Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced on Thursday a reform aimed at strengthening judicial control over the secret services, following a spy scandal that has angered Catalan separatists, who provide essential support to his government. .
“It is a question of strengthening the guarantees of this judicial control” over the intelligence services, “in addition to guaranteeing the maximum respect for the individual and political rights of people,” Sánchez said in a speech to the Congress of Deputies.
The announcement came just over a month after the scandal broke on April 18, when a report by Canadian organization Citizen Lab claimed that the phones of more than 60 people in the Catalan separatist orbit had been infected between 2017 and 2020 by the spyware. Israeli Pegasus.
Angered, Catalan separatists accused the state of being behind the wiretapping and threatened to withdraw their crucial parliamentary support for Sánchez’s minority government, which would jeopardize the continuity of the current legislature, which is due to end. finish at the end of 2023.
The matter was further complicated when, at the beginning of May, the government announced that Pedro Sánchez himself and his Minister of Defense, on whom the secret services depend, had also been spied on, in May and June 2021, at the using the same computer security program.
The government says the hacking of the phones, also suffered by the interior minister, was the product of an “external attack” by an unidentified actor, although the Spanish press speculates that Morocco, with which Madrid has just getting out of a diplomatic crisis of almost a year, could be late.
– Prevent further “security breaches” –
In a first attempt to calm political ardor, the government sacked the head of the intelligence services, Paz Esteban, at a time when the separatist movement and even Pedro Sánchez’s socialist partner in the coalition government, the radical left of Podemos, resigned following the scandal. .
Now, Pedro Sánchez announces this reform as well as the future adoption of a new law on “confidential information”, to replace the previous one of 1968 passed under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, so that “the standard adapts to democratic principles and constitutional”.
These initiatives, of which he did not provide further details, however, “will update the procedures and make the changes to prevent these security breaches from happening again in the future”, added Sánchez.
“A growing effort in the activities of the CNI which develops against the actions of hostile intelligence services, in the fields of counterintelligence, cybersecurity and sensitive information, is essential to defend against the illegitimate use of software such than Pegasus,” he pointed out.
– Sánchez defends the CNI –
In any case, the Spanish chief executive defended the intelligence services in his speech to parliament, stating that they “acted at all times with the most scrupulous legality”.
Sánchez confirmed that, in fact, 18 supporters of Catalan independence had their communications tapped, but he linked these activities to “hard, difficult, traumatic” times experienced due to the political conflict in Catalonia.
The crisis culminated in October 2017, when separatists staged an illegal referendum on self-determination and declared a failed declaration of independence.
Sánchez assured that these wiretaps, limited in time, had been duly authorized by a magistrate of the Supreme Court, as required by law.
“The vast majority of infected cellphones (phones) (that appear) in the Citizen Lab report came from unknown actors outside of the Spanish administration,” Sánchez said.
“That’s the reality,” he said. Sánchez assured his will to maintain the dialogue initiated by his government with the Catalan separatists.
The Catalan regional president, the separatist Pere Aragonés, has in recent weeks maintained his demand for the government to give “explanations” on the espionage and to offer “assurances” that a similar situation will not happen again.