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In the wake of Fidesz politician Lajos Kósa admitting the purchase and use of controversial spyware Pegasus, opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) announced they would turn to Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz for answers, as the software can only be bought with the Israeli government’s approval. Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister insists “that only because of his/her profession, nobody in Hungary would be wiretapped.”

Back in July, after it turned out that several Hungarians (among them journalists, gov’t-critical individuals, and even government employees who found themselves critical of certain moves of the Fidesz government) had been monitored by Pegasus, the Fidesz chair of the Parliament’s Committee on Defense and Law Enforcement, Lajos Kósa, eventually admitted that the government had bought and used Pegasus.

Fidesz Politician Admits Purchase and Use of Pegasus Spyware
Fidesz Politician Admits Purchase and Use of Pegasus Spyware

The opposition's reactions go as far as demanding the Orbán administration's resignation.Continue reading

DK to turn to the Israeli government

“As it is known that NSO may only sell the spyware abroad with a ministerial approval, DK has turned to the Israeli government,” the statement said. The party would also like to know what actions the Israeli government plans to take regarding the illegal use of the Pegasus spy software, which is controlled by them.

According to the statement, it is unacceptable that “the Orbán government is monitoring innocent civilians, journalists, politicians, and businessmen independent of the rotten regime of NER [Orbán’s system of national cooperation] simply because they disagree with the government.”

Kósa facing prosecution?

Meanwhile, several opposition politicians have already spoken about potential prosecution against Lajos Kósa for revealing national secrets.

This topic is especially relevant, since a few months ago Interior Minister Sándor Pintér told a journalist that even asking him about the possible purchase is a crime. “I would like to say once and for all that I am only willing to answer these questions [concerning the purchase of Pegasus] in the National Security Committee, because otherwise I would be violating a state secret. Now, if I were to violate it, you, as the instigator, should be held responsible, because you are trying to get me to violate a state secret.”

However, Lajos Kósa has just made this classified information public.

Therefore, Jobbik MP György Szilágyi has now brought up the topic in parliament and asked the government whether they are “…willing to take action against Kósa, and will there be consequences?”

Secretary of state Károly Kontrát, of the ministry of interior, did not respond to the question but instead retorted that the operation of the national security services is regulated by law and regularly monitored.

Fidesz group spokesman critical of Kósa

That Kósa’s revelation probably wasn’t a planned action on Fidesz’s part, Telex‘s report seems to confirm. While most of the government politicians either gave an evasive answer or pointed to the legality of the monitoring, the spokesman for Fidesz’s parliamentary group grew critical with Kósa. “I am the vice-chair of the Committee on National Security. And, just as [I was doing so] up until now, I will keep saying that what was said in there, we don’t say it on the camera. It would have been good had Lajos Kósa respected this too.” However, by saying this, he indirectly verified Kósa’s words on the Interior Ministry purchasing the spyware.


Data authority’s investigation ongoing

In addition, Hungary’s data protection authority’s (NAIH) investigation is still ongoing. The group, led by Attila Péterfalvy, began the examination of the case back in August in line with Hungary’s laws on the right to informational self-determination and freedom of information.

“The investigation is ongoing and I don’t see the end of it yet,” Péterfalvy told HVG recently.

Meanwhile, in response to a question, Fidesz MP János Kerényi said he didn’t think the Kósa’s revelation disturbed the government’s communication in any way, as “it is not something they are dealing with a lot in the countryside.”

FM Szijjártó: No one is monitored in Hungary just because of his/her profession

In response to HVG, the Foreign Minister insisted once again that no one was being monitored in Hungary unlawfully after 2010. And “in Hungary it’s not possible to wiretap anyone [only] because of his/her profession, that is, just because of your profession you won’t be wiretapped,” the Minister explained in response to claims that several journalists were also on the list of Pegasus’ Hungarian targets.

Szijjártó also stated that the Information Office (IH), a civilian intelligence agency supervised by him which is primarily involved in operations abroad, didn’t buy Pegasus and did not use it on Hungarian citizens.

International criticism of Pegasus after series of scandals

Discontent with Pegasus and the NSO are apparently growing in the West. There is growing criticism in the EU against the spyware, and a week ago even the US chose to step up against manufacturer NSO. Following some controversial cases, last Wednesday the federal government put the Israeli company on the government’s Entity List, effectively banning trade with the firm. 

In the featured photo: DK MP Ágnes Vadai. Photo by Tamás Kovács/MTI

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