Spanish intelligence to recruit 500 agents to spy on ISIS online

© David McNew
Spanish spooks want to recruit 500 additional agents to fight against the threat of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). They will spy on alleged jihadists online, tracking propaganda and recruitment, the intelligence chief said.

The National Intelligence Agency (CNI) wants to complete the expansion of its ranks by 2020, its head Felix Sanz Roldan said on Thursday. It’s part of the new national counter-terrorism strategy adopted last year.

The new agents would be specialists in “mathematics, telecommunications and computers,” Sanz Roldan said at a security and defense seminar in Toledo. Their skills are necessary to fight the new brand of tech-savvy terrorism that IS practise, he said as cited by the Spanish media.

The CNI considers jihadist groups a paramount threat to Spain at the moment, surpassing that of domestic extremists such as the Basque separatist group ETA, the director of the agency said. It downsized the department dealing with domestic terrorism and beefed up foreign intelligence accordingly.

Sanz Roldan said Spain was in close cooperation with intelligence services of other nations and that the anti-IS forces were “winning,” but added that ultimately defeating the group is likely to take a long time.

Spain’s Secretary of State for Security Francisco Martinez Vazquez, who was also speaking at the seminar, said an estimated 170 Spanish citizens had left the country to join jihadists in the Middle East. Of those over 20 have returned to Spain and are either in custody or on a terrorist watch list. He stressed that some other European nations, such as France and the UK, had significantly more people with similar stories.