Marta Escobar Martí
Just one hour after the attacks on Barcelona and Cambrils, the El Periódico newspaper claimed they had “exclusive” information that indicated that the CIA had warned Catalan Police (aka Mossos) of a possible attack on the Barcelona Rambla. This information was denied by Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, Catalan minister of interior, Joaquim Forn and by Chief Officer of the Mossos, Josep Lluís Trapero, who again denied it on Monday on the El Matí de Catalunya Ràdio radio programme.
Today, the same paper published the same note in an item signed directly by the paper’s editor, Enric Hernàndez, who claims that they had not published in June in order “not to cause undue alarm”.
According to the document, the US intelligence services had contacted the Catalan Mossos directly, to warn them that they had evidence that Daesh intended to attack Barcelona this summer, more specifically on the Rambla.
However, a number of prominent personalities have denied the information published by said newspaper; even WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, have questioned the authenticity of the notice.
The first tweets by WikiLeaks directly accused El Periódico of having “clearly fabricated” the document.
They then changed that first tweet, eliminated a few minutes later, for a milder one where they said that they “suspect that this document is fabricated”.
This one was also exchanged for one claiming that the newspaper “publishes a highly suspect […] document”.
According to WikiLeaks, the quote marks used in the document are those used in Spanish, not in English, let alone on a CIA document. Furthermore, the US intelligence services usually use “Isil” to refer to Daesh and not “Isis”.
Not only this. One the one hand the text reads “Irak”, which is Spanish for the country which in English, and Catalan, is spelt Iraq. On the other hand, WikiLeaks says that the CIA use the term “notice” not “nota“, and qualifies these as serious mistakes in an intelligence services notice.
Another element that casts doubts on the authenticity of the document, according to WikiLeaks is the reference, in the text, to “Spain” instead of “ESP”, usually used by the CIA in its documents. Economist Xavier Sala-i- Martin […] also believes the “headline (and tweet) on 17th [August] mentioned ONLY that the Catalan Mossos had been warned” is rather “suspect” when all Spanish forces had, apparently, been warned. Finally, Sala i Martin points out that “the notice says that the information is “not specific” and is “unconfirmed” and does not mention how the attack was to take place.
Enric Hernàndez has been very vague in his various interviews. On El Matí de Catalunya Ràdio he claimed that they received the notice “in an encrypted digital format” and that it is they who published the text; while on El Món a RAC1 he claimed that “this information was not obtained”, it was “offerer to them”; but he added, “We did not respect the original typology, just the wording”.
Meanwhile, on Herrera en Cope he admitted that when he received the information in June, he did not get it in writing and that the “wording [of the text] were a verbatim transcript of a conversation he had had with the NCTC (National Counterterrorism Centre).
Photojournalist Jordi Borràs, however, posted on Twitter: “I’ve been using encryption protocols for many years. Claims that encryption may alter spelling/grammar is absolutely FALSE”.
El Periódico editor, Enric Hernández, stated, on El Matí de Catalunya Ràdio that “the original information was obtained by the CIA”, but that it had been sent by the NCTC. It is not clear what means were used to transfer the warning.
Hernàndez confirmed the content of his article, that is, “when we got news of the attack is when the information we had took on its real value” and he justifies “singling out the Mossos, because we didn’t know that other forces were in in the loop” until 17 August, but he accuses the Mossos of “not wanting to cross-check the information”.