The Pegasus program, the espionage tool of the Spanish secret services
Documents declassified by the Spanish government reveal that the National Intelligence Center (CNI) used the Pegasus program to spy on the president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, when he was vice president. The reason that justified this illegal intervention was Aragonès’ alleged connection with the Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR), the groups that promoted the mobilizations in Catalonia after the conviction of the leaders of the 1- O.
The Pegasus program is a software of Israeli origin that allows access to the mobile phones of the targets and obtain all kinds of data, such as messages, photos, contacts, locations or even listen to the conversations. Its use is restricted to governments and their intelligence services, and requires prior judicial authorization.
The leak that uncovered the scandal
The existence of this espionage became known in May 2022, when the director of the CNI, Paz Esteban, was dismissed due to an internal crisis in the Spanish secret services. From that moment on, several pieces of information were leaked about the Pegasus case, including the one published by the newspaper El Mundo, which claimed that the Spanish government had been aware since 2019 that the CNI was spying on Aragonès, and that the Supreme Court had approved the operation. According to this information, the CNI considered Aragonès as a possible coordinator of the CDRs, an unfounded accusation that the president of the Generalitat has flatly denied.
This information led Aragonès to file a complaint against the CNI, the Spanish government and the Supreme Court for violation of his fundamental rights, and to demand that the documents related to the case be declassified. The Spanish government, however, has only declassified part of the documents, and with many parts hidden or illegible. Presidency sources consulted by the ACN have expressed their dissatisfaction with this documentation, which they consider “totally insufficient”, and have described the reason alleged by the CNI as “totally implausible”.
The appearance of the former director of the CNI before the judge
The declassified documents have come to light the day before the former director of the CNI, Paz Esteban, is to testify before the judge investigating Aragonès’ complaint. The Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, has defended in the Defense Commission that the “partial” declassification of the documents was done ten days ago “without fuss” so that Esteban can answer the questions that are put to him. In addition, he assured that, regarding the use of Pegasus, “everything was done with judicial authorization”.
This explanation, however, has not convinced the Republican Left, which has criticized the Spanish government for “not fulfilling the expectations” it had created regarding the declassification of the documents. The deputy of ERC Francesc-Marc Álvaro has reproached the minister that the Sánchez executive “is obstructing” the judicial work and has asked for an explanation as to why the Spanish State has not resorted to the diplomatic route with Israel, as France did, to clarify the Pegasus case. Álvaro has affirmed that it is “a question of democratic quality” and that it is “very strange that espionage mechanisms are used against political adversaries”.