Early summer 2021. The Spanish Government receives the green light to carry out its Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan. They have been intense days in La Moncloa, but also in the Ministry of Economy, which has obtained the support of Europe to face with greater guarantees an unprecedented crisis in the country. However, while this historic economic plan for Spain was being worked on and negotiated, the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and his Defense Minister, Margarita Robles, were being spied on through an Israeli program called Pegasus. Information that was revealed by the Executive itself at the beginning of this week.
From the order of judge José Luis Calama -who has been commissioned by the National Court to investigate illegal wiretapping- Sánchez was spied on by Pegagus on May 19 and 31, 2021. Two dates that were provided by the National Cryptologic Center. Just two months later, the Secretary of State for Digitization and Intelligence (which depends on the Ministry of Economy) signed an agreement transferring 5.2 million to the National Cryptologic Center (which is subordinate to the Ministry of Defense) for the creation of a cybersecurity operations center.
The agreement reached between these two ministries was as follows: the CNI undertook to “deploy its cybersecurity operating capacity, cyber tools and solutions, as well as research and expert response to complex security incidents“and Calviño’s ministry, as consideration for the expenses that this assignment could entail for the agency attached to the Robles ministry, would contribute an economic amount over the next three years (5.2 million in 2021, 3.9 million in 2022 and 3.9 million in 2023).
Calviño created an anti-eavesdropping center with Robles after espionage on Sánchez. Europa Press
After the month of August – specifically on September 28 – the Council of Ministers authorized the agreement, which gave free rein to the development of this center. According to the press release of that day, the main objective of this new instrument was to “increase the capacity for surveillance and detection of threats in the daily operation of information and communications systems, as well as to improve its response capacity in the event of possible attacks on the General State Administration“.
A few months later -on February 9, 2022- Calviño awarded, through the urgent procedure and without publicity, the cybersecurity operations center to Indra Y Telephone for a total amount of 38.3 million euros. The Temporary Business Union (UTE), made up of Telefónica Soluciones and Indra Soluciones Tecnologías de la Información, was the only one that submitted an offer for this project, as reported by La Información at the time. So in just eight months the Government managed to forge an agency with which to combat the threats of those external agents who for several months had already perpetrated attacks on the mobile phones of some members of the Executive.
After the announcement made last Monday by Félix Bolaños, new information has become known about other members of the Council of Ministers who could also have been attacked by Pegasus, as is the case of Minister Calviño herself and Minister of Ecological Transition Ribera . One of the main unresolved questions of this crisis is when the Government became aware that it had been spied on. Although the government defends the idea that it was a few days ago, The Washington Post -along with other media- already announced last summer that more than 50,000 phone numbers of politicians, activists and journalists were hacked by the Israeli program. Among the victims would be other political leaders such as Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron or Mohammed VI.
Pegasus shakes the legislature
Yesterday there was a new earthquake in Spanish politics. The director of the CNI appeared in the Congress of Deputies to report -in the Official Secrets Commission- on the information published by the American newspaper The New Yorker, which accused Spain of having spied -during 2017 and 2020- on more than 60 independence leaders. There, the head of the intelligence services, Paz Esteban, reported that there had been 18 spies and with prior judicial authorization.
On the other hand, he pointed to a foreign country or another state agency as the cause of the rest of the reported espionage. Information that was revealed by some of the deputies present, who, failing to comply with his obligation, revealed what Esteban allegedly said. A scenario that has generated irritation within the socialist ranks, but also indignation among his partners, who have verified first-hand that their current presidentPere Aragonese, and other political leaders have been spied on by the State; and without them knowing it.