MADRID-Washington relations are at risk of worsening after two spies were exposed for ‘passing information to the US’.
The Spanish Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, has complained to the US ambassador after the ‘hostile’ action against Spain’s intelligence services.
It comes after the shocking revelation that two Spanish agents were bribed for ‘secret’ information by US authorities.
The head of the National Intelligence Service (CNI) called the US ambassador, Julissa Reynoso, to her office to ask why such action had been taken between the allied countries.
The Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albares, is also said to have conveyed the Spanish government’s displeasure over the incident.
At least two American spies based in the US embassy in Madrid have been directly linked to the recruitment of CNI informants.
Both have been discreetly dismissed.
Investigations into the clandestine operations started this summer, when a CNI agent realised officers had accessed classified information which they were not authorised to view.
The probe came to a head two months ago, when it emerged that at least one of the agents had been offered a huge sum of money by US spies in exchange for intel.
The accused agents are an ‘Area Manager’ and their assistant, both part of the intelligence division.
Once the investigation was finished, Secret Service Director Esperanza Casteleiro brought the facts before the National Prosecutor’s Office.
The case was then moved to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Madrid High Court of Justice, where they studied the evidence before filing a complaint with the duty judge at Plaza de Castilla Magistrates Court.
This prompted the Spanish government to report the incident to US authorities, expressing their disbelief that an ally would encourage citizens to turn against their country.
According to El Pais, Spanish Intelligence sources cannot understand why the US would resort to such measures when information is freely given between allies.
In the meeting, the US ambassador assured Spanish officials that she had no idea about the incident.
She claims the agents were working in a marginal area of the embassy which had been in place since before Joe Biden’s presidency.
Apologising, she assured Spanish officials that she would work alongside them to investigate the issue.
The ministers agreed to dismiss two US spies, although according to some sources the number could be higher.
Spanish authorities ordered the arrest of the two spies, who were sent to an Estremera (Madrid) prison reserved for former security, police and prison officers.
The assistant was released last month with charges while his superior remains in custody.
According to El Pais, the Area Manager’s arrest has caused much controversy amongst colleagues who regarded him with much respect.
Both accused parties could face from six to eight years in prison under Penal Code 584.
The code punishes Spaniards “who, for the purpose of favouring a foreign power, association or international organisation, procures, falsifies, disables or discloses information classified as secret or classified as likely to prejudice national security or national defence”.
However, it is not the first time Spain has reported one of its agents.
In 2007, the CNI reported ex-spy Roberto Florez after finding classified documents in three properties belonging to him in Tenerife.
There, investigators also discovered a letter from Russian intelligence services offering him $200,000 in exchange for information.
Although it is unknown whether the information was exchanged, Florez was sentenced to 12 years in prison, though this was later reduced to nine.
It comes at a frosty time for Washington-Madrid relations after prime minister Pedro Sanchez became one of the first major western leaders to criticise Israel.
The PSOE leader said last month that he had ‘frank doubts’ about Israel’s actions in Gaza, specifically whether or not they are adhering to international humanitarian laws.
Israel is the US’s most important ally in the Middle East, and has received the superpower’s fullest support following the invasion by Hamas on October 7.