Felipe González Márquez was Spain's President of the Government between 1982 and 1996 with the P.S.O.E. (Partido Socialista Obrero Español or Spanish Socialist Workers' Party). His mandate thus coincided with one of the most turbulent periods of E.T.A.'s terrorism. And also during his mandate, a counter-terrorism group appeared and began to act: the G.A.L. (Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación or Antiterrorist Liberation Groups).
This squad was created by officials of the Spanish Government and among its members there were Spanish police officers and foreign mercenaries. The G.A.L. worked between 1983 and 1987, kidnapping and killing several dozens of individuals, many of them unconnected with E.T.A. G.A.L.'s existence and actions were discovered by the Spanish press and several police officers and Government officials were arrested and imprisoned due to their role in the so-called guerra sucia (dirty war) against the Basque terrorist group.
This guerra sucia was one of the major scandals of the P.S.O.E.-led Spanish Government along with many others, including that of the embezzlement of public funds by individuals related to the G.A.L.
It has been always reported about a mysterious Sr. X (Mr. X), who would be the main figure behind G.A.L.'s network; and it has been always suspected that Sr. X was González himself, although nothing was proved against him.
On Sunday, November 7, 2010, an interview with Felipe González by Juan José Millás was published in El País. Among González's statements, we can find this excerpt from an answer to the question "And what about the embezzlement of public funds?" (translated as accurate as possible, between quotation marks):
"The other discussion, an absurd one which drives oneself to the melancholy, is how the reserved funds are handled, those which I was responsible for, which by definition are reserved and which started a ridiculous debate because it was said that they had to have receipts of those provided funds. That is, the informers or the infiltrators who were working for the police after having been paid for their fight against terrorism had to sign the receipts of the money they were being given. We got to this ridiculous [point] in our country! By definition they can't do it, and by definition it's impossible to know whether the guy who has to provide those funds to the informer to give the information to you, or to bring you a [terrorist] commando, is actually providing those funds. Or [whether] he is providing a half while he is taking the other [half]. Here and everywhere. Those are the State's guts. It's been a long time since I'm not in the Government but I'll tell you something that maybe will surprise you.
Even now I still don't know if I did right or wrong, I'm not bringing a moral problem up to you, because I'm still not sure. In my life I had just an opportunity to give an order to liquidate the whole E.T.A.'s leadership. Before [Philippe] Bidart's [leader and founder of Iparretarrak, a Basque nationalist terrorist organization operating in the French Basque Country] fall, in 1992, they wanted to spoil the Olympic Games, to have a universal influence... I don't know how much time before, maybe in 1990 or 1989, some information was given to me, it had to be given to me due to its importance. It wasn't about ordinary operations regarding the fight against terrorism: our people had detected -I don't tell who [were those people]- the place and the day of a meeting of E.T.A.'s leadership in southern France. The whole leadership. An operation which they had been waiting for much time. We had the place and the day, but our chance to arrest them was inexistent, they weren't in our territory. And the possibility that the operation was to be done by France was very low. Now it would have been easier. Although if it had been detected by our services, if the whole E.T.A.'s leadership had met in a French location, France['s authorities] would have fallen on them. [But] not at that moment. At that moment we only had the possibility to blow them up altogether in the house they were to meet. I will not even explain you the consequences of acting in French territory, I'll not explain you the whole issue, but the fact was: a possibility to blow them up and to leave E.T.A. without its leaders did exist. The decision was between 'Yes' and 'No'. I'll simplify it, I said: 'No'. And I'll add this: I don't already know if I did right. I'm not telling you that I'd never do it for moral reasons. No, it's not true. One of the things that tortured me during the following 24 hours was how many murders of innocent people could I have avoided within the following four or five years. That's the matter. But I said 'No'."
This is the way in which former Spain's President of the Government Felipe González justified the policy of targeted killings. Please notice that he had to decide whether to blow E.T.A.'s leadership up, due to the fact that at that time Spanish authorities were unable to apprehend the terrorists, who were hiding in the territory of a country which was doing absolutely nothing to arrest them; please notice also that González decided not to do it for diplomatic reasons, not for moral ones.
The case is that former Spain's President of the Government Felipe González at least considered whether to commit a targeted killing in order to fight a terrorist organization. Some people have argued that these statements prove that González really was Sr. X, the main figure behind the G.A.L.'s network.
Were G.A.L.'s activities illegal? Yes, they were. Although Spain had to deal with a terrorist organization at the time, this problem didn't happen in the context of a war, so in that case the policy of targeted killings and kidnappings was illegal. And even if this was not the case in strict legal terms (many would justify such a policy in this case arguing that France neither was fighting against E.T.A. in its own soil nor allowed Spain to apprehend the terrorists in French territory), the fact is that in practice, G.A.L.'s activities were performed foolishly and took many innocent lives.
But what about a sovereign State which suffers terrorism in the context of a war? Does constitute a punishable offense to kill your enemies when you're at war with them? No, it doesn't, especially if the members of those terrorist organizations hide and operate in the territory of a country which neither apprehends them nor allows the affected sovereign State to act appropriately. And is not the policy of targeted killings even more justifiable when in the context of a war the country where the terrorists hide and operate actively support them? In such a case, is not actually the country which supports the terrorists participating in the hostilities against the affected sovereign State? And is not the affected sovereign State entitled to defend itself through a policy of targeted killings if necessary?