Spain complicit in US spying, reports ‘El Mundo’
Spanish spy chief called before Congress for explanation over latest allegations
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy told parliament he takes the media reports on spying “very seriously”. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters
Reports that Spain’s own intelligence services were involved in spying on phone calls by the country’s citizens have led to the national spy chief being called before Congress to give an explanation.
El Mundo newspaper reported yesterday that Spain’s own CNI intelligence service had “allowed and/or helped” the United States to carry out its spying practices in the country.
The newspaper article, co-written by US journalist Glenn Greenwald and an El Mundo reporter, cited documents obtained by former CIA analyst and whistleblower Edward Snowden.
“The intrusion of the US intelligence services in the life of millions of Spaniards was due more to the co-operation between the two countries than to an abuse of North American power,” the article says.
This follows a report published on Monday by the same newspaper accusing the US security agency, the NSA, of spying on 60 million phone calls in Spain over a one-month period between December 2012 and January 2013.
On Tuesday, the head of the US’s NSA security agency, Keith Alexander, told a US congressional hearing that recent media reports claiming his agency had carried out widespread espionage in France and Spain were false. Both countries had gathered their own data, he said.
Yesterday, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy told parliament he takes the media reports “very seriously”, adding that CNI chief Félix Sanz Roldán will appear before a closed-doors congressional committee. Gen Sanz Roldán had told reporters on Tuesday that the CNI “always works within the law”.
The US ambassador to Spain was summoned before a senior foreign ministry official on Monday but did not offer any new information. Yesterday, foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo suggested Madrid is still expecting clarification from the US authorities and political pressure is mounting on the Spanish government.
“If [Washington] has done things that affect our government and our institutions, then we’re talking about disloyalty,” said Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, of the opposition Socialist Party. Other parties pressed the prime minister on whether he knew if Spain’s intelligence service had spied on its own citizens.
Mr Rajoy insisted his government will wait for full confirmation of the facts before acting.
According to the latest El Mundo report, Spain forms part of a second tier of 20 countries, mainly in Europe, which offer “focused co-operation” to the NSA. The top tier of co-operating nations is made up of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
An article published by the Wall Street Journal yesterday, quoting an unnamed Spanish official, reported that intelligence co-operation between Madrid and Washington centred mainly on issues related to Mali, Afghanistan and the fight against jihadism.
Spain’s geographical position is seen as significant by security analysts, given its proximity to North Africa and the Atlantic. The NSA and the CIA both have offices in Madrid.