The judge of the National Court José Luis Calama, who is investigating the alleged infection of the mobile phones of President Pedro Sánchez and three members of his Government with the software spy Pegasus, has agreed to take statements as witnesses from two of those affected, the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, and the Defense Minister, Margarita Robles. Before questioning them, the magistrate will address a request to the Council of Ministers so that it declassifies “the issues, acts, documents, information, data and objects, declared secret or reserved and that could be affected by said testimonies.” After this summons, only Pedro Sánchez and Luis Planas remain, for the time being, outside of this investigation.
This summons comes after the recent taking of a statement, also as a witness, by the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, who accepted the possibility of replying in writing. Bolaños answered nine questions from the judge and three from the chief prosecutor of the National Court, Jesús Alonso, although, according to sources familiar with the content of the answers, he did not provide relevant news. The minister hid behind the fact that his functions are political and he does not know the technical details about the security of communications, which he made fall to the specialized personnel responsible for supervising the terminals of the president and the ministers.
Bolaños was called to testify, not in his current capacity as minister, but because of the position he held when the events occurred: that of Secretary General of the Presidency, a position he left in July 2021, just one month after the illegal interventions to the mobiles. As such, he was ultimately responsible for the Department of Technical and Legal Coordination. This body encompasses the so-called Information and Communications Technology Unit (UTIC) of La Moncloa, ultimately responsible for the security of the Prime Minister’s communications.
Calama opened the investigation into espionage on April 26, after the complaint filed by the State Attorney for the infection of the cell phones of the president and the Minister of Defense, and which was later expanded after also confirming the espionage of the terminal that he used Grande-Marlaska. The Government denounced this intrusion into the phones of Sánchez and his ministers in the midst of a political storm due to a report by Citizen Lab, a group of analysts linked to the University of Toronto (Canada), which claimed that 63 people related to the Catalan independence movement had allegedly been attacked with Pegasus.
The then director of the CNI, Paz Esteban, had to give explanations in Congress. Later, she was fired. Sánchez assured that her departure was due to “a failure in the security of the Government’s communications” and that, therefore, she had nothing to do with espionage on the secessionists. The alleged intrusions into the mobile phones of members of the Government occurred between May and June 2021, in the midst of a diplomatic crisis with Morocco due to Madrid’s decision to welcome the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Gali, in Spain to be treated for covid and coinciding with the massive entry of immigrants, many of them minors, in Ceuta.
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Already in his first resolution, the judge pointed to the existence of possible crimes of discovery and disclosure of secrets. In another resolution issued this month, the magistrate affirmed that the alleged theft of data from Government mobile phones was not only an issue that affected their privacy and opened the hypothesis that information that affected national security had been stolen. , as the Minister of Defense was among those affected. Subsequently, he ordered the CNI to preserve and make available to him the dump he made of the mobiles, considering that material may constitute key evidence to advance the investigations. Previously, Calama had already pointed out that, as a result of the investigations, “sensitive information, which may be legally classified” and that could “seriously compromise the security of the State” could be handled in the case.
While the case was secret, the magistrate sent a rogatory commission to Israel to request to travel to head a judicial commission to that country and take a witness statement from the CEO of the company that markets the Pegasus program, the company NSO Group. Likewise, he took statements as witnesses from the former director of the CNI and a secret service agent who signed the technical reports that the Government incorporated into the complaint that he presented for the alleged espionage. It was the testimony of the latter that caused the judge to call Bolaños to testify as a witness.
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