Pedro Sánchez announces a reform of the legal control regulation of the National Intelligence Centre (CNI) to strengthen its guarantees

President's News - 26.5.2022

Lower House of Parliament, Madrid

The President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, appears in the plenary session of the Lower House of Parliament | Foto: Pool Congreso

In his appearance before the plenary session of the legislative chamber to report on espionage through the 'Pegasus' computer programme, Pedro Sánchez stressed his commitment to democratic regeneration, exemplarity and the fight against corruption. He assured that in the current stage there is no edict "to appropriate public money" nor permission to create "parallel policing" to persecute rival parties. "With this government, the Constitution is defended with the methods authorised by the Constitution and without violating the Constitution," he said.

The President added that the political action of the Executive is guided by the principles of transparency, "unconditional" collaboration with the justice system and the rest of the State powers, and the strengthening of public services, both the pillars of the welfare state and the security of all citizens.

Security, he said, requires discretion and confidentiality, which should not be confused with opacity or the violation of fundamental rights. Information affecting national security is subject to the control of the courts, Parliament and other institutions, including the Ombudsman, Sánchez explained. He remarked that the government sets the priorities in terms of risk in this area, "but it neither knows nor decides on the operational decisions of the intelligence services, which are always submitted to the final decision-maker, which is the judicial authority that has legally established control".

Report on 'Pegasus' and mobile devices

Regarding the infiltration of the mobile devices of pro-independence politicians and Catalan activists and several members of the government, including himself, by means of spying software, the president stressed that these attacks have been seen for years in many neighbouring countries.

"It is a fact that there has been a breach of security in the procedures that were supposed to protect the confidentiality of communications. And as such, we identified it and brought it to the attention not only of the justice system, but also of all citizens, far from any attempt to hide it", he said.

Pedro Sánchez at the beginning of his appearance in the plenary session of the Lower House of Parliament | Foto: Pool Congreso

The President reviewed the actions undertaken to clarify this matter, including internal control by the CNI, presentation of the conclusions to the Commission on Official Secrets, and the Ombudsman's own-initiative investigation, reiterating that "any request for declassification made by the judges" in this regard will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

In his speech, Sánchez advocated differentiating "information with solid evidence" from "simple conjecture" and recalled that the report by the interdisciplinary laboratory Citizen Lab on espionage recognises the impossibility of conclusively attributing it to a specific entity. The Ombudsman's report concludes that the CNI's action was carried out in full compliance with the law. "The government is fulfilling its duty to preserve the constitutional order, with the instruments granted to it by the Constitution. Nothing outside the law, everything in accordance with the law," Sánchez said.

Furthermore, the President stressed his "unwavering commitment to dialogue as the only way to overcome the Catalan political conflict", and regretted that this event had undermined the political and institutional trust between governments and had hindered the dialogue between the different parties, "which is producing such effective results" in improving coexistence in Catalonia. Sánchez has expressed his commitment to resume the "agenda for reunion", framed in the Constitution to consolidate harmony in Catalan society.

Regulatory developments and budgetary commitments

In his appearance, the president detailed various Executive initiatives to improve security, such as the incorporation of 10,000 police and Civil Guard personnel, the increase in agents' salaries, a €600 million infrastructure plan and the National Cybersecurity Plan , "an ambitious roadmap" for both the public and private sectors.

Pedro Sánchez during his appearance in the plenary session of the Lower House of Parliament | Foto: Pool Congreso

Pedro Sánchez also defended the need to proceed with the "updating, modernisation and new regulation of state security and cybersecurity", regulatory advances that must be accompanied by budgetary commitments and greater coordination in cybersecurity matters.

With regard to the regulatory framework for intelligence services, he announced two legislative initiatives. First, the government will approve a new law on classified information, which will replace the current one, passed in 1968, to adapt the law to democratic and constitutional principles and higher international standards.

And second, the Executive will reform the Organic Law Regulating Prior Judicial Control of the CNI, in line with the Ombudsman's recommendations. The aim, he said, is to strengthen the guarantees of this control, as well as to ensure maximum respect for individuals' political and individual rights. In addition, considerations made by the European Parliament on state-of-the-art communications interception technologies will be taken into account.

The president said that the updating of the National Security and Cybersecurity Strategies will complete this updating of the CNI's procedures for dealing with new threats and preventing new security breaches.

Non official translation