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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MADRID1349 2005-04-07 12:12 2010-12-18 12:12 SECRET Embassy Madrid
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 MADRID 001349



E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2015

REF: STATE 60796

Classified By: Political Counselor Kathy Fitzpatrick; reason 1.4 (b) an
d (d)

1. (C) Summary. We appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on
issues related to the Global War on Terrorism per reftel
action request. Overall, counterterrorism cooperation
between the U.S. and Spain is excellent, remaining a
cornerstone of the bilateral relationship despite friction on
other important issues. There are problems related to
information sharing (in both directions) and structural
problems within the Spanish counterterrorism security
apparatus, but these issues are manageable and are being
addressed at several levels. This message does not include
new resource requests, but notes that we have to continue our
high level of engagement with Spanish authorties in order to
develop improved access to counterterrorism information by
U.S. investigators. Spain remains a capable partner in the
War on Terror and appears willing to further deepen
counterterrorism relations with the USG. End Summary.


2. (C) The March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings made Spain
the site of the worst terrorist attack in history against an
EU country, but Spain was already an active front in the
Global War on Terrorism as a result of its arrest of
significant al-Qaida figures beginning in 2001 and its
identification of numerous Islamic extremist groups operating
within its borders. Since the Madrid train bombings, Spanish
authorities have detained over 120 suspected Islamic
extremists (including 78 directly related to the train
attacks) and derailed terrorist plans to bomb Spain's High
Court and other high-profile targets. Terrorist
organizations active in Spain include:

A. al-Qaida. The trial of Syrian national and al-Qaida
financier Barakat Yarkas, who was arrested in November 2001
in connection with the September 11 attacks, is set to begin
on April 22. Yarkas has been linked by police to many
Islamic extremist suspects who formally belong to other
extremist groups listed below.

B. Moroccan Islamic Combat Group (GICM). GICM associates
were involved in the March 11 attacks, including individuals
who were also involved in the Casablanca bombing in Morocco.
Moroccan nationals comprise the largest group of North
African immigrants in Spain and the majority of suspects
arrested in connection with Islamic terrorist cases.

C. Salafist Group for Call and Combat. Many Algerian
nationals in Spain suspected of involvement in terrorism have
links to this organization.

D. Armed Islamic Group (GIA). GIA members who eluded the
Algerian authorities and fled to Europe were instrumental in
recruiting, organizing, and radicalizing young Islamists in
Spain. A GIA terrorist who was released early from a Spanish
prison due to a clerical error was among the key organizers
of the March 11 attacks.

E. ETA. Though ETA is in a steep decline as a result of
arrests made possible by improved Spanish-French police
cooperation and hasn't committed killings in nearly three
years, it remains Spain's most important terrorist
organization in the eyes of the Spanish public. This is in
part because ETA periodically detonates small explosives to
demonstrate its continued viability as an armed group,
including a recent bombing near a convention where King Juan
Carlos was due to appear. Despite press speculation,
authorities have not found a link between ETA and Islamic
terrorist groups.

============================================= ==
============================================= ==

3. (C) The high level of counterterrorism cooperation between
U.S. and Spanish authorities is one of the cornerstones of
our bilateral relationship. In addition to high level
discussions and exchanges with Spain to discuss
counterterrorism activities -- including recent visits to
Madrid by Attorney General Ashcroft and Attorney General
Gonzales and upcoming visits to Washington by GOS Minister of
Interior Alonso and Minister of Justice Aguilar -- we can
point to numerous successes in our joint effort to combat

4. (S) Spanish/USG GWOT successes in Spain include:

A. Spain's participation in military operations in
Afghanistan, most recently through leadership of a PRT in
western Afghanistan and partial-leadership of the FSB in
Herat. Spain continues to provide unrestricted access to its
military bases at Rota and Moron and blanket flight
clearances for U.S. military aircraft, including for GWOT

B. Good flow of actionable intelligence information from
Embassy Madrid to Spanish security officials, and good
reciprocal intelligence sharing by the GOS with USG agencies.
Intelligence sharing on terrorism has improved markedly
since September 11 and has continued to improve under the
Zapatero government. Spanish officials at the highest levels
are aware of the USG's level of support for Spanish efforts
and President Zapatero recently told the Deputy Secretary
that USG information was essential in the dismantlement of
several Islamic extremist cells.

C. Good flow of information from Spanish police to U.S. law
enforcement officials. Much of this information is passed to
Legat informally before it becomes part of a sealed judicial
case. Examples include information passed to Legat by the
Catalonian regional police that helped uncover a Pakistani
money transfer and illegal document operation in Barcelona
that may have been involved in sending money to significant
al-Qaida figures. Another example is the discovery by
Spanish officials of correspondence between Spain-based
terrorists and terrorists serving prison terms in the U.S.
for their involvement in the first World Trade Center bombing
in 1992.

D. Spain's participation in the Container Security (CSI) and
Megaports initiatives. While the Megaports program is moving
forward steadily, on CSI we have encountered administrative
difficulties and delays on both the U.S. and Spanish sides.
However, the fact that approximately 80 percent of containers
flowing from the Middle East to U.S. ports pass through
Spanish ports makes Spain's participation in these programs
at the three major ports of Algeciras, Barcelona, and
Valencia essential to U.S. homeland security so we are
pressing forward.

E. Formation of a Joint Counterterrorism Working Group
comprised of U.S. Department of Justice officials, Spanish
Ministry of Justice officials, Spanish prosecutors, and
terrorism experts from both countries. This responds to
Spain's desire for a political symbol of our commitment to
work with Spain on counterterrorism issues and to the USG's
desire for a joint body to help streamline judicial and
investigative cooperation in terrorism cases. Though the
Working Group is in its early stages, we hope to use it to
strengthen collaboration with Spanish prosecutors on
terrorism investigations and increase direct cooperation
between U.S. and Spanish counterterrorism investigators.

F. Improved cooperation on border security, including on
Spain's decision to centralize overseas passport processing.
The USG has offered to share electronic visa lookout
information on a trial basis and Spanish officials have
indicated some interest, though this initiative may be
hampered by logistical problems on the Spanish side. The USG
has worked with Spanish authorities to help improve their
reporting through international and bilateral channels of
lost/stolen passports.

G. Spain/USG signed bilateral protocol to U.S.-EU Mutual
Legal Assistance (MLAT) and Extradition treaties. There is a
substantial flow of terrorism-related MLAT requests in each
direction. For example, Spanish authorities were extremely
responsive in a U.S. MLAT request for information regarding
the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui.

H. Good cooperation on terrorism financing cases. Spanish
authorities make asset checks according to our terrorist
financing notifications and work to prevent the illegal use
of the Spanish banking system. Spain works with the USG in
international organizations such as FATF to strengthen
international terrorism financing regimes. Spain continues
to upgrade its asset search systems and will soon implement
one of Europe's toughest anti-terorrism financing laws
allowing preventive and administrative freezing of assets.


5. (S) Information sharing for lead purposes between U.S. and
Spanish police and security services is working well, but
there are significant difficulties in sharing U.S.
intelligence information with Spanish courts since such
information cannot be protected from public disclosure. USG
delays and denials on requests for access to intelligence
information and witnesses for judicial purposes have
generated friction with Spanish judges, particularly
high-profile magistrate judges Baltazar Garzon and Juan del
Olmo. U.S. Department of Justice, Embassy, and Legat
officials are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with Spanish
judges and judicial officials on the controls each government
has in place to prevent the release of shared intelligence

6. (S) For different reasons, USG law enforcement authorities
sometimes have difficulty obtaining responses to official
requests for information on terrorism cases, particularly
information pertaining to ongoing judicial investigations in
Spain. Under the Spanish system, once a judge is assigned to
a case, that judge exercises control over the investigation
and has sole authority over dissemination of official
information related to the investigation. Judges, who
operate with substantial independence, may permit Spanish
police to share information for lead purposes on an
unofficial basis. However, judges sometimes deny access to
investigative information citing judicial secrecy provisions
that cannot be overriden by other Spanish authorities.
Legat and the Consular Section work closely with Spanish
judges and prosecutors to avoid such logjams, but judicial
secrecy remains an impediment to the USG's access to
important sources of information related to international
counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations.

============================================= ==============
============================================= ==============

7. (S) Though Spain has an impressive counterterrorism
apparatus, there are structural problems that continue to
hamper its law enforcement efforts:

A. Most important is the lack of cooperation and coordination
among Spanish law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
There is a tradition of intense inter-service rivalry between
the CNI (the intelligence service), the Civil Guard, and the
National Police, all of which play a significant role in
counterterrorism operations. There is an added layer of
conflict between the national security services and regional
police, especially with the Basque Regional police. By all
accounts, the CNCA (the national counterterrorism center)
launched in 2004 has failed to improve information sharing
and coordination among the national services. The USG has
worked with Spanish authorities to improve internal
collaboration, for example by providing only one "CODIS" DNA
database instead of the separate databases requested by the
various services. We are also encouraging the GOS to look at
ways other countries have found to better integrate their
security agencies to combat terrorism.

B. Spanish authorities excel at disrupting terrorist
organizations, but have much more difficulty in achieving
convictions. This is due in part to Spanish laws enacted
during the democratic transition -- and intended to overcome
the abuses of the Franco era -- that provide substantial
rights to defendants and significantly impact the ability of
prosecutors to win cases and/or obtain strong prison terms
for convicted terrorists. There are also problems related to
the ability of Spanish authorities to obtain strong evidence
for judicial purposes, in part because security agencies are
reluctant to release information that would reveal sources
and methods. Police sources have also indicated that they
have sometimes been required to carry out arrests prematurely
in response to political pressure to demonstrate strong
actions against terrorism. Another important factor is the
understandable desire of Spanish officials to prevent any new
attacks similar to the March 11 bombings, so there is a
predisposition to act preventively, even where legal cases
have not been fully prepared. One result of this has been
that of the 117 Islamic extremists in Spanish jails at the
end of 2004, 103 were being held in "preventive detention"
rather than on specific charges related to a terrorist attack
or plot.

C. Finally, the Spanish public remains fixated on ETA as
Spain's primary security threat. Despite clear evidence of a
large and growing Islamic extremist presence in Spain (a fact
of which the Spanish authorities are very aware) and the
devastating Madrid train bombings, polls consistently
indicate that Spanish citizens consider ETA to be a greater
danger than jihadist groups. While Spanish police have
tripled the number of investigators working against Islamic
extremist groups, they face public and political pressure to
use their resources to focus on putting an end to ETA's
long-running campaign against the Spanish state. There is
also a question of mindset, with Spanish security officials
realizing that they have some distance to go in becoming as
proficient against Islamic radicals as they are against ETA,
which operates within an ideological context that is far more
familiar to Spanish investigators.

8. (C) Spain is a capable and willing ally in the Global War
on Terrorism. While we do not see a need for signficant new
resources for counterterrorism cooperation with Spain, we do
need to find ways to improve our existing channels of
communication and to better understand each other's judicial
systems. In the case of ETA, the Spanish government showed
considerable adaptability in confronting the threat. We
believe the GOS will show the same level of flexibility in
dealing with Islamic extremists and that the USG is well
placed to provide analytical, technical, and judicial
assistance when it could be useful to Spanish authorities.