Spain has ejected two staff workers at the United States embassy, following allegations that they attempted to bribe Spanish intelligence officers in exchange for secrets.
Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles said on Thursday that Spain had filed a complaint to the US, but that the incident would not harm diplomatic relations between the two countries.
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“Spain and the United States are friends, allies and partners,” she told reporters. “When there are issues that may affect us, they are discussed and dealt with, but in no way does that influence the relations we have.”
The newspaper El Pais reported that two unnamed embassy workers were discreetly removed at the request of Madrid, following an investigation that concluded that they had obtained information from Spanish intelligence agents for a “large sum”.
Robles confirmed that a judicial inquiry was looking into “irregular conduct” at the CNI, Spain’s intelligence agency. The content of the material shared with the two embassy workers is not clear.
El Pais reported that a CNI chief of area and his assistant were arrested two months ago, but a court ordered that their case remain secret. The paper added that US Ambassador Julissa Reynoso denied any knowledge or involvement when summoned by Spanish authorities.
“At least two US agents stationed at the US Embassy in Madrid, who were directly involved in the recruitment of CNI spies, have been discreetly expelled from Spain,” the El Pais story reads.
While attempting to recruit agents from a country’s intelligence apparatus is a form of spycraft typical of relations between hostile powers, El Pais called the incident “an openly hostile act” not befitting of “friends or allies”.
The Spanish outlet El Confidencial first reported about the arrest of the two CNI workers on Monday. Asked about the incident on Monday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan declined to comment.
The US embassy in Madrid and Spain’s foreign ministry have also declined to comment on the affair.