Terrorismo islamista: muchos detenidos, poco presos

Cable en el que Bermúdez dice que Al Qaeda no tiene relación con el 11-M

  • El juez cree que los atentados fueron llevados a cabo por un grupo de criminales y yihadistas sin conexiones.
  • La amenaza de otro ataque es mayor que en el 11-M.
2009-03-10 18:44:00
Embassy Madrid
DE RUEHMD #0261/01 0691844
P 101844Z MAR 09
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 06 MADRID 000261



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/26/2024

REF: A. 06 MADRID 3042
B. 08 MADRID 1269
C. 08 MADRID 1214
D. 05 MADRID 3260
E. 08 MADRID 73
F. 07 MADRID 1914

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Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Arnold A. Chacon for reasons 1.4 (b),
(c) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY. On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the
March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings (known in Spain as
11-M), Embassy personnel consulted a range of GOS officials -
from the Ministries of Interior and Justice - as well as CT
experts from academia and journalism on the extent of the
current threat that Spain faces from jihadists. POLOFF,
LEGAT and the CG in Barcelona also engaged Embassy contacts
on whether the GOS has struck the right balance between
disrupting cells on scant evidence to prevent an immediate
threat and risking that those detained in such investigations
could become further radicalized, more committed to illicit
activity, and perhaps even attacking Spain. While there is
agreement that Spain remains a jihadist target, there were
differing views on the prospects for another attack and on
how best to combat the jihadist threat. Sources also opined
on the prospects for building a strong case against alleged
jihadists in current and upcoming trials. END SUMMARY.

//Brief Reflections on the Madrid Train Bombings//

2. (S) Magistrate Javier Gomez Bermudez, the sentencing judge
in the 11-M case and in many other high-profile trials of
jihadists, spoke at length with POLOFF and LEGAT on February
24. POLOFF asked him - from all the materials that the
magistrate had read and heard, not just from the items that
were acceptable evidence in a court of law - whether there
was any indication of an Al Qaeda (AQ) link to 11-M. The
magistrate replied that there was no such link and that 11-M
was conducted by a bunch of like-minded criminals and
jihadists without a master plan or further connections.
Furthermore, he refuted suggestions that the 11-M attacks
were an act of revenge against the GOS by individuals who had
formed the second tier of a Madrid-based AQ cell - whose
leadership had been detained in 2001 - and later emerged to
conduct the Madrid train bombings. COMMENT: The Embassy
believes the cell responsible for the Madrid train bombings
exhibited considerable coordination in its attacks. The
Embassy highlights that, five years later, discussions of
11-M remain highly politically charged, and Gomez Bermudez's
comments appear to reflect one political view of the attacks.

//Agreement that Spain is a Jihadist Target//

3. (S) Gomez Bermudez says that - five years after 11-M - the
threat of a jihadist attack in Spain is even greater than it
was then. For one thing, Al Qaeda in the Lands of the
Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) now exists, which takes formal orders
from AQ Central in Afghanistan/Pakistan, which has given AQIM
the mandate to recover or "liberate" Al Andalus - the parts
of the Iberian peninsula that were ruled by Muslims for
hundreds of years during the Middle Ages - and Ceuta and
Melilla, Spain's two North African enclaves. An attack could
happen any day, Gomez Bermudez warned. Asked whether
jihadists' calls to liberate Ceuta and Melilla were issued
primarily for propaganda or recruiting purposes or if there
truly was an active desire to bring about an attack, the
magistrate responded that if the jihadists could execute an
attack in the enclaves, they would do so, but there is a very

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heavy security presence that makes an attack unlikely, even
with all of the daily border crossings. He related an old
saying that for every three people you meet in Ceuta or
Melilla, one is military, the other is police, and the third
is a spy. (COMMENT: LEGAT suggests it is hard to believe
that, with all the daily cross-border traffic, jihadists
could not conduct an attack in the enclaves if they wanted to
do so badly enough. Furthermore, the Embassy's Office of
Regional Affairs (ORA) notes that Gomez Bermudez's statements
also ignore the possibility of enclave residents conducting
attacks. A cell in Ceuta that had planned attacks on an
explosives depot and on the city's fairground was dismantled
in December 2006. Among the detainees, ten held Spanish
citizenship while only one was Moroccan. See REFTEL A. END
COMMENT.) Gomez Bermudez told Embassy officials that he
believes the Casablanca attack of 2003 took place in Morocco
because the jihadists could not execute an attack in Ceuta or
Melilla. More commonly, he acknowledges, Spain is used as a
logistics base from which to finance jihadist activity.

4. (S) This claim is borne out by recent research by [eliminado por], a foundation
devoted to counter-terrorism (CT) research. Jordan's
findings note that 24 of the 30 jihadist cells dismantled by
Spanish security services since 11-M were involved in
logistical support. (COMMENT: The 30 operations are the 28
that are cited in Jordan's publicly available research, plus
two recent cases in 2009: Operations Cheapest and Fish,
which dismantled cells in January and February, respectively.
ORA, however, notes that the ties of the Op Fish suspects to
terrorism were considerably exaggerated. END COMMENT.) In a
February 27 conversation with POLOFF, Jordan acknowledged
that, since 11-M, the number of Islamic militants in Spain
has increased, as has the number of different jihadist groups
operating in Spain. He also asserted that jihadists'
hostility toward Spain has increased and that the number of
attempted attacks on Spanish soil -- seven, by Jordan's
account - has increased. However, the professionalism and
the capabilities of these jihadists has not improved. At the
same time, there is more pressure on these jihadists by the
Spanish security services, which after 11-M have made
considerable efforts to enforce "preventative justice" - to
detain Islamic radicals before they become operational.
Because of this, the actual threat of another attack could be
lower than it was at the time of 11-M. He assessed that,
overall, the security services have the upper hand in the
situation, which is due in part to a greater recognition by
the GOS of the radical Islamist threat and the possibility of
an attack on Spanish soil. Jordan adds that analyzing social
networks is "fundamental" to understanding who potential
jihadists are. There have been so many cases in which
friends and family of a radical Islamist are also involved in
radical Islam. Understanding social networks is useful for
learning where they get their resources and where and how
they recruit.

5. (C) Antonio Baquero, the leading CT investigative reporter
for Barcelona-based El Periodico, disputed the view that the
jihadist threat to Spain has increased. In a March 10
conversation with the CG in Barcelona, he asserted that Spain
is in no greater or lesser danger of an attack five years
after 11-M. "It is a continuous threat," he said.
Baquero said in Spain, terrorism continues to be used as a
"political tool, like Iraq was in the U.S." He also opined
that the GOS was not forward-leaning in warning the public on
the extent of the jihadist threat, but he acknowledged there
was not much clamoring for that kind of information from the

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6. (C) [eliminado por] who also works at the Real Instituto
Elcano's Global Terrorist Program, asserted to POLOFF on
February 11 that the jihadist threat to Spain is still
present. There was a threat before 11-M and there continues
to be a threat now. All of the motivations and
justifications that the jihadists had against Spain are still
there. The cause of 11-M was not the Spanish participation
in the Iraq war, although - together with the presence of the
Spanish military in Afghanistan and Lebanon - it has
contributed to the radicalization of jihadists in Spain. The
jihadist threat to Spain still exists and the jihadists'
intent to harm Spain is still real, Alonso assessed. There
is still a lot of jihadist activity in Spain. The calls for
the liberation of Al Andalus and Ceuta and Melilla are still
there too, he highlighted.

//Differing Views on How Best to Counter The Jihadist Threat//

7. (C) POLOFF asked Gomez Bermudez about the merits and risks
of the GOS's policy of preventative justice (see REFTELS B
and C) and whether disrupting cells on scant evidence and
detaining suspects for a few years risks even further
radicalizing those detained. The magistrate said that the
GOS is doing enough to warn the public about the extent of
the threat that Spain faces from jihadists and added that
there is the risk that the security services are even doing
too much on the preventative side, which could make the
public jaded. The security services are detaining alleged
jihadists with "nothing" for evidence, he claimed. Even so,
Gomez Bermudez said he believes that the GOS has struck the
right balance, especially in the short term, because Spain
cannot allow another attack like 11-M to happen. He opines
that Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba is very
knowledgeable on CT matters and that the GOS has adopted the
right approach. Nevertheless, the judge reasoned, the GOS
will need to revise its approach in the next two to three
years as the short term becomes the medium term. Baquero
agreed that Spanish law enforcement officials have a pretty
good handle on CT operational issues, but he suggested that
they have a poor understanding of Islam or the familial,
cultural aspects that weave terrorists and non-terrorists
together. Baquero further noted that, for the moment at
least, the different Muslim groups - Pakistanis, Maghrebis,
sub-Saharan Africans - are not working together and they all
have their own agendas.

8. (S) Based on the few experiences that the GOS has had with
the issue (he cited Allekema Lamari, an Algerian jihadist
who, after being mistakenly released from a Spanish jail,
helped conduct the 11-M attacks), Gomez Bermudez has the
impression that a jihadist does not repent and cease to be a
jihadist after being released. He says that all jihadists
who are foreign citizens who are detained and then released
are immediately deported so they are not Spain's problem any
more. LEGAT asked Gomez Bermudez who is the decision-maker
that gives the order on whether or not to go ahead and detain
a cell of suspected jihadists: the Minister of Interior, the
security services -- the Spanish National Police (SNP), the
Civil Guard (GC) or the National Intelligence Center (CNI) --
or the investigative judge who is looking into a case? Gomez
Bermudez replied that he understood that it was the Minister
who made the decision, which makes it a political decision to
proceed with the detention of suspects. COMMENT: LEGAT
found this answer interesting in that GOS security services
frequently tell him that it is the judges who decide.
Meanwhile, ORA remarks that - based on its information - the
GOS infrequently deports foreign jihadists from the Middle
East or Pakistan upon their release from prison due to

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concerns that their human rights may be violated in their
countries of origin. In recent years, the GOS has
successfully obtained commitments from North African
countries, particularly Morocco and Algeria, assuring that
the human rights of deportees will be respected. This has
paved the way for the GOS to deport citizens from these
countries; however, released jihadists from the Middle East
and Pakistan are allowed to remain in Spain. END COMMENT.

9. (C) Alonso acknowledges that the GOS policy of
preventative justice involves risks, but - even though there
is not a lot of solid proof in these cases - the policy is
justified on the idea that it takes very little time for a
cell to go operational. What is needed, Alonso argues, is
better cooperation between the judiciary and the police, a
notion with which Baquero concurs. Baquero further suggested
that that the GOS also needs better coordination and
cooperation within the security services. He said the
intelligence services and the Mossos d'Esquadra - the Catlan
regional police force - work pretty well with the GC, but the
SNP appears to be left out in the cold except for occasional
work with the Guardia Urbana. Baquero lamented that none of
them really share information, and as a consequence they all
often pay the same informants for the same information.
Meanwhile, Alonso also says what is required in cases of
jihadist terrorism is a change of mentality in terms of the
judicial process in which there would be "a reverse burden of
proof," in which the suspects are guilty until proven
innocent. The circumstances in which the suspects were
detained ought to be given greater consideration, Alonso
urged, and ought to be accepted in a court of law. For
example, if a person has no job, but fervently preaches jihad
and has $25,000 in cash, then that person ought to be assumed
to be involved in financing terrorism. He should not just be
able to say he found the money and be released. Likewise, if
a suspect without a criminal record is found at a jihadist
training camp in the Sahel, the person should not be able to
claim convincingly that he is a tourist who got lost.

10. (C) Gomez Bermudez says that politicians in the Spanish
parliament are working on finalizing two new types of crimes
related to radical Islam: financing terrorism and the use of
the Internet for terrorist purposes. During a November 2008
speech at a CT conference in Zaragoza, Spain, Gomez Bermudez
had publicly called for these activities to be codified as
their own specific crimes. He suggested that the
parliamentarians' work on this issue is nearly completed. He
also highlighted that the EU has been working on laws like
this and so now Spain must update its laws to be in
compliance with the EU.

//Current and Future Trials of Alleged Jihadists//

11. (C) Gomez Bermudez asserts that the October 2008 Supreme
Court ruling (See REFTELS B and C) will not make future
prosecutions more difficult. He noted that the Supreme Court
argued that actions rather than words are convictable
offenses, which he said effectively is not different from
what had always been the law. Anything more stringent would
be jailing someone for their thoughts and that has no place
in a democracy, he remarked. The magistrate said he does not
see the National Court doing anything different to prosecute
jihadist cases as a result of that Supreme Court ruling. On
the topic of current and future jihadist cases, Gomez
Bermudez agrees with the notion that there is a lot more
evidence (especially emails) in the trial of the 14 suspects
as part of Operation Tigris (See REFTEL D) than there was in
the Operation Nova case (see REFTEL C), in which he claimed
there was "nothing" in terms of evidence. The trial for Op

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Tigris case began on February 23 but has temporarily been
suspended due to health concerns of one of the principal
suspects. Professor Jordan suggests that verdicts in the
Tigris case may be issued in May or June.

12. (S) Asked in mid January 2009 how morale is within the
SNP and GC due to the recent Supreme Court acquittals of
jihadists who had been convicted by lower courts (See REFTELS
B and C), Joaquin Collado, Advisor to Deputy Interior
Minister Antonio Camacho, rolled his eyes and said, "you can
imagine..." Collado said it is difficult for the security
forces because they think they are doing good work, only for
the Supreme Court to overturn lower court convictions of
jihadists on the basis of lack of evidence. Collado agreed
with the notion that the October decision by the Supreme
Court did not raise the bar for the future conviction of
alleged jihadists. He claimed that in the case of Operation
Nova, the allegations were "difficult to prove." Collado
indicated that he believes there is more substantial evidence
in the upcoming case of Operation Cantata (See REFTEL E),
citing for example, that although no explosives were found in
that case, the security forces did find timers and other
items, which indicated the plot had gone beyond the talking
phase and had proceeded to action. He predicted that the
protected witness in that case would provide compelling
testimony against the defendants. Noting that the suspects
in Operation Cantata were only arrested a year ago, Collado
suggested it is still too early for the trial in that case to
begin any time soon. COMMENT: ORA notes that Spanish law
enforcement agencies tend to lose interest in cases following
the detention of suspects and do not always provide
investigating judges with the support necessary to secure
convictions. This greatly reduces the prospects of a
successful prosecution for maximum penalty. END COMMENT.


13. (C) Although Spain is adopting a very low-key public
observation of 11-M, the GOS, five years on, maintains a very
active CT policy focused on disrupting the jihadist threat.
Between its experience in combating radical Islamists and its
efforts to neutralize the more-than-40-year-long violent
campaign for independence by the domestic terrorist group
Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), the GOS has extensive
knowledge in CT policy and operational tradecraft and is
applying its expertise fully. As the new U.S. Administration
takes shape, there are numerous avenues for engaging and
improving the bilateral CT relationship. Senior GOS CT
officials are extremely well-positioned to discuss the
substance of CT issues with USG officials. Post recommends
consideration of a series of senior-level visits in both
directions, beginning with a visit to Washington by Interior
Minister Rubalcaba. Post has an excellent relationship with
Rubalcaba, whom we consider one of the most impressive and
influential Ministers in Zapatero's Cabinet and who has been
known to make Zapatero alter or reverse course on CT policies
even after the President has publicly committed himself to
another position. An invitation for Rubalcaba to travel to
Washington - it would be his first trip there - in the coming
months for a robust itinerary of inter-agency meetings would
very likely pay huge dividends in terms of bilateral
cooperation and, in light of Spain's impending ascension to
the rotating EU Presidency during the first half of 2010,
could also set the stage for enhanced US-EU cooperation on CT
issues. Rubalcaba speaks some English.

14. (C) Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia, and its
capital of Barcelona in particular, have for years been a
hotbed of illicit activity, including from radical jihadists

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who finance terror and those who hope to commit terrorist
attacks. Beyond terrorist networks, a confluence of
organized crime syndicates - with connections that virtually
span the globe - that deal in the contraband of narcotics,
human trafficking, money laundering, credit card fraud, and
document falsification continues to operate in this region,
as detailed in REFTEL F. Catalonia has been the site of 18
of the 30 CT operations cited in Paragraph 4 above and
Barcelona, in the words of La Vanguardia, the city's leading
daily, is "the principal focus for the development of
jihadist terrorism in Spain and in Europe." An emerging
trend in the past 15 months is the frequency with which
Islamic radicals from the Pakistani community in Catalonia
are detained by GOS security services, including in
Operations Cantata, Cheapest, and Fish, discussed above.
(COMMENT: There are an estimated one million Muslims in
Spain and roughly 40,000 - 70,000 Pakistanis. Some 25,000
Pakistanis, roughly 90 percent of whom are men - live in
greater Barcelona. Baquero believes Barcelona became a
hotbed of activity because that's where Muslims settled.
This is where they could find jobs and start a life. The
terrorists used the economic immigrants as cover and it
works. Most of the activity is outside Barcelona proper in
places like Hospitalet, Badalona, Reus, and as far south as
Tarragona. END COMMENT.) As another recent example, there
are allegations that a Pakistani, who was living in Barcelona
at the time, is connected to the November, 2008 coordinated
Mumbai attacks, which left 179 dead and more than 200
wounded. Javed Iqbal, now in custody in Pakistan, allegedly
provided communications and financial support on behalf of
the cell that conducted the attack.

15. (C) For its part, Post recognizes the multi-faceted
threat to U.S. interests from a range of illicit activity
emanating from Catalonia and has been making efforts to
increase the multi-agency USG presence at the
jointly-coordinated counterterrorism, anti-crime, and
intelligence center that has been established at the
Consulate General in Barcelona. As part of this expansion,
Post is pleased that POL/GSO and RSO slots have been approved
for Barcelona and we welcome on-going inter-agency interest
in contributing to the increased USG presence in Barcelona.