Did Police Negligence Help Terrorists in Barcelona?

In 2017, after the terrorist attacks in the Catalan cities of Barcelona and Cambrils, between 17 and 18 of August, there were many who suspected that something was wrong.

Ferran Requejo, political scientist and professor of philosophy at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, said in an interview to the Catalan newspaper El Món, that the Spanish security services did not share information previous to the attack with the Catalan police. That there was a barrier imposed by the Spanish security services between international organisations such as Interpol and Europol and the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan autonomous police.

Belgian authorities got wind of the attacks, and notified the Spanish authorities – who then failed to disclose the information to their Catalan counterparts.

The information was confirmed by the then head of the Mossos, Major Josep Lluís Trapero – who will be tried by Spanish justice for the charge of sedition for refusing to take part in the violence perpetrated by the Spanish police during the referendum for the independence of the region held in October of the same year.

There were many who suspected that the Spanish government was deliberately leaving the Catalan government in the dark, or even that they would have let the attacks take place as a way to harm the pro-independence movement – showing unequivocally that an independent Catalonia would not be able to protect itself from terrorist attacks. For Requejo, “in case they acted, they failed due to lack of information.”

Martí Estruch, director of communication of Diplocat, a consortium set up by the Catalan government devoted to promoting international awareness of Catalonia within the international community through public diplomacy tools, stated that “The state would rather put human lives at risk than the unity of Spain”.

The Spanish daily El País, which has a strong pro-Spain bias and is fiercely opposed to Catalonia’s separation, published an editorial on August 19, just two days after the attacks in Barcelona that killed 13 people. The report said “An attack of this magnitude has to be a knockdown that brings Catalan political forces back to reality – forces such as the Government, the Parliament, and the movements for independence which have made the secessionist chimera the sole focus of the Catalan political agenda in recent years. It is time to end this ‘democratic’ nonsense, the flagrant violation of laws, the games of deception, the political opportunism. It is time that our rulers, all our rulers, work for the benefit of the true and main interests of citizens.”

Today new evidence is emerging that perhaps there was some truth in the suspicions presented back in 2017.

According to an exhaustive investigation by Público newspaper, which brought together intelligence sources, confidential documents, and data extracted from the attack’s investigations, the Spanish secret service (Centro Nacional de Inteligencia or National Intelligence Centre – CNI) listened and had access to the terrorists’ cell phones. In addition, the intellectual mentor of the attacks, the Imam of the city of Ripoll, Abdelbaki Es Satty, was an informant for the CNI until the eve of the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, a fact that was confirmed by the then number two of the Spanish Ministry of Interior, José Antonio Nieto, in interrogation before Catalan deputies in July of this year.

Worse, Es Satty would have become an Imam with the help of the CNI and he became an informant not to be deported. He died in an accidental explosion the day before the attacks he had planned.

In other words, the autonomous police was prevented by the Spanish secret service from having access to information that might have helped them arrest Es Satty and the other terrorists before the attacks. And having not only information on the attacks, but also access to the terrorists’ cell phones, the Spanish secret service did nothing with the information.

The Spanish daily El Diario’s editor, Ignacio Escolar, however, believes that Público is in possession of  “several partial fragments of documents that we cannot contrast because, without knowing the source, they have nothing that allows us to prove their authenticity”.

Escolar states that the documents did not prove Público’s allegations and, aside from the documents, “the rest of the alleged facts that Público reports in its investigation rely exclusively on anonymous sources whose reliability we can neither contrast nor check”.

Despite Escolar’s statements, it’s striking that, in 2018, the Popular Party (PP), Ciudadanos (Citizens, C’s) and ruling Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), refused to open an investigation on the CNI after a request made by Catalan parties Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT).

To El País, it is all a “great conspiracy theory”.

History shows that Spanish politicians are indeed capable of sacrificing its own population as necessary means to maintain the country’s unity. The history of Francoism or the GAL (Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups), a terrorist group that practiced state terrorism, during a period of Spanish history known as “Dirty War”, against the organisation ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) and its surroundings, give strength to the theory presented by the newspaper Público.

The terrorist group GAL was active between 1983 and 1987, during the first years of the governments of Felipe González (PSOE) and it was proved that it was financed by senior officials of the Ministry of Interior of the socialist government.

For Robert Manrique Ripoll, advisor of the Unit for the Attention and Assessment of People Affected by Terrorism, “there is no doubt that, at least in vigilando, the State is responsible for a very serious intelligence failure”. El País newspaper, quoting David Torrents, an agent of the Mossos, specialized in jihadism, concedes that there might have been at least negligence on the part of the Spanish authorities.

A phrase by José Calvo Sotelo, member of the Congress of Deputies and finance minister during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (1923-1930) is useful to explain the current political situation of Spain or its ethos: “Between a red Spain and a broken Spain, I prefer the first, which would be a passing phase, while the second remains broken in perpetuity.”

If the evidences presented by Público newspaper prove to be true, one could easily change “red” for “terrorised”.