They had infiltrated the Spanish secret services. Madrid recently quietly expelled two American spies who had recruited two agents of the National Intelligence Center (CNI), the serious daily El Pais reported on Thursday. The Spanish agents recruited by Washington are accused of passing confidential information to the United States and have been arrested, the El Confidencial news site reported on Monday. Spain's left-wing government simply confirmed the existence of the case, without providing details.
Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez admitted on Tuesday, during an informal conversation with a group of foreign journalists, that the incident had caused tensions between Madrid and Washington, but assured that these had now disappeared, again without the slightest precision. According to the daily El País, "at least two U.S. agents assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, directly involved in the recruitment of CNI spies, have been quietly expelled from Spain."
U.S. Ambassador Summoned
When asked, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said it had "no comment" to make on the subject and did not wish to confirm or deny the newspaper's information. For its part, the Ministry of Defence, which oversees the CNI, had not responded by midday. The extreme discretion of the authorities, usual in espionage cases, was further increased by the unprecedented and delicate nature of the case, as the United States is a close ally of Spain.
According to El País, citing government sources, Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles summoned U.S. Ambassador Julissa Reynoso to demand an explanation, and her Foreign Affairs colleague José Manuel Albares telephoned the diplomat to express the Spanish government's unease.
The two Spanish agents were reportedly arrested in September, after the CNI discovered that they had access to confidential documents for which they did not have the required authorization. The nature of the information passed on to U.S. intelligence is unknown. U.S. officials also declined to comment.