Pegasus : les services de renseignement espagnols reconnaissent avoir espionné des indépendantistes catalans

Pegasus : les services de renseignement espagnols reconnaissent avoir espionné des indépendantistes catalans

The boss of the Spanish secret services, Paz Esteban, admitted on Thursday May 5 that Catalan separatists had been spied on by Madrid via the spyware Pegasus, but assures that this surveillance was carried out within a legal framework.

The first woman appointed to head the National Intelligence Center (CNI), Paz Esteban was questioned for nearly four hours by the parliamentary committee on “official secrets”, meeting behind closed doors. According to members of this commission, such as the number two of the Popular Party (PP, right), Cuca Gamarra, Mme Esteban acknowledged that separatists had indeed been spied on by his services, but always with the green light of justice. According to the Spanish media, the parliamentarians were able to consult warrants issued by a judge authorizing surveillance of some of the separatists targeted by Pegasus.

Read also: Pegasus: dozens of elected officials and members of Catalan civil society targeted by spyware

The head of the intelligence services specified, according to several media, that eighteen separatists were concerned, much less than the figure mentioned in a report by the Canadian organization Citizen Lab, the publication of which in mid-April triggered a crisis between the government of Pedro Sanchez and the separatists. Citizen Lab claims to have identified more than sixty people from the separatist movement whose cell phones were hacked between 2017 and 2020 by the Pegasus spyware, created by the Israeli company NSO Group.

According to Esteban, the other forty activists could have been targeted either by a foreign government or by Spanish security agencies “having exceeded the legal limits”. The day before, during a public parliamentary hearing, the Minister of Defense had however assured that any electronic surveillance conducted in Spain was done within the limits of the law.

political scandal

This spy scandal took a new turn with the government’s announcement on Monday that Mr. Sanchez and his defense minister, Margarita Robles, minister responsible for the CNI, had been spied on in May and June 2021 via this same software. .

Read also: Spanish Prime Minister’s phone infected with Pegasus software, first confirmed attack against a head of government

The Spanish government has refused to attribute these computer attacks precisely, confining itself to ensuring that they were “external” attacks. The main suspect in these high-level hacks is Moroccan intelligence: they took place in the heart of the violent diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco on the subject of Moroccan migrants, in 2021. The Forbidden Stories consortium and The world revealed in July 2021 that Morocco had used Pegasus to widely target lawyers, journalists or human rights activists in multiple countries, including France, Algeria and Spain; Rabat, for his part, claims to have never used the spyware. The possibility of an action carried out by the Spanish services themselves was also raised by part of the Spanish press.

This double scandal has triggered a major political crisis in Spain, where Mr. Sanchez’s coalition government depends on the votes of Catalan separatists. The position of the director of the CNI appears increasingly fragile: still supported by the Minister of Defense, Paz Esteban is in the sights of the Catalan separatists and the radical left formation Podemos, partner of the Socialists in government.

The current Catalan regional president, Pere Aragonès, who is among those spied on, thus demanded his resignation on Thursday evening, demanding the immediate declassification of the documents which allowed this espionage to be put in place.

Particularly intrusive, Pegasus allows, once installed on a phone, to collect all the data stored there, including the messages exchanged via secure applications. According to the Spanish services, approximately 2.7 gigabytes of data were thus extracted from Mr. Sanchez’s phone after it was hacked.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers “Project Pegasus”: the executive is walled in silence despite the targeting of Emmanuel Macron by Morocco

The World with AFP

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