Spain to reform secret services after phone hacking scandal: PM | Political news

Pedro Sanchez is also promising a new law governing “classified information” after the phones of top politicians were hacked.

Spain will “strengthen judicial control” over its secret services following a scandal over the hacking of the mobile phones of senior politicians, according to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

The scandal erupted in April when it emerged that the phones of Catalan separatist leaders had been tapped by Spanish intelligence services.

It widened when the government confirmed that the phones of Sanchez and the defense and interior ministers were also targeted by an “external attack”.

The case sparked a crisis between Sanchez’s minority government and the Catalan independence party ERC.

Sanchez’s fragile coalition is relying on the ERC to pass laws in parliament and stay in power until the next general elections scheduled for the end of 2023.

“It is a question of strengthening the guarantees of this control but also of ensuring maximum respect for the individual and political rights of people,” Sanchez declared Thursday in Parliament when announcing the reform.

Sanchez also said the government will pass a new law governing “classified information”, which will replace existing legislation passed in 1968 under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

“We must urgently adopt regulations in line with democratic and constitutional principles,” he said.

Spy agency chief sacked

Last month, the government sacked the head of the Spanish intelligence agency CNI, Paz Esteban, over the hacking scandal. She was the first woman to lead the agency.

His dismissal came after he told a parliamentary committee that 18 Catalan separatists, including Pere Aragones, the head of Catalonia’s regional government, had been spied on by the CNI, but still with court approval.

Esteban was the first woman to lead the Spanish spy agency [File: Juan Carlos Hidalgo/EPA]

Canadian cybersecurity watchdog Citizen Lab said in April that the phones of more than 60 people linked to the Catalan separatist movement had been exploited using spyware Pegasus after an attempted spy failed. independence in 2017.

The scandal escalated after the government announced on May 2 that the phones of Sanchez and Defense Minister Margarita Robles were hacked by the same spyware, made by the Israeli group NSO, in May and June 2021. .

Sanchez is the first sitting government leader confirmed to have been targeted by the controversial Pegasus spyware.

The government later said Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska’s phone was also among those hacked last year.

The revelations have raised questions about who is to blame and whether Spain has adequate security protocols.

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