Continue to discuss in Spain espionage through Pegasusa spy software sold by the Israeli company NSO Group and which can only be purchased by government institutions such as armies, intelligence services, state security forces. In a press conference called urgently on a public holiday for several autonomous communities, the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolañosannounced that the government president’s institutional phones, Pedro Sánchezand the Minister of Defense, Margarita RoblesThey were infected with malware. The president’s cell phone was attacked twice in May and June 2021, while that of the minister once in June of the same year. In those months the country was going through a diplomatic crisis with the Moroccoculminating with the entrance to Ceuta of about 8,000 migrants without the Moroccan border authorities avoiding it. At the same time, the government was discussing in those months the possibility of granting an indult to independence leaders, approved in July of the same year.
In a press conference lasting about 20 minutes, Bolaños specified that it is a “external” attack and “foreign” to national state bodies. “We are absolutely certain that it is an external attack because in Spain this type of intervention can only be justified to prevent or prosecute crimes. When one of these two conditions is met, it is possible to request judicial authorization from a magistrate who decides whether to give permission or not. In this case, these circumstances did not occur and no judicial mechanism was activated ”, explained the minister. The government does not point the finger at possible perpetrators of these attacks but categorically excludes that they come from state bodies, including the National Intelligence Center (CNI), the only one to own the Israeli program.
After the publication of the New Yorkerwhich exposed the alleged espionage to more than 60 Catalan and Basque independence leaders with the Pegasus system, the government decided to check if he had been a victim of the malware. For now, only the case of the president and the defense minister is known. The survey carried out by Centro Criptológico Nacional (CCN), a CNI employee body that deals with ensuring the security of public sector communications, revealed that the software would have stolen a large amount of data: in the case of the president, 2.6 gigs the first time and 130 megabyte the second; in the case of the minister, 9 megs, according to the agency Efe. However, the executive does not know the type of information that was stolen. Bolaños clarified that the phones of all members of the government are being checked to understand how far this alleged espionage has gone and announced that a complaint has been filed with theAudiencia Nacionalthe competent court in the matter.
The reactions of the main parties
The government’s announcement came after a week in which the stability of the legislature was put to the test. The same “Response Plan” to the war in Ukraine, aimed at alleviating the economic consequences of the crisis in Eastern Europe, was approved with a minimum margin and saw the no of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), which has “limited” relations with the executive until the responsibilities of espionage are ascertained.
The main Catalan exponents who were victims of Pegasus have harshly criticized the government. The president of Catalonia, Pere Aragonéswrote on his Twitter profile: “Any political espionage it is extremely serious. We have been denouncing him for days without obtaining explanations from the Spanish government. When massive espionage is against Catalan institutions and independentism, silence and justifications. Today, everything is in a hurry. It is necessary to assume one’s responsibilities ”. On the same line Laura Borrás, President of the Catalan Parliament: “Sánchez and Robles say they have been spied on. Now that is a very serious issue, when it only concerned independence, the minister justified it, ”she wrote on Twitter. The leader of Erc, Oriol Junqueraswent further, and in a press conference he questioned the executive’s complaints: “How much truth is there in what the government explained today, what credibility can we give it today if when we ask it for explanations on the CatalanGate does he tell us that he cannot answer because the law prevents him? ”, he asked himself.
Alberto Núñez Feijóoleader of the Partido Popular, showed the support of the ruling party. However, he questioned the timing of the announcement. The Galician executive considers it a “no less political coincidence” that this news was made public this Monday, in a climate of profound tension with the Catalan parties, in a moment of government instability and in the decisive week to have the first answers about this alleged espionage. In the coming days, in fact, Robles will have to testify to the Defense Commission and the director of the CNI, Paz Estebanwill have to testify in the Commission of Official Secrets.
Also Edmundo Baldeputy of Ciudadanos, does not consider it a coincidence. “We can’t believe a year has gone by without the attacks being detected. If so, it is gross negligence, ”she said, after announcing that the party will submit a series of questions to the government about the security protocols employed.
During the press conference, Félix Bolaños recalled that Pegasus has been used illegally in at least 20 countries and among the victims of these attacks there are governments, civil society personalities, journalists. He assured that the executive has adopted and will continue to take all possible measures to strengthen the security of communications from official bodies. “We will make them available not only to the central administration but also to the governments of the autonomous communities and local institutions. The government will be adamant with any violation of fundamental rights and freedoms, ”he concluded.
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Spain, Prime Minister Sanchez and Minister Robles spied on with Pegasus software
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