The telephone number of the president of the Generalitat de Catalunya, Pere Aragoneswas spied on through the Israeli Pegasus cyber espionage system, as detailed on Monday The New Yorker based on organizational research data Citizen Laba group of cybersecurity experts from the University of Toronto. According to the publication, more than 60 phones belonging to Catalan politicians, lawyers and activists have been tapped with this program, including former presidents Quim Torra and Artur Mas or collaborators of former president Carles Puigdemont, such as his lawyer Gonzalo Boye. They also reveal that the phone number of the ERC MEP Jordi Sole was intervened by the program during the mandate of Mariano Rajoy.
The report has uncovered the names of 65 politicians and members of Catalan civil society who were victims of espionage through the Pegasus program. In addition to the presidents of the Generalitat, leaders or former leaders of the ANC and Omnium Cultural What Elisenda Paluzie, Jordi Sanchez or Marcel Mauriin addition to some thirty members of JxCat, ERC and the CUP. Basque pro-independence leaders such as Arnaldo Otegi. Citizen Lab points out that there are “links” between this espionage and the Spanish Government.
a long list of names
The definitive list and the relevance of the positions that are now known is extensive. All pro-independence MEPs have been the target of cyberespionage, either directly, as Toni Comin, Diana Riba and Jordi Soléor through friends and family, as in the case of Clara Ponsati and Carles Puigdemont. The case of Sànchez is curious, since the first infection attempt occurred through a text message in 2015. It is the first case detected by Citizen Lab, since a good part of the investigation focuses on attacks produced between the years 2017 and 2020. In this period, Sànchez received at least 25 more messages.
The list of victims made public by Citizen Lab includes numerous members of independence parties. From the ERC environment there are names like Josep Maria Jové, Marta Rovira, Meritxell Serret, Sergi Sabrià or Xavier Vendrell. In total, there are 12 ERC members counted as victims of espionage, the majority group, followed by 11 from JxCat and four from the CUP.
Among these names stand out Albert Botran, Carlos Riera or David Fernández, of the CUP. JxCat’s figure Albert Batet, Elsa Artadi, Meritxell Budó, Miriam Nogueras, Josep Costaor the current president of the Parliament of Catalonia, Laura Borraswho, according to Citizen Lab, was attacked while she was a deputy in Congress.
Citizen Lab points out that there are “links” between this espionage and the Spanish government led by Mariano Rajoy
The ex-advisor of Artur Mas was also a victim of cyberespionage, David Madi; the general secretary of the Nationalist Party of Catalonia, Marta Pascal; David Bonvehí, Ferran Bel and Marc Solsona, of the PDCAT; the former deputy of Podemos, Albano Dante Fachin; as well as the leaders of Bildu, Arnaldo Otegui and Jon Inarritu.
Another sector that has been targeted by Pegasus cyberespionage has been the lawyers linked to strong men in the process, such as Gonzalo Boye either Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, close to Puigdemont; as well as Andreu Van den Eydefrom the orbit of Oriol Junqueras and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya.
The list of victims is, according to the researchers themselves, “surprising”, but due to the technological difficulties involved in carrying out the work, they suspect that the total number of cyber espionage targets could be “much higher”. The Catalan case is, in fact, “the largest of all the investigations” of the organization that, for example, counted 35 victims in an investigation on Al Jazeera or 35 in another on El Salvador.
Aragonès: “It’s an unjustifiable shame”
Aragonés has been forceful when charging against this espionage activity regarding independence political forces and their environment. In a long Twitter thread he demands explanations from the Government and assures that “the massive espionage operation against the Catalan independence movement is an unjustifiable shame”. ERC has already announced an appearance in Brussels to explain various initiatives at the international level to denounce this attack on fundamental rights.
The Pegasus program, designed by the Israeli company NSO, allows you to listen to conversations, read messages, access the hard drive, take screenshots, check the browsing history and even activate the camera and microphone of mobile phones by remote control. This is a program that supposedly only governments and security forces and bodies can acquire to combat crime and terrorism.
In its day, the interception with the same espionage system of the mobile phone of the ERC leader, the current Minister of Business and Labor Roger Torrentwhile he was president of the Parliament and the leader of the republicans in the Barcelona City Council,Ernest Maragall.
In this sense, Citizen Lab’s investigation “suggests” that the Spanish government has used Pegasus and the founder of the application himself admits that the use of the technology by Spain is “legitimate”. In any case, the espionage of the Catalan independence movement through this technology would be “the largest documented”, according to The New Yorker.
Amnesty International demands explanations
Amnesty International believes that “the institutions of the European Union are failing in their duty to put an end to widespread human rights violations committed with spyware.” This was stated by the entity this Monday after having independently confirmed the new attacks revealed by the US media.
The entity has once again asked for explanations about the use of this program, as it did in 2020, although its claims remained unanswered. “The Spanish government must clearly state whether or not it is a client of NSO Group. In addition, it must carry out a thorough and independent investigation into the use of Pegasus spyware against the Catalan figures identified in this investigation,” he said. likhita banerjiResearcher at Amnesty International on Technology and Human Rights.
Similarly, Banerji has called on the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry “to leave no stone unturned in documenting human rights violations facilitated by illegal spyware, including investigating these new revelations.”
“Governments around the world have not done enough to investigate or stop human rights violations caused by software invasive spy like Pegasus. The use, sale and transfer of this surveillance technology must be temporarily stopped to prevent further human rights abuses.”