Friday, May 20

The European Parliament reviews the mobiles of MEPs after espionage on independence leaders

Review of mobile phones of MEPs in case they have Pegasus espionage software installed. This is what the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, has decided after learning of the espionage of Spanish pro-independence leaders, denounced by some of them, such as Carles Puigdemont and Oriol Junqueras, this Tuesday in the European Parliament, where a commission of investigation on espionage with Pegasus in different European countries, such as Poland, Hungary and Spain.

Brussels, on espionage on independence leaders: “We hope that the authorities restore the trust of citizens”

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Indeed, this Thursday the 705 MEPs received an email from the European Parliament in their inbox in which, at the indication of President Metsola and the institution’s Secretary General, Klaus Welle, “a new service for” is offered. check mobile phones and find out if they have the Pegasus spy system installed“.

The offer comes after learning that MEPs such as Carles Puigdemont (Junts), Diana Riba (ERC), Jordi Solé (ERC), Toni Comín (Junts) and Clara Ponsatí (Junts) have been spied on with this mechanism.

“Please note that the verification must be carried out in the presence of the owner of the phone,” the message says, adding that the review can be done in both Brussels and Strasbourg, and that the length of the analysis “depends on the amount of data stored on the phone, and it will be at least 30 minutes.”

“Depending on the result, a detailed security scan may be required,” the message says.

The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, takes the accusations related to espionage using Pegasus software “very seriously” and has “full” confidence that they will be investigated “thoroughly” by a new European Parliament commission, she said. this Tuesday to Efe his spokesman, Jüri Laas.

Investigation in the European Parliament

This Tuesday a commission has been constituted in the European Parliament to investigate the espionage of Pegasus, among others the one committed against independence leaders in Spain.

The commission will be dedicated to gathering information on the scandals and will listen to experts from entities such as Forbidden Stories, Citizen Lab or Amnesty International to prepare a final report with legislative recommendations at European level.

The president of the commission is the popular Dutchman Jeroen Lenaers, and one of his vice-presidents, the ERC MEP Diana Riba, one of the pro-independence leaders whose device was infected by Pegasus.

“Only in recent weeks have we seen more information, also the case of 65 politicians, including MEPs (…) There is much to investigate and we have a clear and strong mandate for it,” Lenaers stressed.

“The president takes all accusations related to the Pegasus spy program very seriously, and the European Parliament will ensure that everything is properly investigated,” Laas said, according to Efe. Metsola is “pleased” that the new parliamentary commission of inquiry into the Pegasus spy program has started its work, which is “very timely”, according to the spokesman, who added that Maltese politics has “full confidence” that this commission can conduct a “thorough investigation of allegations” of the use of Pegasus software for espionage purposes.

Brussels awaits reactions

It is a matter whose investigation depends on each State. But the European Commission “expects that the national authorities will thoroughly examine the allegations and restore the confidence of citizens.” This is how the Community Executive responds to questions from about the information related to the espionage of independence leaders in Spain with the Pegasus software, made by Israel and only available to Governments.

The European Commission is in regular contact with all Member States, although it insists that “the investigation of these issues is the responsibility of each EU Member State” and that “it has no role in the national investigation of the alleged illegal use of the spyware”.

At least 65 terminals of sovereignist leaders, their lawyers or family members were infected between 2018 and 2020 by the Israeli cyber espionage system Pegasus, according to Citizen Lab, a group of cybersecurity experts from the University of Toronto. Among those spied on are the telephone number of the president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, and his predecessors Quim Torra and Artur Mas, as well as Carles Puigdemont and close collaborators of the latter.

Pegasus is a powerful hacking and espionage tool that can turn your target’s phone into a recorder of all their activity. It is capable of remotely activating the microphone, camera or GPS at the attacker’s request and sending them everything they record, as well as accessing messages, photos or any file stored on the device. Independence leaders such as Roger Torrent or Ernest Maragall had already been spied on through this system.

The analysis of Canadian experts accounts for the magnitude of the espionage: at least 65 phones of Catalan politicians, lawyers and activists and those around them were spied on or tried to be hacked with Pegasus or other spyware. Canadian experts emphasize that never before have they encountered so many victims in an espionage case. The 65 spyware targets among pro-independence fighters far exceed previous reports of Al-Jazeera (36 victims) and dissidents in The Savior (35 victims).

Among those spied on are collaborators of former president Carles Puigdemont, such as his lawyer Gonzalo Boye or Joan Matamala, as well as one of his assistants in the European Parliament and his wife, Marcela Topor. In Boye’s case, his phone was attacked up to 18 times between March and October 2020, and in one of them the attempt managed to access the terminal.