A Catalan separatist leader said Thursday that Spain’s intelligence chief acknowledged that the agency had tapped the cell phones of “some” of the dozens of politicians allegedly affected by the espionage, but clarified that it did so with due judicial authorization.
Gabriel Rufián, a member of a Catalan independence party, participated in a closed-door meeting with the director of the National Intelligence Center with a select group of legislators,
A recent report by Canada-based digital rights group Citizen Lab on the use of the controversial Pegasus program in Spain says it was used to spy on dozens of independentistas in the Catalonia region.
Responding to questions from the Associated Press, the Defense Ministry, to which the CNI reports, refused to comment on the meeting with director Paz Esteban because the content is considered confidential. But important Spanish media coincided in reporting that the director had shown the commission the judicial authorizations to tap the telephones of the Catalan separatists.
Rufián said that the CNI acknowledges the espionage, but says that “it is in much fewer people than had been published by Citizen Lab.”
As for the rest of the more than 60 politicians, lawyers and activists mentioned by Citizen Lab as targets of espionage, the director of the CNI pointed out two possibilities: “”a foreign nation or state agencies that spy beyond their legal possibilities” .
The meeting took place in a parliament room.
The Catalan separatists, who want to create a new state in northeastern Spain around Barcelona, had accused the CNI of espionage that came to light two weeks ago when the Citizen Lab report was released.
The Spanish government has repeatedly said that the CNI cannot tap telephones without judicial authorization. At the same time, the government said that the law protecting the secrecy of the CNI’s activities prohibits it from confirming whether it owns Pegasus, the program sold by the Israeli company NSO Group.
Representatives of the ruling Socialist Party and the opposition Popular Party said at the end of the meeting that they were satisfied with Esteban’s explanations; on the other hand, Rufián was not the only one who demanded new measures.
Albert Botran, one of the politicians who, according to Citizen Lab, was a victim of espionage, demanded that all the information be made public because it affects fundamental rights.
The Spanish government has promised that the CNI and the ombudsman will investigate the Citizen Lab report.