Laura Fàbregas, 24 April 2922
The pro-independence movement hid the author of the espionage report to give it credibility|Marc Puig
The ‘Catalangate’, a set-up.
The ‘Catalangate’ campaign was created by Òmnium Cultural and the ANC four months before The New Yorker’s report on the report.
The information on Pegasus published exclusively by The New Yorker magazine on the report christened ‘Catalangate’, by the University of Toronto, on the alleged spying on 59 Catalan pro-independence supporters, identifies the Catalan computer scientist Elies Campo as the main author of the report. However, Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont left him out of the press conference they organised in Brussels, which served to hold the government responsible for this espionage. The fact that the author of the academic report has obvious links to the pro-independence movement and that his name appears among those spied on – being both judge and party in the matter – damaged the impartiality of the investigation.
Instead, John Scott-Railton, senior researcher at Citizen Lab, the University of Toronto laboratory that conducted the investigation, intervened remotely from Toronto. As was observed at the press conference, Scott-Railton did not know many of the details of the report and was unable to answer a journalist’s question about whether other politicians who had been spied on outside the Catalan nationalist sphere had been contacted.
The reason for his ignorance is that the actual author of the report is Elies Campo. In this type of academic work, the coordinator’s signature appears first, although his contribution may be residual. For the pro-independence movement, however, the presence of an international researcher like Scott-Railton was more useful than that of Elies, who has contacts with pro-independence leaders and collaborated with Acció, the Generalitat’s agency for business competitiveness, in 2020 as a participant in a colloquium on Silicon Valley.
Linked to pro-independence
The Catalan computer scientist is linked to pro-independence – as can be seen on his Twitter account – and various pro-independence figures have claimed his role. The president of the Assemblea Nacional Catalana, Elisenda Paluzie, thanked Campo for his work from Brussels. In the same vein, the leader of Junts in Barcelona City Council, Elsa Artadi, also recognised the merit of the Catalan computer scientist in “uncovering” the case.
For this reason, his absence at the press conference in Brussels was surprising. Elies is committed to the secessionist cause and his technological knowledge was key to developing the investigation, but his profile was not the most suitable for the Government to place on the political and media agenda the alleged spying by the Executive on 59 pro-independence supporters and two Basque nationalist politicians between 2017 and 2020.
“In collaboration with Catalan entities”.
Another of the elements that has raised suspicions about the investigation carried out by Citizen Lab is that it specifies that the work has been carried out “in collaboration with Catalan civil entities”. According to the New Yorker, those affected gave up their mobile phones for the researchers to collect the data. For example, ERC MEP Jordi Solé gave Elies his phone to investigate.
However, this exclusive participation of entities from the nationalist circle may have vitiated the academic work by leaving aside whether authorities from other countries or people who are not pro-independence suffered the same type of practices on the part of the Israeli company. In this regard, the authors of the Citizen Lab report argue that, despite not being able to conclude who is behind these practices, there is “strong circumstantial evidence” of a “link with the Spanish authorities”.
Not having had access to data from other potentially affected parties, critics of the report argue that the independence movement may have monopolised the investigation to its advantage. Especially if its main author was an interested party.
The government of Pere Aragonès has also taken advantage of this pretext to ask for explanations from the government of Pedro Sánchez. As THE OBJECTIVE reported, Moncloa asked the CNI to investigate the main pro-independence leaders, but according to its version it was always in “accordance with the law”.
In fact, Puigdemont’s defence will present a score of lawsuits in five countries against NSO Group, owner of the Pegasus software, but none of them will be against the Spanish government or the CNI.
Campaign created by Òmnium four months ago
The collaboration with Elies and the Catalan pro-independence movement goes back a long way, and the times in which this alleged espionage has been promoted show that it is a carefully orchestrated operation. The Catalangate website was created on 10 January. That is, four months before the New Yorker published the report. Citizen Lab also made its work public on the same day as the report, 18 April.
According to El Triangle, the new portal was registered by the ANC and is hosted on the website dialogueforcatalonia.com, owned by Òmnium Cultural. This is proof that the pro-independence movement expected the conclusions of the report to respond to its interests, as it has focused on pro-independence supporters, and not on the rest of the politicians, journalists, etc. affected by Pegasus and Candiru.
In the same vein, the Twitter account Catalangate, which was created in 2012 and has been changing its name according to the campaigns that nationalism wanted to promote, published a video on the issue in less than 24 hours after the publication in the US magazine. An immediacy that is difficult to justify if part of the investigation and the impact it would have by being picked up by a foreign media was not known beforehand.
The video, entitled ‘Catalangate. They are watching us’, appeals to the feeling of grievance of the pro-independence movement against the state and bears similarities with the spots made by Oriol Soler, a businessman from the ERC orbit, such as ‘Help Catalonia’ to get Europe to intercede in the secessionist cause.