PanamaTimes

Friday, Mar 01, 2024

EU spyware probe has a problem: Spain

EU spyware probe has a problem: Spain

Lawmakers accused of ‘protecting allies’ by inviting criticized scholars to committee hearing.

Spain is proving the most troublesome country to probe in EU lawmakers’ ongoing investigation into spyware use around the bloc. 

The Iberian kingdom is the largest EU country where the use of hacking tools by governments has kicked off a major institutional crisis. 65 figures in the Catalan separatist movement were targeted, as well as Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Defense Minister Margarita Robles. As the scandal spiraled, the Madrid government sacked its intelligence chief and launched an investigation. 

European lawmakers involved in the special inquiry committee PEGA — named after the notorious Israeli-made spyware tech Pegasus — are investigating the use of spyware in Europe. In past months they visited key countries enveloped in crises, including Hungary, Poland, Greece and even Israel. But they have yet to secure a visit to Spain.

“Spain is the biggest spyware scandal in Europe ... However, there has not been any strong reaction from the PEGA inquiry committee," said Saskia Bricmont, a Belgian Greens lawmaker and member of the PEGA Committee.

Critics have pointed fingers to the European Parliament's two largest political groups for blocking scrutiny. On the one hand, the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) picked as its coordinator on the committee Juan Ignacio Zoido Álvarez, Spain's former interior minister in the period when some of the reported spyware security incidents on Catalan opposition were going on. On the other, the center-left Socialists & Democrats group (S&D) includes Spain’s governing party, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party. 


Spain's former interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido Álvarez

"The biggest political groups have been actively preventing further scrutiny for Spain and Catalonia," Bricmont said.

Zoido declined to comment. The S&D did not respond to POLITICO's questions in time for publication.

Now, a committee hearing about the Spanish crisis, scheduled for Tuesday, has added more fuel to the fire.

Renowned spyware expert John Scott-Railton, whose work has been fundamental in exposing the use of hacking tools across the world, pulled out over claims that the committee had invited speakers who promoted “conspiracy theories.” Those included Spanish academic Jose Javier Olivas and computer scientist Gregorio Martín, who, Scott-Railton argued, undermined respected research like his own and those of like-minded digital rights groups.

“We are in a globally recognized spyware crisis. Amplifying denialists distracts from much-needed solutions,” Scott-Railton told POLITICO. “As a researcher, I welcome debate and scrutiny, but lending credibility to disinformation is irresponsible.”


Members 'protect political allies'


The PEGA Committee last week withdrew its invitation to Olivas after a letter from Citizen Lab and other NGOs, as well as around a dozen researchers including from Google, warned that he and Martín are “non-credible.”

According to the letter, Olivas promotes “conspiracy theories” and false claims about researchers, spyware victims and institutions. Groups also criticized Martín, a Valencia University computer scientist, for his role as academic peer reviewer of a much-criticized paper on the Spanish spyware scandal titled “Uncovering the Citizen Lab — An Analytical and Technical Review Disproving Catalangate," which attempts to debunk research into the Spanish spying scandal but has been widely discredited by researchers in the field.

Olivas has hit back against the allegations, accusing some PEGA members of “colluding with a haphazard attempt of defamation against me,” in an email to MEPs seen by POLITICO.

Initially the Liberal group Renew Europe proposed Olivas, while the EPP invited Martín, according to two people with knowledge of the discussion who spoke on a condition of anonymity.

According to the two people, the committee agreed to ditch Olivas in favor of Andreu Van den Eynde, a lawyer who has been targeted with spyware, following a meeting on Tuesday last week. There wasn’t a majority to rescind Martin’s invite, however, the sources said. Martín is scheduled to speak at the hearing on Tuesday November 29, the program released Monday showed.

The biggest political groups "reduced the place of victims in the hearing to the bare minimum with only one targeted person, and are giving the floor to a known conspiracy theorist,” Bricmont said.

But other members of parliament voiced concerns that expert voices were being "censored."

In an email seen by POLITICO, Jordi Cañas Pérez, a Spanish MEP from the centrist Renew Europe grouping, said it was “very concerning … that a renowned scholar was censored and vetoed.” He echoed Olivas’ call for a full and transparent explanation for the rescinded invitation, with the backing of the S&D group, according to a person familiar with discussions. 

Martín could not be contacted for comment. The Renew group did not immediately respond to POLITICO's requests for comment. The Spanish government declined to comment for this article.

One key Catalan politician said the row over which experts to invite to the hearing means lawmakers are barred from probing Spanish politicians, including some MEPs, about their own role in the Spanish spying scandal. Alba Vergés i Bosch, acting president of the Catalan parliament, accused the largest political groups of “protect[ing] their political allies in Spain.”

Newsletter

Related Articles

PanamaTimes
0:00
0:00
Close
Apple warns against drying iPhones with rice
In a recent High Court hearing, the U.S. argued that Julian Assange endangered lives by releasing classified information.
Global Law Enforcement Dismantles Lockbit Ransomware Operation
Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has died at the Arctic prison colony
The President of Argentina Javier Mile does not fly private, he flies commercial, with the citizens he represents. And they LOVE him for it.
Bitcoin Reaches $50,000 for First Time in Over Two Years
Belo Horizonte: Brazil's Rising Carnival Hotspot for 2024
In El Salvador, the 'Trump of Latin America' stuns the world with a speech slamming woke policing after winning a landslide election
Tucker’s interview with Putin is over 50M views on X within the first 5 hours.
Finnish Airline, Finnair, is voluntarily weighing passengers to better estimate flight cargo weight
President Nayib Bukele has proudly announced El Salvador's remarkable achievement of becoming the safest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Former Chilean President Sebastian Piñera Dies in Helicopter Crash
This farmer seems to understand science a bit more than the event organizer, Klaus Schwab.
Facebook turns 20: From Mark Zuckerberg's dormitory to a $1trn company
The Coolest Dictator in the World" on the Path to Victory in El Salvador
Macron, France and fake news
Indian-Origin Man 'King' Arrested For Smuggling $16 Million Drugs Into US
Can someone teach Americans that not every person with slanted eyes is Chinese?
Europe's Farmers Feeding the People, Protesting Against Politicians Who Do Nothing for Their Country and Serve Only Themselves at Taxpayers' Expense
Paris Restaurant That Inspired 'Ratatouille' Loses $1.6 Million Worth Of Wine
Brazilian Police Investigate Bolsonaro's Son for Alleged Illegal Spying
Police in Brazil Raid Residence of Bolsonaro Associate Over Allegations of Illegal Spying
Border Dispute Escalates as Texas Governor Vows Increased Razor Wire
OpenAI Enhances ChatGPT-4 Model, Potentially Addressing AI "Laziness" Issue
The NSA finally acknowledges spying on Americans by acquiring sensitive data
Report Reveals Toxic Telegram Group Generating X-Rated AI-Generated Fake Images of Taylor Swift
US Border Patrol States 'No Plans' to Remove Razor Wire Installed in Texas
Bitcoin Experiences Approximately 20% Decline in Value
Klaus Schwab recently appointed himself as the Earth's "trustee of the future."
DeSantis Drops Out, Endorses Trump.
Nikki Haley said former President Trump is "just not at the same level" of mental fitness as he was while president in 2016.
Residents of a southern Mexican town set the government palace on fire in response to the police killing of a young man
Samsung Launches AI-Driven Galaxy S24, Ushering in New Smartphone Era
Judge Questions SEC's Regulatory Overreach in Coinbase Lawsuit
The Ecuador prosecutor who was investigating the television studio attack, has been assassinated.
Is artificial intelligence the solution to cyber security threats?
Vivek Ramaswamy suspends his US election campaign and endorses Trump.
Viral Satire: A Staged Satirical Clip Mistaken as Real Footage from the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos
The AI Revolution in the Workforce: CEOs at Davos Predict Major Job Cuts in 2024
Ecuador Reports 178 Hostages in Prison Gang Standoff
The Startling Cuban Espionage Case That Has Rattled the US Government
Two Armed Men in Ecuador, Dressed as Batman and The Joker Storm the Streets.
Armed Gang Raids Ecuadorian TV Station Following State of Emergency Declaration
Anti-Democratic Canada: Journalist Arrested for Questioning Canadian Finance Minister on Support of Terrorist Group
Ecuador's 'Most-Wanted' Criminal Vanishes from Prison
Mexican Cartel Supplied Wi-Fi to Locals Under Threat of Fatal Consequences for Non-Compliance
Border Surge Leads to Over 11,000 Migrants Waiting in Northern Mexico
Outsider Candidates Triumph in Latin American Elections
As Argentina Goes to the Polls, Will the Proposal to Replace the Peso with the Dollar Secure Votes?
Fatal Shark Attack Claims Life of Boston Woman Paddleboarding Near Bahamas Resort, According to Police
×