Spanish Prime Minister’s phone ‘targeted by Pegasus spy’ | Spain

The Spanish government has said that the mobile phones of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Defense Minister Margarita Robles were both infected last year with Pegasus spyware, which its manufacturers say is only available to state agencies.

In a press conference hastily convened on Monday morning, Félix Bolaños, the minister for the presidency, said Sánchez’s phone was targeted in May and June 2021, while Robles ’was targeted in June 2021. Data was extracted from both phones.

Bolaños said the “illegal” and “external” targeting would be investigated by Spain’s highest criminal court, the Audiencia Nacional, adding that the targeting had to come from abroad because such monitoring in Spain would have required legal authorization.

“These facts have been confirmed and are irrefutable,” Bolaños said. “I don’t think now is the time to deal with an assumption or a guess as to what the motivation might have been.”

The phones of other members of the government are being examined to determine if they may have been targeted as well.

The allegations come as the Spanish government faces questions about how Pegasus – which is being sold by the Israeli company NSO Group – is alleged. was used to monitor dozens of members of the Catalan independence movementincluding the president of the northeastern Spanish region, Pere Aragonès, and three of his predecessors.

Last month, Aragonès told the Guardian that the alleged targeting, revealed by Citizen Lab’s cybersecurity experts, constituted a violation of individual rights, an attack on democracy and a threat to political dissent.

The Catalan regional government has pointed the finger at Spain’s National Intelligence Center (CNI), which insists that its operations are controlled by the supreme court and that it acts “in full compliance with the rule of law, and with absolute respect for applicable laws”.

The Spanish government has promised an internal CNI investigation into the alleged targeting of Catalan activists, while the Spanish public mediator has also opened an independent investigation.

Aragonès demanded that Robles – who controls the CNI as defense minister – resign, and his Catalan Republican Left party threatened to withdraw its support for the government in the national parliament.

The Catalan president said in a statement: “All political espionage is extremely serious. We reported on espionage a few days ago but received no explanation from the Spanish government. When it is mass espionage of Catalan institutions and the independence movement, everything was silence and excuses. With this, everything is moving very fast. Responsibility must be established immediately. A thorough, independent investigation remains urgent and responsibility must be taken. “

The NSO Group said in a statement that it would investigate “any suspicion of misuse” of its software, and cooperate with any government investigation.

“Although we have not seen any information regarding this alleged abuse and we do not know the details of this specific case, NSO’s firm stance on these issues is that the use of cyber tools to control politicians, dissidents, activists and journalists are severely abusing any technology and oppose the desired use of such critical tools, ”said a spokesman.

“NSO is a software provider; the company does not operate the technology nor is it private to the data collected. The company does not know and cannot know what the goals of its customers are, however it is implementing measures to ensure that these systems are used only for the authorized uses.

NSO Group claims that Pegasus is being sold only to governments to track down criminals and terrorists. A joint investigation two years ago by The Guardian and El País found that the president of the Catalan regional parliament and at least two other supporters of independence were warned that the spyware was being used to target them.

NSO group was put on the US blacklist in November 2021three months after a a consortium of journalists working with the French nonprofit group Forbidden Stories has revealed multiple cases of journalists and activists who have been hacked by foreign governments using the spyware, including American citizens.

The Guardian and other members of the consortium also revealed that the cell phones of Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and almost his entire cabinet appeared in a leaked list of individuals who were selected as potential targets of surveillance.

NSO said its spyware is being used by foreign government clients to target serious criminals. It also denied that any of its customers had ever targeted Macron or any French government officials.

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