Investigations into spyware should now “involve a check of the phones of all politicians and top level officials,” Sophie in ‘t Veld, chair of the European Parliament’s special committee on spyware, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday (Aug 9). “To get a full picture of the spying activity by governments.”
Greece has now vaulted to the top of the worry list. Allies of Mitsotakis’, a staunch defender of Ukraine, have argued that the scandal is not just a threat to Greek stability but to the common cause against Russia.
“If I were Mr Putin, I would be very happy if the governments that were so opposed to Russia would fall,” said Adonis Georgiadis, a government minister and vice president of Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party.
Although he stressed he was not blaming Russia for the hacking, he added that Russia had exerted influence in Greece before: “So if they did it in the past, why not do it now?” Turkey, too, he said, “could be” behind it all.
Mitsotakis, in his speech, also talked cryptically of the possibility of “shady forces outside Greece” working “to destabilise the country”.
Opponents say the government’s insinuations amount to a desperate smoke screen to avoid the obvious issue – that it had gotten caught spying on its own citizens and political rivals.
“It was obvious that the government was lying,” said George Katrougalos, former Greek foreign minister of the main opposition Syriza party, who attended the confidential July 29 meeting, the substance of which he said he could not divulge.
Opposition party officials have interpreted the nondenials of the intelligence chief about spying on journalists, and even on a migrant child, as confirmations they had done so.
The extent of the government’s surveillance might never have come to light had Nikos Androulakis – leader of Greece’s third-largest political party, the centre-left Pasok-Kinal – not upgraded to a new iPhone.
In June, an aide suggested that he give his old phone to the new spyware-detecting lab in Brussels at the European Parliament, where he is also a member. Technicians found he was the target of a cyberattack on Sept 21 by the malware Predator, which can take over an entire cellphone.
“It can watch, it can record,” said Dimitrios Mantzos, the Pasok party spokesperson, who said the culprit had “to be domestic” because Greek fingerprints were all over the place. “It’s too Greek for us to understand, but it’s all Greek.”
The party leader was not the only target.
Thanasis Koukakis, an investigative reporter who had broken news in 2019 about Greece’s major banks, noticed problems with his new iPhone in June 2020. He asked a source if it was possible he was under surveillance.
The source told him he was. He said he was shown transcripts of his conversations.
He complained to the country’s communication and privacy watchdog.
Before he could get an answer, the government amended a law in March 2021, allowing it to withhold information from people being investigated on questions of national security. The privacy watchdog told him that it had no information about his phone.
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