Pulse between Moncloa and Defense for espionage on Sánchez’s mobile

The depth of the crisis caused by the ‘Pegasus case’ has no end for the Government. To increasing pressure from the independence movement and a United We Can, a coalition partner, which asks for responsibilities to be cleared up without delay and which already unequivocally demands the head of the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, has joined the derivative, capital, of the spying on herself and the president, Pedro Sánchez. And it has joined, too, and this is new, an internal mess, within the Executive itself. Fire friend. La Moncloa and Defense reproaches are exchanged, they look at each other and they hold the other responsible for the security of the cell phones of the members of the Cabinet and of the high positions. All this in a context of maximum tension, in the hours prior to the appearance of the director of the National Intelligence Center (CNI), Peace Stephenbefore the official secrets commission of Congress, which could be decisive for her future, because the spy chief could be the first political victim of the scandal.

This Wednesday, not only Esteban was at the apex of the controversy. Also the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Government, which until July 2021 was commanded by Félix Bolaños, who was then promoted to Minister of the Presidency. Why that one departmentof the General Secretariat, is the in charge to “lend the Communications Office service of the high positions of the General Administration of the State & rdquor ;. That is to say, the one that provides the mobiles to the members of the Government.

But is its mission also to ensure the security of the devices? That is the crux of the matter, which has caused the entanglement within the Executive. In Moncloa they say no, that they deal with “upgrades, maintenance, repairs or changes”, but that security protocols are the responsibility of the National Cryptologic Center (CCN)a body dependent on the CNI, and this in turn is organically ascribed to Defense.

That was the explanation that, in fact, was given first thing in the morning by the minister spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, in an interview on Onda Cero. Communications, she said, do depend on the General Secretariat of the Presidency, but cybersecurity is the responsibility of the CCN.

A little later, Robles went to Congress, to the Defense Commission, and at the entrance, when the journalists asked her who was responsible for the security hole that had allowed her and Sánchez to be spied on, she implied that they had to look at Moncloa, not at his department or at the CNI: “The advantage of a democracy is that everything is in the law, everything is in the rules and, therefore, there is no more than taking a minute of time and looking for things & rdquor ;. Already face to face in front of the groups, the minister defended the intelligence services and her director tooth and nail for putting up with “stoically” accusations (those launched by the independentistas and by United We Can) “that do not correspond to reality & rdquor ;.

“Clud” blame the CNI

Both from Defense and sources close to the CNI insist that it is the General Secretariat of the Presidency the one responsible for supplying the mobile terminals, and the one that actually installs the COMSec secure communications application, developed by Indra and endorsed by the CNI. “And from there, each ministry watches over the phones of its ministry, and if something strange is perceived in a sweep, they go to the CCN & rdquor ;, they explain to this newspaper, “but the CCN ex officio does not monitor everyone’s mobiles high positions, because I would not do anything else & rdquor ;. This is what happened with Robles, they continue: his team in Defense of him does “periodic sweeps” to your terminal, and it was a few days ago that they detected that you had been intruded by the Pegasus spyware in June 2021. Why did you find out a year later? “The technology it’s changing and the bad guys go ahead. What is not detected today may be possible in a month & rdquor ;, they relate. So “it’s common sense” that the cabinets of each minister are in charge of reviewing the devices, and therefore “it is crude & rdquor; blame the CNI and its director for the security breach.

This issue is not trivial because the continuity of the spy chief hangs in the balance. And if in Moncloa they point out that her mission is the “cyber security” and “counter-espionage & rdquor ;, ensuring that the president’s cell phone is not intercepted —“and that has nothing to do with COMSec, which only guarantees secure connections between those who have the application & rdquor ;—, in Defense they emphasize that it is unfair to launch that accusation: “They have ‘hacked’ the entire Pentagon, the CIA was confused with the day of the invasion of Ukraine, Washington could not foresee the Taliban advance… There are hundreds of types of ‘malware’ and they don’t come with an instruction manual. What has happened with the espionage to Sánchez or Robles it’s not a cybersecurity problem. It is when they ‘hack’ a website of a ministry, that of SEPES or that of the Armed Forces. Pegasus is a concrete infection to a device”.

In the Robles team they maintain that Esteban is a “straight woman who has always acted in accordance with the law & rdquor ;. And they remember, as the minister did before Pablo Echenique (United We Can), that the head of the CNI, as prescribes to article 1 of the law that regulates it, provides information “to the President of the Government and the Government of the nation & rdquor ;. That is to say, that he reports to Sánchez and the entire Cabinet and that although he depends on Defense, the one who will decide on his dismissal, if he arrives, will be the chief executive, and not the minister. They also stress that she is “totally loyal” to Sánchez and will “never” do anything that harms him.

Protocols and resources

Faced with the arguments launched from the CNI and Defense, in Moncloa deny any responsibility in the control of a possible espionage to the telephone of the president. Of course, they are technically in charge of Sánchez’s mobile, but that means ensuring that he is protected from possible hacks and with the necessary updated firewalls.

Moncloa takes care of computer security and, fundamentally, the shielding of the communications of the Executive, those that the president maintains with his ministers or with other leaders, with applications such as COMSec. There is a Information and Communication Technologies Unit, attached to the General Secretariat of the Presidency, which in turn hangs from the Cabinet of the Prime Minister, led by Óscar López. Above all, they deal with “managing the terminals and the operation of COMSec & rdquor ;, they explain from Moncloa.

However, they add, “the evaluation of risks and the definition of protocols” It is the work of the CCN. “We coordinate with them to develop everything they tell us, but they are the ones with the resources”. In fact, as this newspaper published, whoever acquires the Pegasus software, whoever acquires the Pegasus software, in this case it would be the CNI, also has a way to detect that they have been infected by this espionage program.

La Moncloa thus draws a very clear line between what it means to maintain, review and update the motive of the chief executive of the defense of the State against any threat, of whatever nature, which is the responsibility of the secret services. Own decree that regulates the CCN establishes, remember in the Sánchez Cabinet, that it must ensure “the security of the Administration’s information technologies & rdquor; and encryption.

Ultimately, a job global protection, which goes far beyond guaranteeing that the Prime Minister’s phone is in perfect condition. With the work of each department completely delimited, it is more difficult to understand why the socialist sector of the Executive has launched itself down this slope without brakes.

“external” agent

The “friction” or “piques” between Bolaños and Robles, which their entourages deny, are not new. Last week there was already a glimpse of some discomfort from Moncloa with the Minister of Defense because while the minister and the PSOE spokesman, Héctor Gómez, tried to keep ERC in the majority of the investiture and not to vote against the anti-crisis decree, she did not make a single concession to the independence movement.Her tone, the one she usually uses, last Wednesday in Congress, did not contribute to tend bridges at a time when Bolaños was fighting to obtain the validation of the royal decree law.

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What the crossing of reproaches in the last few hours means, very obvious to any observer, is climbing a new step, and it shows a certain nervousness, in case the president finally decides that someone should pay for this security breach on his mobile and the theft of data by an “external” agent & rdquor; and “illicit”. This sacrifice – the most likely is that of the director of the CNI – would seek to calm the anger of ERC, which is pursuing a culprit for the alleged espionage to which he is charged, the so-called ‘Catalangate’. Although government sources also warn that It is not convenient to “fall into the trap of the independentistas & rdquor;.

Everything is left this Thursday in the hands of the information that Esteban provides in the official secrets commission, both from the surveillance of the independence movement on what documentation will provide, and from the interference, in May 2021, on Sánchez’s phone, at the worst time of the diplomatic crisis with Morocco. The Robles-Bolaños pulse could be decided by the director of the CNI herself by clarifying whose responsibility it is.

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