The Spanish paper El Pais reports that the US has quietly withdrawn two staff members at the request of the Spanish government.
Spain has fired two US embassy staff, following allegations that they tried to bribe Spanish intelligence officials in exchange for secrets.
Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles said on Thursday that Spain has filed a complaint with the US, but that the incident will not harm diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“Spain and the United States are friends, allies and partners,” he told reporters. “If there are issues that may affect us, they will be discussed and dealt with, but that will not influence our relations.”
The newspaper El Pais reported that two unnamed embassy workers were secretly removed at the request of Madrid, after an investigation concluded that they obtained information from Spanish intelligence agents for a “large amount”.
Robles confirmed that a judicial investigation is investigating the “irregular conduct” of the CNI, Spain’s intelligence agency. The content of the material shared by the two embassy workers is unclear.
El Pais reported that a CNI chief of area and his assistant were arrested two months ago, but the court ordered that their case remain secret. The paper added that US Ambassador Julissa Reynoso denied any knowledge or involvement when summoned by Spanish authorities.
“At least two US agents stationed at the US Embassy in Madrid, who were directly involved in the recruitment of CNI spies, have been carefully expelled from Spain,” the El Pais story read.
While trying to recruit agents from a country’s intelligence apparatus is a form of spycraft common in relations between hostile powers, El Pais called the incident “an open hostile act ” which is not appropriate for “friends or allies”.
Spanish outlet El Confidencial first reported the arrest of two CNI workers on Monday. Asked about the incident on Monday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan declined to comment.
The US embassy in Madrid and Spain’s foreign ministry also declined to comment on the event.