Home WORLD EUROPA Spain’s secret service boss foots the bill for spy scandal

Spain’s secret service boss foots the bill for spy scandal


The government decided today to make a change in the leadership of the CNIthe National Intelligence Center, announced the Minister of Defence, Margarita Robles, Minister responsible for the intelligence services, at the end of the Council of Ministers.

First woman appointed, in 2020, at the head of the CNIPaz Esteban appeared for several days as the designated victim of this spy scandal.

Aged 64, this graduate in philosophy and letters had worked for almost 40 years at the CNI. She will be replaced by Esperanza Casteleiro Llamazares, Ms. Robles’ current number two in the Ministry of Defense

18 Catalan separatists under surveillance

Questioned Thursday by a parliamentary commission, Paz Esteban had admitted, according to what the Spanish media had reported, that 18 Catalan separatists had been the subject of wiretapping by the CNIbut always with the green light of justice, therefore in a legal way.

Among them was the current regional president, Pere Aragonés, when he was vice-president.

Government sources quoted in the media have since assured that the executive had not been informed of these wiretappings, despite the extremely sensitive nature of the Catalan question.

This scandal has shaken Spain since the publication, on April 18, of a report by the Canadian organization Citizen Lab claiming to have identified more than 60 people from the separatist movement whose cellphones were allegedly hacked between 2017 and 2020 by the spyware Pegasus.

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The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense also spied on

But it took on a whole new dimension with the announcement on May 2 by the government that Mr. Sánchez and Ms. Robles had themselves been spied on in May and June 2021 via this same software, created by the Israeli company NSO, in the frame of a external attack.

The executive, who revealed on Tuesday that the cell phone of the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, had also been listened to in May 2021, however claims not to know who may be at the origin, in the face of questions of the press on a possible involvement of Morocco.

This affair triggered a serious crisis between the minority government of Mr. Sánchez and the Catalan separatists, who threatened to withdraw their support for him in Parliament, with the risk of causing his fall and early elections. The legislature will normally end at the end of 2023.

Supported by Podemos, a radical left party member of the government, they had also claimed the head of Mrs. Robles, who had initially strongly supported the outgoing leader of the CNIbut the Prime Minister maintained his confidence in him.

In an attempt to calm tensions, Mr. Sánchez had promised last week to shed light on this affair through several investigations.

The Spanish secret services had already been at the center of an illegal wiretapping scandal in 1995 which cost their posts to their chief, Emilio Alonso Manglano, the vice-president of the socialist government at the time, Narcis Serra, and the minister Defense Julian García Vargas.

More recently, the former head of CNIFélix Sanz Roldán, was accused by an ex-mistress of the former ruler Juan Carlos of having threatened her not to reveal certain secrets, which he denied in court.

Pegasus – which allows access to messaging, data, or remote activation of the cameras and microphones of a smartphone – and the Israeli company NSO which designed it have been the subject of serious accusations since a media consortium revealed last summer that this software had been used to spy on the phones of hundreds of politicians, journalists, human rights activists or business leaders.

Mr. Sánchez is the first Head of State or Government to have announced that he had been spied on using Pegasus.

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