British Mata Hari spied for Germany in Spain

A British ballet dancer performing in neutral Spain during World War One was one of numerous females spies working for the Germans, a new book claims.

British Mata Hari spied for Germany in Spain
Bedlington is reported to have delivered secret documents for German forces as she travelled and worked across Spain. Photo: Paul Hagius/Flickr

Elizabeth Bedlington, who performed under the stage name of La Titanesca, acted as a British Mata Hari for German forces during WWI, Spanish historian Fernando García Sanz has revealed in his soon-to-be published book España en la Gran Guerra (Spain in the Great War).

Bedlington is reported to have delivered secret documents for German forces as she travelled and worked across Spain, having been recruited through her Austro-Hungarian husband Gunter Hopf.

Although the popular ballerina was never arrested for spying for the Germans, the book's author uncovered Italian secret service reports which indicate she had been identified as a mule, a discovery which spurred Allied forces to block her entry into Italy.

Originally from London, Bedlington is believed to have lived in Spain for the rest of her life, The UK's Times wrote on Thursday.

The comparison drawn between the UK dancer and Mata Hari, the famous Dutch courtesan executed by French troops for spying for Germany during WWI, is equally applicable to other female undercover agents featured in the 426-page book.

"Mata Hari was no-one compared to other female spies who were so good that even to this day they haven't been identified," García Sanz told Spanish daily El País.

Pilar Millán Astray, sister of the founder of Spain's military Legion, was one of the cunning women the book's author talks about.

Later becoming a famous Spanish novelist, Millán Astray is reported to have stolen documents from the UK Ambassador to Spain and handed them over to the Germans in 1917.

Her actions epitomize the overall attitude of Spain during WWI as described by García Sanz, a willingness to allow the country to become a spying ground for both sides in return for quick profit and favours.

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Spain shares phone data with US: Report

Spanish secret services regularly share large amounts of intercepted data with their US counterparts, including details of telephone calls, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

Spain shares phone data with US: Report
"Spain's secret intelligence service CNI regularly transmits to the US National Security Agency large quantities of personal metadata," says El PaĆ­s. Photo: Ludovic Bertron

The report by leading Spanish daily El Pais supported allegations by US spy chiefs and officials that European intelligence services collected information from telephone communications to hand to US services.

The allegations were a challenge to media reports that US intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) collected data from tens of millions of telephone calls in Spain and France. The reports have tested European relations with Washington.

Citing sources with knowledge of the spying practices, El Pais said that Spain's secret intelligence service CNI, "like most of the main European espionage services, regularly transmits to the US National Security Agency large quantities of personal metadata" for analysis.

The data include the origin, destination and duration of telephone calls, it said.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said the head of the CNI will address parliament next Wednesday over earlier reports of US telephone-spying in Europe.

Spain's foreign minister summoned the US ambassador in Madrid on Monday over the issue.

The United States' European allies protested after newspapers reported, based on leaks from fugitive former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, that Washington collected European telephone calls and online communications as part of anti-terror operations.

Rajoy said such spying, if true, is "inappropriate and unacceptable between partners and friends".

Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Monday published a document it said was supplied by Snowden that purportedly showed the agency had spied on more than 60 million telephone calls in Spain in a month.

That followed similar reports of spying in France, Germany and other European countries.