything that needs to be, will be clarified in due time” but didn’t directly answer the question, the news agency PAP reported.
A deputy prime minister, Jacek Sasin, said in an interview with the private broadcaster TVN late Tuesday that he didn’t know if Poland bought the system but that “honest citizens” have nothing to worry about and accused the previous government of failing to catch criminals.
“If someone doesn’t have anything to hide, they don’t have anything to fear,” Sasin said.
The parliamentary discussion on Wednesday follows an investigative report by TVN that indicated the country’s Anti-Corruption Bureau might have bought the system.
Lawmakers expressed concerns that the technology could be used against independent journalists or opposition politicians.
Under Polish law, using such spyware without a court order would be illegal.
The Israeli firm’s software is part of a larger family of malware that allows spies to take remote control of phones from anywhere in the world — turning the devices in targets’ pockets into powerful surveillance tools.
The company said its products were developed only for allowing governments and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime and for instance, to rescue kidnapped children.
Human rights campaigners say Pegasus has been used by authoritarian regimes to spy on citizens.
In the most high-profile case to date, a Saudi dissident, Omar Abdulaziz, alleged that the software on his phone provided the Saudi regime with information that helped lead to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
He filed a lawsuit in an Israel court last year against the company, which rejected the accusations.
The developments in Poland come as the government is accused by critics of eroding democratic standards, something that the authorities deny.