Relay at the CNI with a billiard ball

The Council of Ministers has dismissed the director of the National Intelligence Center (CNI), Paz Esteban López, after verifying the magnitude of the breach opened in the security of the communications of the Government of Spain approximately a year ago, at a very delicate relationship between Spain and Morocco against the backdrop of Western Sahara.

Relay at the CNI with a billiard ball

The Council of Ministers has dismissed the director of the National Intelligence Center (CNI), Paz Esteban López, after verifying the magnitude of the breach opened in the security of the communications of the Government of Spain approximately a year ago, at a very delicate relationship between Spain and Morocco against the backdrop of Western Sahara. The mobile phones of the President of the Government, the Minister of Defense and the Minister of the Interior were infected with the Pegasus program, and an attempt was made to interfere with the mobile phone of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, who was the Spanish ambassador in Rabat for seven years and who we can consider as one of the active Spanish politicians with the best knowledge of the neighboring country.

In a few words, the Chief Executive and all the ministers who at that time handled the Morocco dossier –including the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya– had a huge amount of information taken from their phones through the Pegasus program, a sophisticated Israeli software very difficult to detect. Theoretically, only a certain number of government agencies around the world have been able to acquire this program, always with the approval of the Israeli security apparatus. The CNI bought Pegasus a few years ago. And there is evidence that the security agencies of the Kingdom of Morocco have also had access to him. The breach in the security of the Spanish Government's communications has gone unnoticed for a year and has become known at the request of another case related to Pegasus. When the American weekly The New Yorker reported three weeks ago on the use of the Israeli program to spy on Catalan independence leaders and cadres, Moncloa made the decision to review the cell phones of the president and ministers. One Pegasus led to another Pegasus.

From Spanish official instances Morocco has not been pointed out at any time, since there is a lack of material evidence of the authorship of the espionage, but the director of the CNI has just lost her position. The denunciation of a Pegasus has allowed the discovery of another Pegasus. And the political consequences of this second case help to lessen the repercussions of the first, in a strange game of billiards. Paz Esteban has not been dismissed for spying on the Catalan independentistas –carried out with judicial cover in a certain number of cases–, but for the gap in the Government's communications. However, the change in the direction of the CNI tends to calm the demands of the Esquerra Republicana, which at the moment is no longer asking for the head of the Defense Minister.

Pedro Sánchez is moving away from a crisis of parliamentary confidence, but we would not dare to describe the tortuous process that has been followed to avoid it as exemplary. Other European governments that have suffered interference in their communications –France, for example–  have not aired it with great fanfare, while taking corrective measures. In Spain, an internal political crisis and a new diplomatic crisis with Morocco may have been avoided at the cost of disclosing weaknesses, when there are less than two months left before the NATO general assembly in Madrid. Not to mention that it is still unknown exactly who spied on the rest of the independentistas. A true renovation of the control mechanisms of the secret service from Parliament is pending, along the lines adopted by other European countries, as well as an update of the Official Secrets Law.


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