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Cablegate: Spain/Counterterrorism - Charge's Meeting With

VZCZCXYZ0009
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMD #0522/01 1330618
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 120618Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4748
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

S E C R E T MADRID 000522

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/WE AND EEB/ESC/TFS, NSC FOR E. FARR, TREASURY
FOR IA/OEE:WLINDQUIST

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/09/2018
TAGS: EFIN PTERE KTFN SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN/COUNTERTERRORISM - CHARGE'S MEETING WITH
MINISTRY OF INTERIOR CHIEF OF STAFF

REF: MADRID 00490

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Hugo Llorens, for reason 1.4(d)

1. (S) The Charge, accompanied by EconOff, met with Gregorio
Martinez, Chief of Staff to Interior Minister Rubalcaba, on
May 9. Charge stressed the need for better inter-agency
cooperation in Spain in the fight against terrorism.
Responding to the Charge's expressions of concern regarding
the front-page April 28 El Pais article (reftel) suggesting
that Barakat Yarkas had financed terrorist cells from his
jail cell, Martinez said he would provide information on what
had happened. He claimed that designating Yarkas would not
have made a practical difference and that, in any event, the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been responsible for the lack
of action on designating Yarkas. End Summary

COORDINATION KEY
----------------

2. (S) The Charge emphasized that U.S.-Spanish
counterterrorism cooperation continued to be strong and good.
Martinez agreed and noted that Spain's experience in
fighting ETA had given it plenty of "knowhow" in combating
terrorists, including Islamic terrorists. The Charge agreed
with this assessment, although he suggested that there
remained room for improvement in Spain with respect to better
coordination between the Centro Nacional de Inteligencia (CNI
- National Intelligence Center), the Guardia Civil (Civil
Guard) and the Policia Nacional (National Police). The
Charge recalled that in connection with the January 19
Barcelona arrests of 14 suspected Islamic militants, the CNI
had tasked the Guardia Civil with conducting the arrests.
Unbeknownst to the Guardia Civil, the Policia Nacional was
also investigating some of the same individuals. Spanish
authorities feared that there could have been a real problem
with the arrest operation had they not discovered immediately
prior to the arrests that both national law enforcement
agencies were shadowing the Barcelona-based group. Martinez
attempted to downplay what had happened, but he certainly
understood the Charge's concerns. He agreed that the
upcoming May 20 event in the Charge's residence with
representatives from U.S. and Spanish law enforcement
agencies was a good idea. (Note: Twice a year, we try to
bring together American and Spanish counterterrorism
officials from different agencies as part of an effort to
improve bilateral coordination and avoid "stovepiping.")

APRIL 28 EL PAIS ARTICLE
ON BARAKAT YARKAS POSSIBLY
FINANCING TERRORIST CELLS
FROM JAIL
--------------------------

3. (C) The Charge noted that the April 28 article had
elicited concern and questions from the USG. Martinez said
that the article was probably a "fabrication." However, he
understood that the article which ran in the normally
pro-government El Pais that is considered by most observers
to be Spain's "newspaper of record," would logically prompt
questions. Martinez committed to getting back to the Charge
with the facts. The Charge stressed that Barakat Yarkas was
a special American concern for two reasons. First, he was
connected to the September 11 plot. Second, the USG has been
pressing Spain to designate Barakat Yarkas for several years.
Martinez responded by saying that a designation would not
have made a practical difference. EconOff countered by
pointing out that a designation would have frozen Yarkas'
assets so presumably he would not have been able to receive
and cash (if that is what happened) two checks worth over
euros 50,000. Martinez did not respond directly but said
that the Ministry of Interior did not oppose specific and ad
hoc designations. In fact, Martinez said that the Ministry
of Interior had recommended that the Spanish government
designate Yarkas and others by getting the Council of
Ministers to issue an executive order. However, the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs was opposed to this proposal and preferred
a more "garantista" (legally watertight) approach that would
create a new "mechanism" for designations. The Foreign
Ministry approach required legislative action. Martinez said
that the inter-agency difference was the reason that no
action had been taken to designate Yarkas.

COMMENT
-------

4. (S) Spain's commitment to fighting terrorism is strong.
In fact, the Spaniards are good at it. According to the 2007

EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report, during the October
1, 2005 to December 31, 2006 period, 257 terrorists were
tried and convicted on terrorism charges in the EU. Out of
the 257 convictions, 172 were in Spain. However, competition
between Spain's intelligence and law enforcment services
remains endemic. Regarding the terrorism finance aspect to
fighting terrorists, at this stage we are simply not sure
what to make of the El Pais article and will have to wait to
hear back from Martinez. Should the the El Pais article be
accurate, that would of course strengthen our arguments for
more expeditious designations.

BIO NOTE
--------

5. (C) Gregorio Martinez has been a good Embassy contact for
several years and is also a former International Visitor to
the U.S. Martinez told the Charge that he would remain in
his position for the time being.


Llorens

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