Sánchez announces change to increase court oversight of intelligence services

Spanish President denies State is behind Pegasus espionage against 65 independentistas

3 min

MadridSpanish president Pedro Sánchez announced today in Parliament that he will promote a change in the law that regulates the judicial control of the National Intelligence Centre (CNI), which dates back to 2002, to "ensure maximum respect for individual rights". Sánchez has made this announcement during his appearance in Parliament to give explanations over the Pegasus case, as requested by all other parties. Sánchez has used the opportunity both to criticise the PP and to defend his commitment to dialogue with Catalonia.

"The government will reform the law for judicial control of the CNI in line with the Ombudsman's recommendations and also taking into account the conclusions of the European Parliament in this matter", said Sánchez just after announcing that the executive will also present a new law on official secrets, a historical demand of parties such as the PNV. The law dates back to 1968, during Franco's dictatorship. At the same time, the Spanish president also advanced that the CNI's resources will be increased in order to be able to deal with cybersecurity threats.

Even so, the big offer to rebuild the bridges with the Catalan pro-independence movement is to change a law that now only establishes a single Supreme Court-appointed is responsible for authorising espionage. The PNV, for example, proposes that there should be three judges to authorise intervening communications.

The rest of Sánchez's speech did not offer any further news, but he defend the Spanish government's management of the crisis, furiously attacked the PP's instrumentalisation of institutions and insisted his policy of dialogue with Catalonia has given results. Regarding the use of Pegasus, Sánchez insisted that the CNI only spied on the 18 pro-independence leaders and after receiving a court authorisation, as admitted by the CNI. Among these would be the current Catalan president Pere Aragonès. This allegedly happened without the government's knowledge: "The government does not know or decide on the CNI's operational decisions. That might happen under a different government, but not this one. And I guarantee that it will not happen," he assured.

Sánchez has questioned the Citizen Lab report on the intrusion of the Pegasus programme on 65 Catalan and Basque pro-independence leaders' mobile phones and stressed that this Canadian institution states in its report on Catalangate it cannot be attributed to any specific institution. "The CNI requested permission from the judge to intervene phones owned by 18 of the people alluded to in the Citizen Lab report, not 65. It was done with full respect for the legislation in force and with well-founded reasons that made it necessary". He then stated: "There is no political cause, no reason of state that justifies the suspension of fundamental rights". The court order justified intervening then vice-president Pere Aragonès's phone because he was considered "coordinator" of the Committee for the Defence of the Republic.

The Spanish president has regretted that this scandal has "undermined" political trust from the Generalitat, and has insisted on his commitment to dialogue to resolve the "political conflict". "There has to be less judicialisation and more politics, but this will not be quick, it will need a lot of time and will not be without difficulties or misunderstandings such as those we are addressing, but it is no excuse. The problems that arise in dialogue will be solved with more dialogue", he concluded.

But Sánchez's main target has been the PP. The whole first part of his speech has been aimed at recalling their corruption cases and their instrumentalisation of the "patriotic police" to hinder judicial investigations and persecute political opponents. He cited, for example, the information about the false account in Switzerland of then CiU candidate for the Barcelona City Council, Xavier Trias.

Sanchez's explanations have not convinced ERC spokesman, Gabriel Rufian, who began his speech by posing a question: "What have you come here to do today?". Then, Rufián has raised some of the questions that the Spanish government has not answered. For example: "What threat did the current president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, present?". Or "What has been done with this information after none of them went to prison?". The ERC spokesman ended up starring in a clash with Unidas Podemos leader Jaume Asens, who had previously reproached ERC for the accusations against his party on account of spying during negotiations to form a government in Barcelona City Council. "I will respond with two words: Manuel Valls," concluded Rufián.