The first rule of the CNI in Spanish politics is that the CNI is not discussed. For not talking about it, it has not even been talked about in Parliament since 2019. It means taking the concept of secret services to the end. "Everything the CNI does is secret," Defense Minister Margarita Robles said in an interview on TVE on Wednesday. Asking about its operation is nothing short of a journalistic eccentricity, not even when it has been known that the intelligence services have spied on the communications of dozens of politicians and lawyers thanks to Israeli software considered throughout the world as a threat to freedoms and the privacy that is supposed to be guaranteed in democratic countries.
"The government has nothing to hide", affirmed the previous day its spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez. Which means he has nothing to say.
Pegasus is the wettest dream of the intelligence services. You can see the messages, whatsapps and emails sent from a mobile. You can view the stored photos. You can read the notes written on the device. You can see which pages have been browsed. You can activate your camera and microphone to hear what is being said in the room. Turn that essential tool that is the mobile phone into the best accomplice of the spy.
Since it became known that the Israeli company NSO had sold Pegasus surveillance software all over the world, it has managed to detect the map of its victims that covers almost all continents. The latest installment, known this week thanks to a report from The New Yorker, includes 65 Catalan politicians, lawyers and activists with pro-independence ideas. Like other cases, the names are known thanks to Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity task force at the University of Toronto that Robles somewhat dismissively called "an NGO." Its experts are in a position to point out on which phone numbers an espionage attempt took place and whether the infiltration was successful.
The Government of Pedro Sánchez cannot maintain that all this goes back to the Government of Rajoy and the turbulent events of 2017. "Almost all the incidents occurred between 2017 and 2020, although we found a case of attack from 2015," he says. the Citizen Lab report.
There are numerous concrete examples that occurred when Sánchez was already president. They do not refer only to the architects of the call for the independence referendum. This is a case of massive indiscriminate espionage. It cannot be said that all the victims are essential actors in Catalan politics. And of course there is no evidence that another referendum like the one in 2017 is currently being organized.
The list indicates that just by being part of the leadership of an organization with pro-independence ideas, such as the ANC and Òmnium, it seems justified to spy on the communications of a person who has not committed any crime to date. Sònia Urpí's mobile was attacked by Pegasus in June 2020 just a week after she was elected to the ANC council. That of Marcel Mauri, ten days after his appointment as vice president of Òmnium in 2019.
If Margarita Robles exercises some kind of control over the CNI, as is obvious, one wonders if she authorized the intelligence service to carry out this espionage.
In other words, a suspect of being part of a mafia organization who is being investigated by the police is less closely watched than a Catalan separatist. This violates the content of the sentence with which the Supreme Court condemned the politicians who organized the 2017 referendum for sedition. It was said that they had not been investigated or convicted for being independentists, but for committing a crime established in the Penal Code .
The controversy raises a question that the Government is obliged to answer, although it insists that the law does not allow it to speak of the CNI. Can the Catalan separatists continue to be spied on until the end of time because an attempt was made to break the territorial integrity of Spain four and a half years ago?
Since 2019, the possibilities of a minimum parliamentary control of the CNI have disappeared by not having been formed the Official Secrets Commission. This is a democratic anomaly that has been allowed by the parties whose votes are necessary to elect their members, who are the PSOE and the PP, by a reinforced majority. The blockade began when the PP refused to accept that EH Bildu was part of the commission as he had the right to have a parliamentary group. It is another case in which the law is not complied with in Congress for political convenience of the PP, as is the case with the CGPJ.
The CNI has judicial control through a magistrate of the Supreme Court chosen by the CGPJ who is the one who must authorize any activity that may affect "the inviolability of the home and the secrecy of communications." In the latter case, the judge allows the puncture of a telephone for a certain period of time, which is carried out with the collaboration of the corresponding telephone company. With Pegasus, surveillance technology takes a huge leap forward and strips a person's privacy to new heights.
The Israeli company claimed that it only sold Pegasus to governments for the fight against terrorism or criminal organizations. The reality is that it has been used in countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, Hungary, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates to also spy on journalists and members of the opposition. It is also a weapon of Israel's foreign policy. which reserved the right to veto countries interested in buying NSO technology.
After learning that Pegasus was being used without these alleged limits by various dictatorships against journalists and dissidents, the US government decided in November to place NSO on a blacklist of companies contrary to the country's security, which prevents it from contracting with US companies. and jeopardizes your business future.
Pegasus is actually a state-of-the-art cyber weapon available to some of the worst human rights governments in the world. The decision of the USA was due to the fact that it considered that its extension throughout the world was out of control. Edward Snowden had already warned a few months earlier: "If nothing is done to stop the sale of this technology, it will not be just 50,000 targets. It's going to be 50 million targets and it's going to happen a lot faster than we think."
Citizen Lab believes that the use of Pegasus in Spain is very relevant, because it joins the group of democracies in which there has been abusive use of espionage software. The list they include is not long, but it is embarrassing: Poland, India, Israel and El Salvador, all of them with conservative governments with an undoubtedly authoritarian trajectory.
For Sánchez, Robles and other politicians to continue saying that Spain is "a full democracy", regardless of what that means, they should know that they are in the company of countries for which that definition is highly questionable, if not absurd. It is even possible that Pedro Sánchez does not want to be part of a club that includes Narendra Modi, Viktor Orbán and Nayib Bukele.