Spain’s spy chief was sacked over the Pegasus case. Paz Esteban, the spy chief, was fired after it was revealed that he used Pegasus software to spy on Spanish politicians. According to the rights group Citizen Lab, more than 60 people associated with the Catalan separatist movement were targets of spyware developed by Israel’s NSO Group.
According to the country’s defense minister on Tuesday, the Spanish government has removed its intelligence head, Paz Esteban, amid a double phone-hacking scandal involving Pegasus software.
Esteban’s National Intelligence Center (CNI) has been under fire for reportedly spying on Catalan independence leaders with Pegasus, a program manufactured by Israel’s NSO Group.
Citizen Lab, a Canadian digital rights organization, disclosed last month that Israel’s NSO Group used Pegasus malware to target more than 60 Catalan separatists.
As a result, Catalonia’s pro-independence socialist ERC, a key supporter of the Spanish minority administration, has threatened to withdraw its backing unless Madrid takes steps to restore trust.
The Spanish government recently announced the presence of Pegasus spyware on the phones of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Defense Minister Margarita Robles.
When announcing Esteban’s retirement, Defense Minister Margarita Robles admitted to making mistakes. “Of course, security concerns exist and will continue,” she told reporters. “It’s one of the costs of technology.” Since the digital rights organization Citizen Lab revealed last month that the spyware had targeted more than 60 persons associated with the Catalan separatist movement, the leftist coalition government has been challenged to explain when and why Pegasus was deployed.
Despite the fact that the committee where she testified was closed to the public, MPs present reported that Esteban admitted to wiretapping 18 pro-independence politicians, but only with a court warrant, as required by law.
Although the administration has stated that it is reviewing the charges, the government’s anxiety over the hacking of the prime minister’s cell phone has grown.
The ERC’s head, Oriol Junqueras, who was imprisoned for his role in the Catalan separatist attempt but later pardoned by the current Socialist administration, said his party would back the government again provided “responsibilities were assumed.”
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