Controversy over alleged CIA warning of Barcelona attacks
Catalan government denies receiving alerts by US intelligence agency
The Catalan authorities and the Mossos d’Esquadra police deny they received any CIA warning that ISIS was potentially planning an attack on Barcelona’s La Rambla. A Catalan newspaper, El Periódico, on Thursday printed a memo allegedly sent by the US intelligence agency to Catalonia’s police force via the American National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). However, the Catalan home affairs minister, Joaquim Forn, claimed on Thursday that the Mossos receive “dozens” such warnings and analyze them all.
Meanwhile, senior Catalan police officer, Josep Lluís Trapero, admitted receiving one warning about an attack on La Rambla, but insisted it was not from either of the US institutions. Trapero did not disclose the origin of the warning for security reasons, but said his police force gave it “little credibility”, while the equivalent Spanish institutions also analyzed the message and ruled it out as “not credible”. He added that this specific warning was never discussed in any antiterrorist coordination meeting between Catalan and Spanish police.
Executive rules out link with Rambla attack
The Catalan minister pointed out that the attack on La Rambla was not the terrorists’ original plan. In fact, the court investigating the incidents found that the accidental explosion of the gas canisters in the terrorist safe house in Alcanar meant the attackers were forced to change their plans at the last minute, which led them to improvise the van attack on La Rambla.
"Since the first moment we have noticed that someone had an interest in putting the Mossos d'Esquadra in the eye of the storm"
Carles Puigdemont · Catalan president
Moreover, in the same press conference, the home affairs minister also explained that some days after the August 17 events, Spanish authorities told Catalan officers that “the attacks had nothing to do” with any previous warnings.
Campaign to ‘discredit and mislead’
Forn complained of a campaign against the Catalan police aimed to “discredit and mislead” ahead of the referendum on independence planned by the Catalan authorities for October 1. On an official visit to Denmark, the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, supported his minister’s remarks: “Since the first moment [after the attacks] we have noticed that someone had an interest in putting the Mossos d’Esquadra in the eye of the storm,” he said.
According to the president, all coordination meetings between Catalan and Spanish officials since August 17 have been “positive in the fight against terrorism”. “If someone outside of this sphere wanted to sow discord, they have not managed to do so,” Puigdemont added.
Suspicions over ‘El Periódico’ warning
The document published by El Periódico has raised suspicions in recent hours because of various errors in the text. WikiLeaks tweeted a number of supposed language mistakes in the text, including ‘Irak’ for ‘Iraq’ or ‘nota’ instead of ‘notice’. Both of them are Spanish language malapropisms, according to the organization. Wikileaks’ editor, Julian Assange, also cast doubt on the information via Twitter. “This appears to be modified or fabricated. The use of Spanish language quote marks '<<', '>>' in an English CIA report is very suspicious,” said Assange. WikiLeaks linked the alleged warning to the Catalan October 1 referendum.