While targeting the phone of attorney Roman Giertych with Pegasus spyware, Polish security services got hold of his communications with the former President of EU Council Donald Tusk, Wyborcza journalist Jacek Harłukowicz has revealed.
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Two independent sources in the security services and the prosecutor’s office have confirmed that the prosecution is in the possession of records containing Roman Giertych’s online communications. Such content could only be obtained using Pegasus- a military-grade surveillance software developed by the Israeli cyberarms company NSO Group.

Earlier, the hacking of Mr. Giertych's phone was discovered by the University of Toronto-based internet watchdog Citizen Lab and reported on by the Associated Press. According to Citizen Lab researchers, in 2019 alone, the lawyer’s phone was broken into at least 18 times.

Officially, Poland’s security services refuse to comment on the issue. Unofficially, however, the surveillance of Mr. Giertych is explained as part of an ongoing investigation into the alleged case of siphoning off money from the company Polnord owned years ago by the businessman Ryszard Krauze. 

How the State got hold of Donald Tusk’s private communications

- Giertych was surveilled for three months- our source inside the secret services claims. - First, in the summer of 2019, Ernest Bejda, the head of the Central Anticorruption Bureau at that time, asked the Warsaw district court for permission to place Roman Giertych under ordinary operational control and allow the eavesdrop on the lawyer's conversations. Shortly thereafter, the court received another motion, this time to control his communications on the WhatsApp and Signal messaging apps. For some time, both forms of operational control were conducted against the lawyer simultaneously.

By downloading the content from Mr. Giertych's phone, the services also got hold of his conversations with opposition politicians whom he represented as a lawyer, including Donald Tusk and the Civic Coalition Senator Stanisław Gawłowski.

Why weren’t these conversations ever leaked? Our source claims that due to "joint defense privilege", the exchanges with Senator Gawłowski were destroyed, as required by law. The destruction was ordered by Mr. Bejda himself (today, a board member of Poland’s largest insurance company- PZU).

The law is more lenient when it comes to the "attorney-client privilege", which applies to the conversations between Mr. Giertych and Donald Tusk. The information that the lawyer learned "in connection with the provision of legal assistance", which was unrelated to his function as a defense attorney, can be used in a criminal trial. However, it would still require court approval.

Our source inside the secret services claims that these materials were destroyed as well. - They were not even transferred to the prosecutor's office - argues our informant. - The destruction was ordered for the sake of peace so that no one could accuse us of surveilling Mr. Giertych for political purposes later on. The other thing is that there was nothing important there.

Was the lawyer's correspondence with his clients and his conversations with opposition politicians in fact destroyed? There is no certainty. Similarly, there is no certainty as to the real scale and purpose of State surveillance with Pegasus spyware in Poland.

What we know for a fact is that the phones of prosecutor Ewa Wrzosek (who opened an investigation into the 2020 presidential runoff election) and Civic Coalition Senator Krzysztof Brejza were also hacked.

The Polish Senate (where the opposition has a slim majority), has recently created a special investigative committee trying to clarify the matter. PiS has refused to delegate its representatives to it. Mr. Giertych will speak before the commission on Wednesday.

Recently, a special investigative committee was created in the Senate (where the opposition holds a slim majority) to clarify this matter. PiS has refused to delegate its representatives to sit on it. Mr. Giertych is expected to speak before the committee on Wednesday.

Giertych’s private messages in state-controlled TV

The use of Pegasus surveillance software against Roman Giertych was unwittingly "revealed" by two employees of the state-controlled television TVP- Samuel Pereira and Maciej Tulicki.

In the spring of 2021, they released a video containing conversations between Mr. Giertych and Mariusz Kozak Zagozda, the creator of the political-satire account "Sok z Buraka" (Beetroot juice). Although there is wasn’t anything particularly incriminating or controversial about the content of their conversations, Pereira and Tulicki used it to construct a narrative about Giertych's involvement in a "hate campaign" against ruling camp politicians.

The TVP employees have never revealed the origin of the transcripts. We do know that the published conversations were conducted via WhatsApp and date back to 2017.

- In 2017, Polish services neither had Pegasus at their disposal yet, nor was there any consent issued for the surveillance of Roman Giertych - our source points out. – Accessing archived WhatsApp conversations is only possible if the entire content of Giertych's phone was downloaded in advance. This can only be done using Pegasus.

According to several different sources, the transcripts leaked to TVP did not come from the secret services, but from the prosecution. At the Central Anticorruption Bureau, the material was said to have been received with surprise. - From that moment on, Giertych could be sure that we were spying on him. So, he had enough time to establish his later line of defense - our source claims.

The Polnord case was conducted by many prosecutors across Poland. The investigation was initiated in 2017 by the Regional Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw, from where it was first transferred to the Regional Prosecutor's Office in Wrocław, then to Poznań, and finally ended up in Lublin.

It was the latter prosecutor's office that had the materials from the investigation in April 2021, when the transcripts were published by the state-controlled television TVP.


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