Greek PM slammed for monitoring opponent’s phone
Spy crisis over Watergate, calls for more resignations amid reports of ‘black activities’ and eavesdropping controversy that prompts Greek intelligence chief and head of his personal office to resign within minutes minutes.
After learning that the leader of the country’s third party, the political rival of the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, had been wiretapped by the intelligence agency EYP, which reports directly to his office, he is currently facing at his most serious difficult time at the office.
“I did not expect the Greek government to spy on me using the darkest practices,” Pasok party leader Nikos Androulakis, also a member of the European Parliament, said in a televised speech on Friday night as the extent of the espionage was becoming apparent. . “It is our democratic duty to protect the human rights and freedoms of Greek citizens. Today is a moment of truth for those whose arrogance and sense of impunity make them capable of anything.
Only hours earlier, the Prime Minister’s Maximou office had announced the resignation of Panagiotis Kontoleon for “incorrect behavior”, resigning him from his position as the highly respected leader of the EYP.
The news came after Mitsotakis’ nephew and closest aide, Grigoris Dimitriadis, shocked everyone by announcing he had also quit, taking a bullet for his boss in a bid to end the scandal. Dimitriadis had been Kontoleon’s point man at Maximou and was considered an eminence grise with wide-ranging abilities.
The resignations were taken as an admission of guilt on Sunday, when Mitsotakis said the wiretapping had been a “big and inexcusable mistake”.
Former Socialist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has compared the spy scandal to Greece’s own Watergate, saying it ‘brutally insults our democracy‘, and he has vowed to do everything in his power to expose wrongdoing .
He said the center-right administration needed to be transparent both about Androulakis, whose phone was allegedly monitored for three months before his election as leader of Pasok last September, and other individuals allegedly targeted.
“Instead of hypocritical excuses and lies, Mr. Mitsotakis should say which other politicians and journalists have been followed,” said Tsipras, who leads the main opposition Syriza party. “It’s not a huge, unforgivable mistake. It’s a huge outrage [that represents] the unforgivable arrogance of a regime, of a prime minister who thought no one could control him.
The problem started when Androulakis said he had been informed by the European Parliament of an attempt to bug his mobile phone with the Predator malware. This revelation recalls the darkest days of military control, when opponents of the regime of the colonels of 1967-1974 were regularly spied on.
After using a cybersecurity tool provided by the Strasbourg parliament to parliamentarians to check that their phones are not illegally tracked, the MEP made the revelation. Predator is one of the most advanced spyware currently on the market, with the ability to open encrypted messages and activate mobile device cameras and microphones.
Androulakis detailed the wiretap attempt in a complaint he filed with prosecutors at the nation’s Supreme Court last week.
Following accusations of similar illegal surveillance by a government that has drawn international criticism for limiting media freedom, two Greek journalists – one covering migration and the other finance – have also filed charges .
According to MPs present at the July 29 closed-door committee meeting, Kontoleon, the spy chief, admitted that the Greek intelligence service had tracked down Thanassis Koukakis, the financial journalist, at the request of a foreign intelligence.
At first, government officials denied that the resignations were related to the Predator spyware allegations. However, sources later said that although the surveillance was legal and carried out using standard software, the Prime Minister was unaware of it and “would have stopped it”. This is despite the fact that Androulakis’ mobile phone had been tapped at the request of foreign intelligence services.
The request was attributed by some media to the Pasok chief’s contacts with “shady people acting on behalf of Chinese interests”, according to Greek media over the weekend, which identified the foreign intelligence services as Ukrainian and Armenian.
The administration’s line of defense was immediately criticized as a complex web of lies at a time when it was going through its biggest crisis since taking office in July 2019.
The Greek parliament was invited by Androulakis on Friday to form a commission of inquiry to examine possible political responsibilities.
Mitsotakis said he would officially address the country on Monday. As one of his first acts as president, he controversially placed EYP under Maximou’s supervision. He was quoted as saying in Sunday’s To Vima, “I owe Nikos Androulakis an apology.”
The Harvard-educated leader has drawn praise for his reform agenda and management style, which are more closely tied to those in the United States than those in the Mediterranean and are seen by some as a breath of fresh air after years of crippling economic instability in Greece. . He has shown signs of relishing the challenge of numerous fits since inheriting the helm.
However, Mitsotakis, who is up for re-election in 2019 under a new electoral law that will make it almost impossible for his New Democracy party to form a government – even if, as expected, he comes first – has also increased criticism for a management style that does not allow constructive criticism.
MEP Giorgos Kyrtsos, who was expelled from New Democracy earlier this year for publicly criticizing the government and its treatment of the media, remarked: “Absolute power corrupts”.
In a system with limited checks and balances, Mitsotakis rules through Maximou rather than the cabinet. His attempt to exert his authority got out of control. His true position as a European liberal will come under scrutiny in the wake of this massive spy situation.
(With contributions from The Guardian)