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Paz Esteban, director of the National Intelligence Center (CNI), confirmed this Thursday in the commission of reserved expenses of Congress that the Spanish secret services spied on 18 pro-independence leaders, including the ‘president’, Pere Aragonès. According to several of the deputies present, Esteban provided documentary evidence that the punctures of the communications of these people were carried out after receiving the mandatory judicial authorization. The citizen lab report who discovered the ‘Catalangate’ raises the number of spies to 63, but Esteban said nothing about those other 45 people.

The committee meeting lasted for more than three and a half hours in the room Mariana Pineda, to which the ten deputies of the parliamentary groups agreed after having left their mobile phones outside. Everyone was able to consult the motivations to be able to intervene in the communications of those affected for more than 10 minutes. The parliamentarians saw the documents on those spied on and also the dates on which it was requested, something key especially in the case of the espionage of Aragonès due to the open dialogue stage with Sánchez in December 2019.

Nothing from Sánchez’s mobile

The session pivoted on the scandal of punctures against sovereignist leaders, activists and lawyers, and Esteban did not want to comment on the ‘hacking’ of Pedro’s terminals Sanchez and the Defense Minister, Margarita Oak treessomething that the Government denounced on Monday.

The explanation of the head of the secret services on the ‘Catalangate’ did not satisfy half of the ten deputies of the commission. The independence parties and United We Can The arguments were considered insufficient. and they continue to demand resignations and the creation of an investigation commission in which this matter is openly addressed. The PNV did not comment on anything. “I will only say that there is fabric to be cut”, slipped Aitor Esteban.

According to TV-3, among the 18 interventions requested by the CNI were Aragonès, Josep Lluís Alay and Jamie Matamalaboth of more direct environment of Carles Puigdemontand the regional deputy of the CUP Carles Riera.

Gabriel Ruffian (ERC), who left the meeting about 10 minutes before it ended and immediately went on TV-3, declared that Esteban had admitted spying on pro-independence leaders, but stressed that everything he had said had already been “filtered & rdquor; to the press in recent days, specifically that those spied on by the CNI were 18 people. “[Esteban] maintains that it has been to much fewer people than Citizen Lab has pointed out and [sobre el resto] basically points to two ways: one, a foreign nation or, two, State agencies that spy beyond their legal possibilities & rdquor;. Hours later, on Twitter, Rufián clarified that it had been his “interpretation”.

Also Paul Echenique (Unidas Podemos) implied that Esteban had not been able to offer information about the other 45 people included in the Citizen Lab list. “The CNI cannot report what the CNI does not know about. We are more concerned based on what he has told us, which is what the CNI knows & rdquor ;, he told the press.

Along the same lines, the PP spokesperson, Cuca Gamarrapointed out that the secret service had “judicial authorization” to investigate some of the 63 intervened, but that “does not mean that all of them have been investigated by the CNI”.

Miriam Nogueras (Together) and Albert Botran (CUP), whose cell phones were seized according to Citizen Lab, did not want to elaborate on what the spy chief said. Nogueras insisted on the need to request an investigation commission and Botran complained that he had not obtained “any guarantee & rdquor; that “65 independentists have not been spied on & rdquor ;.

The representatives of the PSOE, PP, Vox and Cs did consider Esteban’s explanations sufficient. Gamarra affirmed that the revealed information demonstrates that the CNI acts “in accordance with current legislation.” Cs and the far-right party are considering suing the pro-independence deputies “who have broken the secrecy of the commission.”

Continuity in the air

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Esteban, director of the center since February 2020 after holding the position for months on an interim basis, He is in a very delicate situation, with the pro-independence groups calling for his resignation for the supposedly massive espionage that Citizen Lab denounced to pro-independence leaders and also for the security breach that has allowed Sánchez and Robles’ phones to be infected by Pegasus. The Minister of Defense, on which the CNI depends, made a closed defense of Esteban on Wednesday.

The first woman in history at the head of the Spanish secret services, for whom she has been working for 40 years, “he has had to put up with stoically” accusations “that do not correspond to reality”, Robles stressed in the face of criticism from a large part of the groups that support the Executive, including Podemos, a member of the government coalition. “Are you afraid of his position?” Esteban was asked by the press when he arrived at the commission, but the question remained unanswered.

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