Police recorded 6,903 searches of Podemos deputies during the PP's dirty war between 2015 and 2016 | Spain

The National Police carried out at least 6,903 searches of Podemos deputies in databases of the Ministry of the Interior between 2015 and 2016, according to the documentation sent by the agency to the National Court, which is investigating this massive police investigation into the party. The files, to which EL PAÍS has had access, reveal some details about how the spying by the so-called patriotic police against the members of the formation, then led by Pablo Iglesias, as part of an alleged dirty war operation by the executive power of Mariano Rajoy against his political opponents.

In January 2016, the number two of the Interior, Francisco Martínez, had asked the chief commissioner of the Central Operational Support Unit, Enrique García Castaño, to search for data that would damage the reputation of the newly elected Podemos politicians in the elections of December 2015. This is evident from the WhatsApp messages exchanged between the politician and the police commander, which were extracted from the mobile phone seized from Martínez during the investigation into the Kitchen cabinet, the alleged illegal police spying on former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas“If you look at the 69, you can get it, but you have to look at it one by one and of course it leaves a trace,” García Castaño warned at the time. National Court judge Santiago Pedraz opened a judicial investigation in February following a complaint filed by Podemos in which he denounced having been a victim of the manoeuvres of the National Police and the Ministry of the Interior during the government of Mariano Rajoy.

The National Police’s Internal Affairs Unit has now sent the judge the report on the use of police databases in 2015 and 2016 to investigate various aspects of the lives of the 69 Podemos parliamentarians. The data sent includes a list of Excel tables related to the search for 55 deputies of this party. Some were well-known leaders of the group at the time, alongside Iglesias, Íñigo Errejón, Irene Montero or Pablo Bustinduy, and others who did not yet have much weight, such as Yolanda Díaz or Ione Belarra. The information provided is limited to the years 2015 and 2016, as these are the dates requested by the judge and therefore there is no data on whether the investigation into the deputies continued months later.

The Central Court of Instruction number 5 of the National Court had requested a report of the requests for access of police officers to the databases of the National Police, with the identification of each agent, the date, the person to whom the search was directed, the reason and specific data that he requested and obtained from the deputies. However, the files sent by the police do not provide clarity on a number of important points.

The data provided by the police show that the searches were carried out by 2,726 users, but it is not explained whether a user is equivalent to an agent or whether a police officer has access to several different users. If so, the number of people involved would be excessive and unrealistic, since it would be equivalent to 3.66% of the National Police workforce. The most common databases are Sidenpol (on complaints), Argos (on arrests, files or holders of telephone numbers) and Objects (on vehicles, license plates or people's properties). No agent can consult these databases in the most sensitive files; a professional card with an identification chip and a password is required. And all searches are recorded.

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The tracking of these 2,700+ users is very diverse, they do not follow the same pattern. While some only perform a single search, others went so far as to perform twenty searches for different surrogates and on different dates. Normally, the user corresponds to the same location, although not always to the same IP address (device connected to the internet).

Another decontextualized data is that which appears in the “Template” column (in the Excel tables), which lists 993 locations of different police centers, from small offices for receiving complaints to provincial police stations. These locations, which the police do not specify if they are from where the searches were carried out, are spread throughout Spain. In the case of Pablo Iglesias, for example, there are 23 different ones, including the Alicante Provincial Police Station, the Barcelona Information Brigade or the General Police Station of the Judicial Police.

Despite the request of the judiciary, the police have not provided the information obtained from the house searches. In the Excel tables provided, a column appears with the word “Operation”, in which the purpose of each scan can be deduced. More than half (3,966) are counted as “complainants by surname”, followed by “consultation by first and last name” (2,135) and in third place, a long way off, “detainees by surname” (335). The rest refer to, among other things, “accommodations”, “flights”, “jewelry”.

The deputy with the most records is the then head of Finance and Transparency of Podemos, Segundo González García. There were more than 900 searches between January 2, 2015 and December 30, 2016. Much more searches than the leader of the group in those years, Pablo Iglesias, who registered 121 searches. The second most searched deputy in those years was Lucía Martín, with 800 searches. The deputy was one of the initiators of the platform Getroffen door Hypotheken and was elected by Barcelona in 2015. Others who receive the most searches are the former director of Greenpeace Spain, Juan Antonio López Uralde (693 times) and the current Secretary of State for Social Rights, María Rosa Martínez Rodríguez, more than 700.

After hearing the news, Iglesias asked that “the police commanders” of the operation be held accountable before the courts. “What would strengthen our democracy is if these police officers were to end up in prison. I think that this is very difficult to happen with a judicial system that is so legitimized after the agreement between the PSOE and the PP to share the General Council of the Judiciary. I fear that this will go unpunished and that it will become increasingly normal for there to be unpunished forces in this country, forces outside the law, that really govern above what the citizens decide,” he added.

The collection and use of personal data for police purposes violates a person’s right to private and family life, as well as to his home and correspondence, according to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which specifies that “there shall be no interference by public authorities” unless it is “necessary for national security, public safety, the economic well-being of the country, the maintenance of order or the prevention of crime.” The analysis of these searches reflects a disproportionality, both because of the time at which this alleged spying was carried out and because of the number of searches carried out in different databases.

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