This El Nacional.cat interview was first published in March 2018.
A biologist by training, Jaume Grau (Barcelona, 1960) is the scriptwriter behind the documentary 'The State's Secret Cesspit', which exposed the dirty war conducted by the Spanish state against Catalan government leaders and institutions over the past few years. With the documentary censored by all Spanish television chains (although viewable with English subtitles online), he has just released the book Les clavegueres de l’Estat ('The Cesspits of the State'), published by Catedral. Grau's intention in the book is to penetrate even further into the dirty war led by Spain's interior ministry. He also places the issue in historical and geographical context.
Grau makes a point of offering special gratitude to journalists Patricia Lopez and Carlos Enrique Bayo of the digital newspaper Público, and to producer Jaume Roures. “Without them, it would not have been possible”, he says.
What are the cesspits of the state?
The cesspits of the state are those elements and organizations of the Spanish state that work outside the law to achieve objectives designated by those who govern. As long as hierarchies and societies have existed, power has tended to protect itself. Since the normal laws which power has at its disposal are not thought to be enough, power uses several elements that work outside the law to guarantee this protection. To maintain its position, but also to attack its enemies, which is another form of protecting itself.
Does this take place in all democratic countries?
Yes, but not to the same intensity and degree. The breadth of democracy differs. The cesspits in the democratic countries are often based in intelligence services. But the Norwegian cesspits are not the same as those of the US, those of France, Italy or Spain. Without even mentioning the Turks or the Russians. There, the state already gets confused with the cesspits. The great majority of democracies have cesspits and use them.
In the Spanish case, what do they most resemble?
Police all around the world are in contact with one another. At certain times, the FBI has trained parts of the Spanish police. And there have also been contacts with the French police. They learn from each other's forms of behaviour. What differentiates the Spanish cesspits from others is that they are spread across many state structures, like an oil slick. They impregnate everything. In other countries they are more centred on the task of the intelligence services. In Spain there is a communion of interest among the different institutions: the judiciary, the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Court of Accounts, the government, along with others which do not actually belong to the state, such as certain news media. All of these together make up one big famiglia. And it is not necessary to blow the bugle for them to all fall into line, because they are already aligned.
Has there been a continuity across Spain's different regimes?
There was no break at the end of the dictatorship. The elements in play in the cesspits, mainly the judiciary and the police, have had continuity in the democratic era since 1978. It was not the same in Portugal, where there was a democratic purge. Here, people involved in severe human rights crimes were not removed. In 1977, Franco's Public Order Court, which acted against political opponents, changed its name to the National Audience. And the judges who were part of it mostly became part of the new court, which is preconstitutional. And military courts continued to operate. The most famous case that demonstrates this is that of theatre company Els Joglars, but in the 90s, they tried people who had demonstrated in military installations on the issue of conscientious objectors.
And in the police?
Franco's Political-Social Brigade had many people working for it. For example, in Barcelona it had three times the staff that the criminal area had. And these individuals continued working without any kind of re-education. This was aggravated by the increase of terrorism from the Basque group ETA. First, the post-Franco government under the UCD and subsequently the socialists entrusted elements of the Franco-era police with the pursuit of ETA. To the extent that some senior police officers implicated in torture were in charge of the campaign against ETA and some of them even took part in the Algiers peace talks in the 1980s.
And has this been transmitted beyond that?
The state is a famiglia whose members are not concerned about whether it is democratic, only that there is a state. Prime minister Rajoy is by profession a property valuer, and his father was a judge. The same thing happens among soldiers, civil guards and other elements of the state, and among mixtures of them. This aura of protection has been visible, for example, in the lack of attention that has been given to terrorist acts by the extreme right, whether by the judiciary or the police. Many of those crimes are still to be solved...
Like the parcel bomb attack on the satirical magazine El Papus in 1977.
That was a flagrant example of the attitude of the judges. Unfortunately one person died in the attack, but it could have been a massacre. In the decision, the judge said that part of the responsibility belonged to the publishing company, for not having put in place the necessary measures to check a package. But there are other examples. Melitón Manzanas, one of the darkest and most sadistic figures that the Franco regime threw up, was one of the first victims of ETA. And in spite of multiple protests, the government of José Maria Aznar gave him the treatment of a victim of terrorism, with all the recognition associated with that. At a time when no victim of Franco's regime had received recognition.
There is a continuity of police and judicial practices and personnel between the Franco regime and the democratic era.
There is continuity among people ...but also in practices?
Yes. I will quote two examples. The first is the police report, which during the Franco regime was definitive. A judge had no reason to doubt what such a statement said, quite apart from the fact that confession or proof were obtained using torture. The statement arrived in the judge's hands and that person was already condemned if the police considered that he or she was guilty. This resembles what is happening now with the National Audience and the Supreme Court. The reports that the Public Prosecutor's Office, through the police organs, submit to judges Llanera and Lamela are so strong that guilt is considered to be proven. This also occurs in the Mossos d'Esquadra, when the other day they said that they had arrested the person responsible for the recent double murder in Susqueda. There should be more circumspection in the way the information is handled.
There is another curious aspect. During the Franco regime there was a compendium of laws, the Fuero de los Españoles, in which certain rights were guaranteed to people. But there was another section which said that, in cases where national unity was threatened, the rights could be overruled. This is a little like what is happening now. At a time when this principle of unity is seen to be under threat, any right held by a citizen can be ignored because there is a greater good. This mentality has been internalized even by the police officers with the greatest democratic inclinations.
What has been done in the name of this unity of Spain?
In terms of what we know, in the name of the unity of Spain, there have been arbitrary arrests, opening of mail, creation of false reports aimed at key people in the independence process, threats have been made, ad hoc laws have been made which have been changed by the Constitutional Court to fight against a given political option... They have left no stone unturned in the state in order to fight against opposing ideas. In this case the independence movement, but they have also done something similar with the left-wing Podemos party.
Is Operation Catalonia comparable with the GAL, the state's anti-ETA death squads of the 1980s?
No. Deaths and tortures mark a red line that in this case has not been crossed. If we want them to believe us, we have to be fair about this. The GAL represented one of the Spanish state's most detestable moments. Not so much for using para-police elements to carry out several attacks, which they did, but because the idea of the GAL was even more perverse that that. It was to use certain groups supposedly outside the law to protect the illegal action of bodies working within the law. Torture and murder could be covered up as actions carried out by a terrorist group. But the persecution of political opponents with electoral consequences is also extremely grave, because it tramples on the principle of equality at the ballot box.
In the book you also look back at McCarthyism. Are there points of similarity?
Yes. This kind of witch-hunt has spread. Any person suspected of being inclined towards the independence cause may be pursued. During the Vietnam war, the White House prepared reports on all activists and figures who were against the war. Those reports were written in order to attack them publicly. This has quite a lot of resemblance to the way the cesspits act here in Spain, as also happened in France at the end of the 90s.
The Spanish police services may seem like a self-parody, but they are systematic and powerful.
Is there a special office for illicit business, like Chirac's cabinet noir in France, to attack opponents?
Here there was an office that some officers that I interviewed called the Oficina Siniestra - the sinister office. In the case of Yves Bertrand, the man that carried out the dirty war for Chirac, there was an office that worked in a way quite similar to what they had here. It has to be said that all of this dirty war did not act only against politicians, but sometimes also against individual police officers and citizens. Nobody in a state that allows such latitude is protected against the cesspits.
Do we know who the figure 'x' is in Operation Catalonia, the dirty war against Catalonia?
For me it is Rajoy. Last year, the report of the investigation commission on the matter, which said that human and economic resources had been dedicated to actions against political opponents, was approved by the Spanish congress. If Rajoy did not know this, it was time for a purge and an attempt to find out what had happened. As he did not do this, I understand that he carries the ultimate responsibility. Interior minister Fernández Díaz said that “the prime minister knows”. I would be highly surprised if he didn't have knowledge of an operation of these dimensions. But there is not just one 'x'. As well there are other people, like the minister Fernández Díaz, or people like Jorge Moragas and Alicia Sánchez Camacho.
Did the holding of the independence referendum show the limitations of the cesspits?
Not of the cesspits, but of the information services. They were incapable of stopping the referendum from taking place. Because of that there were reproaches afterwards within the police. The operation was ineffective and presented a poor image. The information services of the police and the intelligence services on 1st October were made to look ridiculous.
Why have judges and prosecutors, instead of opening up legal cases, looked the other way?
Obviously, there have been judges and prosecutors who have collaborated so that all this politics was possible. Fernández said that “the prosecutors refine it for you”. Somehow the prosecutors have kept on listening to what the Spanish government has said. On 20th September, interior minister Zoido spoke about “disturbances”. And this phrase then became set in place. To organize a referendum is not a crime. They were looking for the way to prosecute: sedition and rebellion. The Public Prosecutor's Office and the judiciary acted exerting pressures in unison.
The supposed note from the CIA to the Mossos d'Esquadra is a perfect example of how the cesspits of the state act.
Without collaboration from certain media, would all this have been possible?
The media are very important. Without their collaboration, certain reports would not have seen the light. The report [alleging corruption] about former Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias, prior to the 2014 independence vote, was published by the newspaper El Mundo. But on the other hand, the ABC, a newspaper you would never think of as being pro-independence, considered that it was not reliable enough. It was a police report with a stamp, but without a signature or date. The first thing that a journalist has to think is that this shows some irregularity. The structure of the judicialization process, depending on the exact case, has been: we manufacture a report, we send it to our tame journalist, a massive scandal blows up and, finally, a group like Manos Limpias [anti-corruption group with right wing links] takes it up and presents a complaint. With so little substance, probably no public prosecutor would have dared to do that. However, once huge headlines have been generated, it can be judicialized.
In the book you refer to the supposed note from the CIA to the Mossos published by El Periódico [claiming that the Catalan police were warned in advance about the Barcelona terrorist attack]. Was this also manufactured in the cesspits?
It is an operation that perfectly reproduces the way that the cesspits act. It is true that at that time the elements that had worked from 2012 to 2015 do longer existed, but one of the commissioners was there, and he was in the position of a possible informant. He is the head of CITCO (Spain's center for intelligence against terrorism and organized crime), José Luis Olivera. The case of El Periódico is flagrant. Right from the moment of the attack, a banner appeared in its digital version, saying that the Mossos knew about it in advance. How did that information get to them? Everything indicates that it was from the police. In a way, El Periódico is doing the same job as OKdiario. With a difference: the former is a newspaper with more prestige. Somebody thought that the publication of the story in a newspaper like El Periódico would resonate much more.
And in the midst of the story there are outlandish characters, like El Pequeño Nicolás.
Yes. Even though sometimes the police services can seem like an incompetent self-parody -and they do have elements of that- they are systematic and powerful. The case of the El Pequeño Nicolás is an amusing case of a type that might arise in other countries, of a character who infiltrates and attempts to make money from his own ability to convince. In fact, without him, nothing of what Público published would have been known. It was the coincidence of certain things happening at the same time: his arrest, the recordings of interior minister Fernández Díaz and those of Martín Blas, which enabled it to be seen how police commands make calls to certain journalists. He is an element that has been active in there, with a certain humorous media-friendliness, which has served the interests of certain people who have made use of him.
Do the cesspits still operate?
Yes, I have no doubt they do. From the cesspits, certain news emerges, so we know that something is happening. I'm sure that they are spying on people due to their ideology. And I am sure that they are doing it without court permission. Does anybody doubt that Carles Puigdemont is being watched in Belgium? I am sure that they are shadowing him and without a court order. The same thing for the people who are here. The action of a dirty war starts with illegal spying, illegal investigation against political opponents. We will hear about it if they go further than that. It would not be surprising. These days there have been leaks of supposed spying by the Mossos on key personalities. This smells like a dirty war.
The book aims to go beyond the documentary. It finishes on 1st October, but I fear there are still chapters to write.
Hopefully not. A person like me that likes to go gathering wild mushrooms, would love to have more time to stroll in the mountains and write a book about that, rather than dedicate myself to the cesspits, which are very, very smelly.