Secret military telecommunications interception stations in Madrid, Conil de la Frontera, Gibraltar and Rota

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"Libertad Vigilada" (Freedom under Surveillance), a recently published book by Nacho Garcia Mostazo, analyses the presence in Spain of a number of stations for the interception of telecommunications and to conduct signals intelligence operations that are run separately by the Spanish, British and US military. It focuses on two secret Spanish military intelligence establishments, one near Madrid and the other in Conil de la Frontera, near Cadiz, two military installations run by the UK military in Gibraltar, and another by the US military in its airbase in Rota, also near Cadiz. These are deemed to violate the constitutional guarantee of privacy for the telecommunications of Spanish citizens. Foreign intelligence agencies are only forbidden from intercepting telecommunications of their own nationals. In the case of domestic military intelligence structures, these are subject to less democratic control and regulation than their civilian counterpart, the newly-established National Intelligence Centre.

The Fresnedillas-Navalagamella Satellite Monitoring Station in the mountain range (Sierra) located to the north of Madrid is allegedly being used to intercept satellite communications of the countries surrounding Spain, and possibly civilian communications within Spain itself. The base is owned by the Ministry of Defence and is shrouded in secrecy. Defence minister Trillo Figueroa denies the institution's ownership of the station although it pays 11,713.52 euros annual tax on the property, and claims that activities conducted there are "a mystery". Ten large parabolic antennae with diameters of over 18 metres are found at the base, as well as six smaller ones; their inclination indicates that they may be aimed at geo-stationary telecommunication satellites hovering above the equator at an altitude of around 36,000 km. The author stresses that the European Parliamentary Commission that investigated the Echelon affair concluded that "if two or more satellite reception antennae of over 18 metres (in diameter) can be found at a (military) station, it is certain that civil communications are listened to there".

It is significant that the station is run by the military. The former Spanish intelligence agency (CESID) was run by the military, and was recently replaced by a civilian agency, the CNI (National Intelligence Centre, see Statewatch vol 11 no 3 & 4). This change was partly motivated by a lack of accountability, and of a clear legal basis for interception, that resulted in the illegal interception of Spanish citizens in the past. The CNI is subject to interception guidelines requiring a judicial warrant for the interception of communications involving Spanish citizens, which are protected from interference by the Spanish constitution, although telephone tapping was not regulated until the new law was passed last year.

The author of "Libertad Vigilada" says that the parallel activities of military structures and personnel may be used to circumvent the limitations that have been introduced. They support this notion by noting that at the same time as the CNI laws were passed, the Ministry of Defence set up the so-called Armed Forces Intelligence Centre (AFIC - CIFAS in Spanish) to enable "the process of rationalising the intelligence capabilities of the Defence, Army and Navy Staff". AFIC is not regulated by any law, other than a ministerial order specifying its internal organisation. The authors also note that a secret military project approved in 1986, and known as the "Santiago programme", is due to be fully operational by 2008. It is reportedly aimed at "capturing electro-magnetic broadcasts and images in zones defined as of strategic interest for national security". Thus, in spite of the official military intelligence agency being shut down:

"Spain has a military espionage network composed of surveillance planes (the Air Intelligence Centre at Torrejon de Ardoz), observation satellites (Helios and others that will soo

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