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Espionage. PiS proposes to amend the regulations. Comments of politicians and experts

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Even a life sentence is provided for in the bill on espionage, sabotage, diversion and disinformation submitted by MPs from Law and Justice. The changes would also extend the powers of the Internal Security Agency and the Intelligence Agency to identify and combat the crime of espionage. However, the draft also includes provisions containing many potential threats to citizens, experts and opposition politicians point out. Material of the magazine “Polska i Świat”.

The amendment to the provisions on espionage was to modernize the Penal Code. The draft prepared by PiS deputies not only radically tightens the penalties for espionage, but also extends the powers of the Internal Security Agency and the Intelligence Agency, removing them from the control of the courts.

– If the services do not use their techniques against citizens, I have nothing against it and it should be so – says a former GROM soldier, Lt. Col. Krzysztof Przepiórka. – On the other hand, we have experience here that in these laws – seemingly pro-citizen – there are throw-ins against citizens – he adds. Services headed by a politician will be able to demand access to data collected by telecommunications operators. Until now, such provisions concerned only the terrorist threat. Now they have been applied to events that make it probable that the crime of espionage has been committed.

– The lack of control over the possibility of surveillance, operational investigation without parliamentary control, only by internal regulations in a narrow circle, threatens everyone. Each of us can then become the object of interest of the services – warns security expert Marcin Samsel.

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Politicians comment on PiS proposals on espionage

The category of “unintentional” espionage introduced by the amendment, which is punishable by five years in prison, raises concerns.

– Unintentional espionage could concern politicians, officials, public figures who pass on information without realizing its importance or without fully knowing who they are dealing with – says Maciej Gdula from Nowa Lewica.

Mariusz KaminskiRadek Pietruszka/PAP

– Espionage is always an intentional activity and it is defined – notes Marek Biernacki from the Polish People’s Party. That’s why I don’t understand this entry. It smells a bit like the 1950s to me, when anyone could be accused of collaborating,” he adds.

The upper limit of the sentence for espionage is to be increased to 30 years in prison, and for sabotage, diversion or terrorist activity, the penalty is to be life imprisonment. The question is whether even the harshest penalties are able to discourage professional spies.

– No agent who starts cooperation with a foreign service will not give up because he is threatened with some kind of punishment. It’s absurd, says Marcin Samsel.

Controversial disinformation records

Controversy also arises from the provision on disinformation consisting in the dissemination of untrue or misleading content. – Anyone who criticizes Law and Justicefor example, for breaking human rights on the border with Belaruscan be considered as someone who participates in disinformation, claims Maciej Gdula.

Even if the court acquits the accused person, the law itself can have a chilling effect. – In this way, the authorities can protect their interests and hit political opponents – adds Maciej Gdula.

All this is justified by taking care of the security of the state in the face of threats from Russia. – They use emotional blackmail, they show that there are threats to introduce a law that is dangerous for citizens here in Poland – says Adam Szłapka from Nowoczesna.

The representative of the applicants of the project Jarosław Krajewski, despite earlier promises, did not want to meet with journalists. The Law and Justice spokesman also does not respond to repeated contact attempts. The draft amendment has just been sent for consultation.

Main photo source: Radek Pietruszka/PAP

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