Alberto D. Prieto, 2 May 2022
Isabel Rodríguez and Félix Bolaños, in the Moncloa press room. ADP
“These are external and unlawful attacks”, denounces Félix Bolaños. The State Attorney’s Office has filed a complaint with the Audiencia Nacional.
The Government has denounced the infection of the mobile phone of the President of the Government and the Minister of Defence “by an external and unlawful attack”. Pedro Sánchez’s phone has been infected by the spyware Pegasus on two occasions, in May 2021, and Margarita Robles’ phone on one occasion, in June of the same year.
In the first incursion “to the president’s official telephone”, Moncloa sources explain, “2.6 gigabytes of information were extracted”. And in the second, 130 megabytes. In the case of the Minister of Defence, the data theft was much smaller, “barely 9 megabytes”, these sources explain.
What the IT services of the Presidency and the National Cryptologic Centre do not know is what type of information was extracted – whether it was videos, photos, texts or documents stored on Sánchez and Robles’ terminals – or where it ended up. “We do know that they were external and illicit attacks”, said the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, at a press conference. In other words, “it was not any public institution and it was without judicial authorisation”.
The clarification is pertinent, but in reality diffuse. Moncloa did not want to “speculate” on whether the term “external” meant “foreign”. It has limited itself to explaining that “there is evidence of at least 50 countries where Pegasus has been used, and at least 20 in which it has been used illicitly against members of their governments”. Furthermore, they have clarified that “in a full democracy, such as Spain’s, this type of intervention can only be carried out with a court order, and this has clearly not been the case”.
Thus, “external”, in reality, means that it has not been the government that has investigated itself. “Nor any other state institution”, a Moncloa source has clarified… presumably because the government knows who has, or could have, access to Pegasus in Spain. Could it be a multinational? Moncloa did not want to rule that out.
And by “illicit” they mean that no one has gone to a judge to ask for Sánchez’s and Robles’ mobile phones to be tapped. Hence the complaint to the courts.
In other words, very little information. Nor has Moncloa given more detail to the questions referring to ‘the coincidence of dates with the public and internal debates within the Government on whether or not to grant pardons to the pro-independence leaders’, which ended up being granted on 22 June. However, it has been admitted that the “in-depth” review of the president’s and the Defence Minister’s mobile phones was carried out precisely because of the outbreak of the Pegasus case.
Neither Bolaños nor Isabel Rodríguez have answered because of the coincidence of dates with another intrusion into a government member’s phone, the one detected against the former Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo, at the same time… Campo was in charge of the pardon dossiers for the leaders of the ‘procés’. Only three weeks after they were granted, he was dismissed by the president during the government crisis of Saturday 10 July.
“Nothing is known”.
Despite the fact that these official terminals of members of the government are encrypted and “pass constant security protocols”, it has been almost a year since they were infected.
The security breach, with such a high volume of information stolen from Pedro Sánchez’s phone, worries the Presidency. Above all, because no one knows what has been taken, who it was, for what purpose, or to whom the extracted data has been handed over. “In other cases that we know of, it has not been possible to know where the information has gone… and almost never what kind of data was extracted”.
Now, Moncloa will go “one by one”, investigating those of the other members of the government, “and reporting with total transparency on what we find”. The process, the sources explained, “is very tedious”. It meant that the president was left “between 24 and 36 hours” without his phone, and that it was cloned “completely”.
It will also offer this service to “all public institutions”, as the leaders of the separatist parties demanded last week to the president of Congress, Meritxell Batet. The investigation was opened last week by the National Cryptologic Centre, according to Moncloa sources, and was confirmed this Sunday. “Minutes before the press conference, the State Attorney General’s Office filed a complaint with court number 4 of the Audiencia Nacional”.
On the day of the Community of Madrid, and with half of Spain on holiday due to the transfer to Monday of Labour Day, which was celebrated on Sunday with a few not very crowded demonstrations in the streets despite the economic crisis and the fall in employment, Moncloa urgently summoned the press for a press conference by the Minister Spokesperson and the Minister of the Presidency. Isabel Rodríguez and Félix Bolaños share a responsibility, the former’s Territorial Policy, which she coordinates with the latter for the convening and preparation of the roundtables for dialogue, negotiation and agreement with the Government of the Generalitat of Catalonia.
But the journalists arrived at Moncloa without prior information of any kind and with all government sources blinded, without answering even an outline of the reasons for coming to the Executive’s headquarters at 9.30 a.m. on a public holiday.
The date coincided with the celebrations of the day of the Madrid region and a multitudinous event at the Puerta del Sol headquarters, with Isabel Díaz Ayuso in the midst of a campaign to promote her (sole) candidacy for the leadership of the Madrid PP.
Also with the week in which, on Wednesday, the Minister of Defence will appear before the Congressional committee to report on (what she can) about the Pegasus case… and Spain’s contribution to the defence of Ukraine in the face of the invasion war ordered by Vladimir Putin.
Or with the constitution of the commission on secret expenses (known as “official secrets”), which for the first time includes representatives of Bildu and the CUP. This Friday, the director of the CNI, Paz Esteban, will go there to (yes, she will) explain what is needed about the alleged spying on Catalan and Basque pro-independence leaders and activists.