A wiretapping scandal has devasted Greece after revelations that a left-wing politician, Nikos Androulakis, was monitored in 2021.
The ruling right-wing government as well as the national intelligence services are involved in the investigation of Androulakis who is the leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) party, which has initiated an investigation to find out why the man was targeted for surveillance.
The news is happening at a crucial time and comes as Greek lawmakers prepare for the next legislative election The scandal could threaten to damage Athens its relationship with the European Union.
Here’s what you must be aware of:
In a routine security check in July, The European Parliament informed Androulakis of attempts to hack his phone using surveillance software dubbed Predator.
A probe into the breach found that even though the spyware failed in tracking Androulakis’s mobile, However, the Greek National Intelligence Service (EYP) monitored his phone from September 2021 to December 13, 2021, after which he was elected the leader of PASOK.
In the last three years, the EYP is directly under the control of the conservative prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is a member of his New Democracy party.
“I never expected the Greek government to spy on me using the darkest practices,” Androulakis declared in an interview on telecast following the discovery in August.
Two top officials quit their posts in the aftermath of the crisis. These included one of them, the head of the Intelligence department, Panagiotis Kontoleon, and the head of staff as well as his nephew, Grigoris Dimitriadis.
However, Mistsotakis spoke at a press gathering on 8 August that: “Everything was done in conformity with the law. it was a violation of the law. I did not know about it and would not allow the situation to continue.
“The Greek intelligence service underestimated the political dimension of this action.”
The government has not yet explained the reason Androulakis has been targeted.
Dimitrios Kairidis, a politician from the ruling party has stated that disclosing the motive for the surveillance could be a violation of the law.
Greek Presidency Katerina Sakellaropoulou has called for an investigation. She said in a statement that defending the right to privacy is “a fundamental condition of a democratic and liberal society” and that respect for democracy is more than the boundaries of politics.
PASOK political figure and ex-justice minister Haris Kastanidis said to the Reuters media agency that: “There are huge question mark that needs to be addressed. Are more journalists and politicians who are being monitored? Who was the person who decided on the legal phone taps and what is the reason?”
George Katrougalos, a lawyer for the principal opposing party Syriza said that “Either there was a national security reason, meaning Androulakis was a spy, or there wasn’t, and therefore the phone tapping was illegal.”
Stavros Malichudis Stavros Malichudis, a Greek journalist who writes about migration Also, was spied on in connection with “national security reasons”.
Malichudis stated to Al Jazeera: “This [spyingcould be a breach of obligation. EYP officials aren’t compensated by taxpayers’ money to observe politicians or journalists. When they focus on them, they’re neglecting their duty to ignore … real threats.
“[TheEYP] EYP is an in-control state agency, whose employees are well aware that they will not be held accountable for their conduct. It’s a bit disappointing however, we’re not likely to gain any insight in this inquiry by the parliamentary investigation the only way to do that is through journalism. will conduct this.”
Why should you be concerned?
In light of the EU Parliament already committing to investigate the use of Pegasus, a formidable spyware software that has been found on gadgets of the world’s top leaders and even French president Emmanuel Macron in 2019, the use of North Macedonian Predator software in Greece is being closely observed in Brussels.
However, Mitsotakis who was applauded by members of the EU over his management of the pandemic as well as his condemned his stance on the Russian invading of Ukraine and the Russian invasion of Ukraine may now be facing trouble with the bloc.
Since the tapping of phones was carried out while Androulakis was serving as a member of the European Parliament (MEP), the security breach may have been in violation of EU laws on the protection of data.
Responding to a request sent by the European Commission (EC) asking regarding the wiretap Greece’s Permanent Representative in the EU, Ioannis Vrailas, stated that it was “highly debatable” that any of the issues made by Brussels concerning the wiretapping revelations fall within the scope that the Commission.
But one of the most moderate Dutch MEPs Sophie de Veld mentioned the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which was drafted and approved by the EU as the reason for Brussels’s involvement.
In a tweet on the Twitter platform in reply to Vrailas, she wrote: “Slight correction to @vrailas The spyware scandal is in fact a European responsibility. This is the reason why @EP_Pegalnquiry @Europarl_ is looking into the matter. Other than breaking EU laws regarding #GDPR, @EU_Commision MEPs and officials were also targeted. The national governments are members of the EU council.”
What’s in the future?
The calls for Mitsotakis to step down have increased However, he has pledged to serve out his four-year mandate.
A poll conducted by GPO in August, saw 58.3 percent saying that the wiretapping affected their faith in the federal government, and 40.6 percent claimed they were not affected.
On August 29th, a majority of Greek lawmakers – 142 out of 157 – supported an inquiry regarding the wiretap.
They’ll have at least one month to conduct the investigation, and to also review the wiretaps that were reported in 2016 it is believed that they were conducted by the government at the time.
For Mitsotakis the EYP has denied assertions that the EYP employs Predator software, despite the spyware that is linked to an Athens-based, registered Cyprus firm known as Intellect.
Androulakis and Malichudis weren’t the only hacking victims, however.
On April 1, Citizen Lab a research organization that specializes in spyware technologies found proof of Predator software that was used to penetrate the phone of journalist Thanasis Koukakis for a period of 10 weeks in 2021.
Malichudis stated that his lawsuit against the EYP is now being combined with Koukakis following the fact that his former EYP director admitted during the course of a hearing that they’d both been spied on to protect national security.
But Malichudis isn’t convinced that the investigation will result in anything significant and has told Al Jazeera, “It’s safe to assume that nothing substantial will result from this investigation. Already officials (eg an ex- EYP director who quit recently) who have been asked to testify before the probe by parliament have declined to provide specific information and have claimed that the probe concerns classified data’.”