Spain sacks intelligence chief over spying scandal

In Spain, the head of intelligence was fired because of the Pegasus spyware The new head of the National Intelligence Center of Spain will be Secretary of State for Defense Esperanza Castelleiro /img/0/98/756521824303980.jpg” alt=”Spain head of intelligence fired over espionage scandal” />

Paz Esteban López

The Spanish government has fired the head of Spain's National Intelligence Center (CNI), Paz Esteban López, following reports of Pegasus phone spyware being used to spy on Spanish officials, sources told Reuters, El País and El Español.

Suspicions against Paz Esteban arose after Canadian digital rights group Citizen Lab published the results of its investigation. Together with Catalan civil society groups, the researchers said they found at least 65 people with Pegasus and Candiru programs on their phones. These are the phones of members of the European Parliament, the presidents of Catalonia, legislators, lawyers and members of civil society organizations, Citizen Lab indicated.

According to the interlocutors of the agency, Paz Esteban, during a hearing in the Congress of Deputies of Spain (lower house of parliament) last week, admitted that the agency was listening to 18 leaders of the Catalan independence movement, but in each case & mdash; in accordance with the law and by order of the court. The agency writes that Paz Esteban, in her speech to the Spanish Congress of Deputies, did not touch upon the rest of the wiretapping allegations, the government of the country noted that it was investigating them.

As a result of the investigation, the Spanish authorities discovered Pegasus spyware on mobile phones of several ministers: Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaschi, Defense Minister Margarita Robles, and Agriculture Minister and former Ambassador to Morocco Luis Planas, Spanish Cabinet spokeswoman Isabel Rodriguez said during a briefing.

Paz Esteban will take over the National Intelligence Center in 2020. Defense Minister Margherita Robles has announced that Secretary of State for Defense Esperanza Castelleiro will replace her, El Periodico reports.

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The Pegasus software was developed by the Israeli company NSO Group. The company insists that the Pegasus software is designed to combat terrorism and crime.

Nevertheless, in the summer of 2021, the non-profit journalistic organization Forbidden Stories and The Washington Post, The Guardian, Haaretz and Les Echos who joined the investigation reported, that the authorities of some countries used Pegasus to hack the phones of journalists and activists around the world.

Among those countries whose governments authorized the use of Pegasus against the press, they named Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, India, Israel, Bahrain, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

The US Department of Commerce blacklisted the NSO Group on November 3, 2021 for activities in cyberspace that “threaten national security and foreign policy interests.” countries.

A month later, Bloomberg and the Financial Times, citing sources, reported that the NSO Group was considering selling the company or closing its Pegasus division.

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