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Hacking Of Some Phones Legally Admitted By The Catalan Spy Chief

BySheldon Wong

May 19, 2022
spain spy chief legally hacking phones

Hacking Of Some Phones Legally Admitted By The Catalan Spy Chief

A renowned Catalan separatist politician claimed that the top intelligence official of Spain has acknowledged that her agency hacked into the cellphones of not one but many politicians who were reported to be targeted via the spyware, to which she said that there was a strict presence of proper authorization judicially. 

Gabriel Russian was known to have spoken after participating in a closed-door meeting with the director of the National Intelligence Center of Spain, coupled with a selected group of lawmakers from Spain. 

A report was given recently by Citizen Lab, a digital rights group based in China, on using controversial Pegasus software in the same place. The report said that several pro-independence supporters in the northeastern Catalonia region of Spain were being spied on with the help of the software. 

The defense ministry of Spain, the charge of the CNI refused to talk about the meeting with Paz Esteban, the director of CNI, when asked by the associated press as the contents were known to be classified. Leading Spanish media also reported that he showed court authorizations to the committee members for the hacking of cellphones of several Catalan separatists. 

Russian also said that the CNI admitted all the spying but was against a lesser number of people than what was cited by Citizen Lab. 

When considering over 60 activists, politicians, and lawyers cited as the hacking targets, Rufian said that the director of CNI pointed out two possibilities, either it was a foreign country or any of the state agencies spying beyond their limits. 

This meeting was known to have taken place in the parliament building of Spain in Madrid. 

The Catalan separatists, who wanted to establish a new state in Spain around Barcelona, directly accused the CNI behind this hacking which came out after the release of the Citizen Lab report about two weeks ago. 

The government of Spain repeatedly claimed that the CNI could not tap phones in the absence of any advance judicial authorization. Additionally, the government said that the secrecy law protecting the activities of CNI is preventing the agency from confirming whether it had Pegasus, the spyware that was claimed to be sold to them by Israeli company NSO Group. 

The representatives of the socialist party of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the opposition party came forward from the meeting held on Thursday saying that there were completely satisfied with the explanations given by Esteban; Rufian was not the only one who demanded further action. 

Albert Botran was one among the several politicians who were said to be spied on by the Citizen Lab; he said that they insist that all the vital information received by them that day must be classified so that the public could also gain cognizance of it. 

A promise was further made by the Spanish government that the Citizen Lab Report would be investigated by both the ombudsman of the nation and the CNI. 

Increased transparency was demanded from Spain by Amnesty International which was known to have denounced the use of Pegasus in various countries. 

The director of Amnesty, Esteba Beltran, said that the committee featured for its obscurantism and secrecy cannot be considered a proper venue for investigating the alleged violence against all human rights. 

Along with the Catalan hacking case, the intelligence agency of Spain has also faced uncomfortable limelight as a result of another case concerned with hacking by Pegasus. Spain announced previously that the cellphones of the prime minister and the defense minister were infected the previous year with the same spyware. 

The dates when the phones of both of them were hacked the previous year matched with the diplomatic crisis that happened between the two countries, although Spain rejected to point out Morocco. 

Amid the continuous scandals, the plans for observing the 20th anniversary of CNI were postponed. 

Catalans were encouraged by Robles to take this case of hacking to the court, similar to the Spanish government, to know who was responsible. Robles said on Thursday that only the judiciary is capable of determining who is responsible for all this. He additionally said that they can take their cases to court and refrain from any accusations in the meantime. 

The CNI, who is responsible for overseeing the cybersecurity of Spain, discovered that the phones of Sanchez and Robles were hacked after the scanning of the devices that followed the breaches’ revelations of the Catalans into the phones. No evidence of the hacks was found in previous checks carried out in May and June 2021, and the government was known to be forced to admit it. 

These hacking scandals have left a lot of Spaniards wondering about the intensity of the spread of this spying and which celebrities are behind it. Several Catalan separatists accused Spain of detracting attention from their cases by using the revelation of the hacking of some of the top officials. 

A senior researcher at Citizen Lab, John-Scott Railton told the AP that a victim could not be precluded from being a perpetrator when considering the Pegasus. He further said that the objectives of NSO broadly revolve around the proliferation of this spyware and not the protection of the security of the countries. 

Considering all the facts and theories, Railton said that this matter would take time to solve; it cannot be solved with the presence of partial truths. He also said that there had been partial confirmation there, and the only possible road to move forward is increased transparency. 

An investigation was opened by the European parliament into the use of Pegasus in the European Union, primarily intended to focus on Poland and Hungary. The list of various Catalans that were allegedly hacked into also included certain members of the European parliament. 

Breaking into someone’s phone digitally with Pegasus has been denounced and reported in various countries. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, was also known to have been included in the list of the state heads suspected by Amnesty International to be targeted the previous year.  

Sheldon Wong

Sheldon was a contributor on DMR. He has since left the team to pursue his career in the Insurance industry.