Spanish intelligence holds a grounded suspicion that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has combed through millions of phone calls, SMS messages and emails originating in Spain. The same sources and the government are also sure that the US surveillance network did not spy on Spanish politicians, as it did with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and former Mexican head of state Felipe Calderón.
In a report by French daily Le Monde, based on leaks from former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, it has been revealed that in a 30-day period from December 10, 2012 to January 8, 2013 the NSA collected data corresponding to 70.3 million phone calls made in France. In the majority of cases the content of the calls had not been recorded, but the caller, recipient, duration, time the calls were made and the location of the cellphones were.
Sources consulted believe that this is the modus operandi of the NSA, and that conversations are only recorded when a keyword is spoken or when a phone line has been previously targeted for attention.
In Spain, such is the protection afforded to the citizenry in terms of data privacy that the security services can only demand access to the records kept by providers in exceptional cases and as part of a police investigation. The national CNI intelligence agency can access such data in an investigation, but only if given the green light by the Supreme Court. Any other method of tapping people’s conversations is a crime. The State Prosecutor’s Council, an advisory body within the Attorney General’s office, has asked that the law be changed to allow prosecutors, the Tax Agency and copyright overseers to access private data without the go-ahead of a judge.
Spain's CNI intelligence agency can access such data, but only if given the green light by the Supreme Court
Last July, the secretary of state for foreign affairs, Gonzalo de Benito, relayed Spain’s concerns to Wendy Sherman, the under-secretary of state for political affairs, during a visit to Washington. Sherman simply responded that she would “make a note.”
On August 12, after Der Spiegel published an NSA document that placed Spain at level three of five in the US’s targeted countries (along with Germany, Japan, France and Italy), the Spanish deputy director for North America contacted the US embassy in Madrid to ask for “clarifications” regarding the NSA’s activity in Spain. The deputy chief of mission, Luis G. Moreno, replied that he understood Spain’s “preoccupation” but that it was a policy of the Obama administration not to comment on matters of security. Madrid is still waiting for its “clarifications.” The US embassy also declined to answer a question posed by EL PAÍS as to the activities of the NSA in Spain.