Spain fears NSA is targeting communications data of its citizens

Summary:Authorities in Spain believe the NSA is spying on its citizens, following reports of similar surveillance in France.

Spanish authorities believe the US' National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting communication data in the country, echoing recent revelations about the NSA's activity in France.

According to a report in Spanish daily El Pais, the country's intelligence agency CNI suspects that the NSA has been trawling through millions of phone records, text messages and emails originating in Spain. While it is claimed the content of the phone calls was not recorded, El Pais says the caller, recipient, duration, location and length of calls were collected.

The recording of communication data was triggered by either a keyword or if a phone line had previously been targeted for surveillance. The El Pais report adds that CNI does not believe the NSA targeted politicians as it has done in Mexico and Brazil.

If these reports are correct it would seem that the NSA is targeting Spanish nationals for surveillance in a similar way to its operations in France. French newspaper Le Monde published leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden that claimed the NSA collected data from 70 million phone calls made in the country in just a 30 day period from December 2012 to January 2013. The NSA has subsequently denied these reports, calling them "false and misleading".

It would make sense that the NSA is monitoring communications in Spain as it is in France, if these accusation are proven. In August this year German news magazine Der Spiegel revealed that Spain and France were grouped together with Germany, Italy, and Japan in a list of countries where the US considers its surveillance efforts should be focused. 

Those revelations prompted Spanish authorities to demand clarification from its US counterparts over the NSA's activities in Spain. It is apparently still waiting for a response.

According to El Pais, Spain has pretty tough laws in place regarding accessing personal data. Authorities wishing to access an individual's communications data must obtain the permission of the Spanish Supreme Court and can only make the request as part of an investigation. 

There are however attempts to water down those laws, with authorities pushing for the right to install spyware on computers and mobile devices belonging to suspected criminals.

More on the NSA

Topics: Security, EU


Steve is a freelance journalist based in Madrid, specialising in technology and how it impacts businesses. His previous roles include web editor at Computer Business Review (CBR) and before that staff writer at a magazine that wrote about and sold collectable items.

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