The affair of espionage via the Pegasus software of the Israeli manufacturer NSO in Spain has caused a lot of ink to flow, to the point of having differences of opinion within the government and the Iberian political parties themselves. If the Spanish press seems to want to designate Morocco as guilty, this is not the opinion of several officials. What is behind this case?
While the Spanish press is looking for an external culprit to divert attention from the background of the Pegasus spy case in the country, which seems to be an internal problem, the politicians are more down to earth. But dissonances between the government and the political parties as well as the Spanish institutions are strongly present.
“The government has verified facts, this is what we realize, an outside attack outside the state media and illegal, without judicial authorization”, was carried out as part of the Pegasus spyware espionage which touched the phones of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, and Defense Minister Margarita Robles, according to executive spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez.
Iberian media at war with Morocco
In a press conference after the Council of Ministers, the spokeswoman for the executive, added that she was only aware of the espionage of the president and the Minister of Defense, brushing aside the new names which have been quoted by the Spanish press.
Indeed, Spanish media have cited former Foreign Minister Arancha Laya Gonzales and Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska as other victims of the Pegasus. And this version has been denied by the Spanish government, which has indicated that it has not received any report on ex-minister Laya. And the Minister of the Interior himself denied having been the target of espionage.
The mention of these two names by the media is not insignificant. It refers to the case of Brahim Ghali who had created a major diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco for 10 months. Laya is the one who orchestrated the illegal and secret entry of the leader of the separatist militia into Spain and Fernando Grande Marlaska was strongly opposed to it.
And it would seem that the Iberian media, which have not swallowed the pill of reconciliation between Rabat and Madrid and the change of position on the Sahara affair, are trying to blame Morocco in order to put pressure on the Spanish executive withdraws. This is what several Iberian press titles seemed to want to indicate.
Their reasoning starts from certain observations, in particular the date of the infection of the telephones of the members of the Spanish government which is close to the date of entry of Brahim Ghali in Spain, and of the diplomatic crisis with Morocco.
The Spanish press also found a way to implicate Morocco as accusations of spying on French President Emmanuel Macron via Pegasus had created a tidal wave in the press in France.
Later, the head of Israeli diplomacy, Yair Lapid, announced that he had given assurances to the presidency of the Republic that Emmanuel Macron had never been spied on, thus throwing all the theories and accusations against Morocco into the water. .
Moreover, if this reasoning had to be followed, Germany would also have had to accuse Morocco of espionage via Pegasus, since Rabat was in a diplomatic crisis with this country at the same time as that triggered with Spain.
“Morocco, after having categorically denied its possession of the Pegasus software previously, and after having recourse to European justice against those who targeted the interests of the kingdom, is no longer concerned by such propaganda whose authors who seek to feed it to accelerate its spread,” a Moroccan official told MoroccoLatestNews on condition of anonymity.
The Spanish Minister for the Presidency, Félix Bolaños also cleared Morocco of the accusations, answering a question asking him if the Spanish government suspected Morocco. “I don’t think I can talk about a country, an institution or uncontrolled elements, we have no information about it,” he said.
Political parties do not accuse Morocco
Apart from the Spanish government which did not accuse Morocco, even the virulent opposition did not incriminate Rabat. The head of Vox, Santiago Abascal, does not seem to adhere to the thesis of espionage. He contented himself with saying that if “this espionage really existed”, the trail of Morocco would only be one more hypothesis”.
For its part, the Podemos party, also known for its anti-Moroccan positions, considered that Morocco had no interest in spying on Catalan separatists who are at the heart of this espionage affair which broke out a few days ago. in Spain.
Indeed, some sixty active separatist members denounced having been the target of mass espionage via the Pegasus software, pointing the finger at state espionage at the level of Spanish intelligence institutions.
To calm the affair, the Spanish executive announced at the start of the week that it had itself been targeted by Pegasus, in particular the head of government Pedro Sanchez. “What interest does Morocco have in spying on people from the independence movement in Spain? “said Pablo Echenique, the spokesman for the deputies of Podemos.
“We have seen how uncontrolled cells in the state sewers have spied on those they consider enemies of the country,” he said, referring to the Spanish intelligence services (CNI) who spied with Pegasus the Catalan separatists.
Finally, the Popular Party, already bogged down in espionage cases in the past, also evaded the reference to Morocco. “We were surprised to learn today that in 2021 the phone of the president (of the government) and the minister of defense had been spied on,” said Ablerto Feijóo, noting in passing the timing of the revelation of this affair which occurs at the same time as the affair of the Catalan separatists.
Suspicious refusal to investigate this spying
Another surprising element in this case is that the political parties, including the opposition, refused to allow a parliamentary inquiry to do investigative work to find out the real culprits. It was the deputies of the PSOE (ruling party), the Popular Party, Vox and Ciudadanos who voted against.
And the reason for this refusal can be explained by very common espionage cases between politicians in Spain. They are far from being unpublished or new and have nothing scandalous about them.
“I was the victim of this espionage up to five times,” said the former president of the Community of Madrid, a former PP activist, Ignacio González, who points the finger directly at his party. Moreover, it was a case of espionage that caused the dismissal of the leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, who was replaced quite recently by Ablerto Feijóo.
In 2008, the newspaper El Pais revealed that officials from the Community’s Interior Ministry had spied on the then Deputy Mayor, Manuel Cobo, and Alfredo Prada, Minister of Justice and Second Vice President of the executive of Esperanza Aguirre.
“I know that there are people from other parties, especially from the PSOE, who have been victims of espionage,” said Ignacio González.
For her part, the MEP, Diana Riba, member of the Catalan independence party ERC, declared in an interview with Publico that she was certain that it was the Spanish government which had spied on the Catalan independence activists.
“More than a hunch, it’s almost a 99% certainty that it was the Spanish state” behind this spy case. “I can’t imagine any other state that is interested in what is happening in these 65 mobiles, which have a common denominator: that we are separatists. No other government in Europe is so interested in us,” she added.
For her, the announcement by the Spanish government which indicates that the phones of Pedro Sánchez and Margarita Robles were infected with Pegasus in May 2021 and which was only made public after the outbreak of the espionage case Catalan separatists, would be a kind of diversion.
“It is clear that you do not know that you have been spied on overnight. What they are trying to do is create a smokescreen,” she said.