The Spanish Government reports that the phones of the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the Defense Minister, Margarita Robles, were infected with the Pegasus spy program last year. Pegasus developers say that the spyware is for government use only.
Félix Bolaños, Minister of the Presidency, said that Sánchez’s phone was attacked in May and June 2021, while Robles’s was attacked in June 2021. Bolaños said that the highest Spanish crook court, the National Court, will investigate the “illicit” and “external” activity.
He also said that the wiretaps must have come from external Spain because any such activity in Spain would have required the authorization of a judge.
Pegasus, sold by the Israeli company NSO Group, has been used to spy on dozens of Catalan independence activists, including the president of Spain’s northeastern region, Pere Aragonès, and three of his predecessors who led the region before him.
The Catalan regional government has targeted the country’s National Intelligence Center (CNI). The Spanish Ombudsman has also launched an investigation into the alleged persecution of Catalan activists by the CNI, which is part of the Government.
The Catalan president said in a statement: “Any political espionage is extremely serious. A few days ago we denounced the espionage, but the Spanish government did not give us any explanation. When it comes to massive espionage on Catalan institutions and the independence movement, everything was silence and excuses. With this, everything goes very fast. Responsibility must be cleared immediately. A thorough and independent investigation and accountability is urgently needed.”
NSO Group said in a statement that it would look into “any suspected misuse” of its software and would cooperate with any government investigation. According to a spokesperson, “we have not seen any information about this alleged misuse and we do not know the details of this case.”
NSO’s position remains: “Using cyber tools to surveil politicians, activists or journalists is a serious misuse of any technology, and goes against the intended use of these critical tools. NSO is a software provider; the company does not handle the technology nor is it aware of the data collected.” NSO Group claims that Pegasus is only sold to governments to track criminals and terrorists.
NSO Group was blacklisted by the United States three months after a group of journalists working with a French non-profit association called Forbidden Stories revealed that many journalists and activists had been hacked by foreign governments using spyware called NSO.
Illustration: Photographs by Pedro Sánchez and Margarita Robles: Wikipedia. NSO Group Logo – Website Screenshot (c) NSO Group.