Spain’s National Intelligence Centre Chief Fired Over Phone-Hacking Scandal
© AP Photo / John ThysSpain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks on his cell phone during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Monday, July 20, 2020.
© AP Photo / John Thys
Earlier, the Spanish government revealed that the mobile phone of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, as well as that of the Defence Minister and Interior Minister had been infected with the Pegasus spyware.
The secretary-general of the country's National Intelligence Centre (CNI), Paz Esteban Lopez, has been fired amid a scandal over the hacking of mobile phones belonging to the prime minister and Catalan pro-independence leaders, Defence Minister Margarita Robles said.
The announcement comes in the wake of an investigation into two separate cases of the hacking of Spanish politicians' cell phones using Pegasus spyware.
The 64-year-old Esteban, who is the first woman to head the CNI in July 2019, reportedly said during a closed-door meeting of Spain’s parliament last week that her agency had legally hacked the phones of several Catalan politicians after receiving judicial permission.
Earlier this month, the Spanish government revealed that the mobile phones of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Defence Minister Margarita Robles and Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gomez had also been infected with Pegasus spyware by an "external" power.
Pegasus, which is owned by the Israel-based NSO Group, infiltrates mobile phones to extract data or activate a camera or microphone to spy on their owners. NSO Group has repeatedly insisted that it sells the software only to government agencies to target criminals and “terrorists”, with the approval of Israeli authorities.