‘Greek Watergate’ wiretap scandal throws government into turmoil


Recent revelations that Greek intelligence tapped the opposition leader’s phone has left Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis struggling to fend off a growing scandal ahead of next year’s election.

Mitsotakis has denied knowledge of the incident and called the actions of the National Intelligence Service, or EYP, “politically unacceptable”.

The impasse, dubbed “Greek Watergate” by one political party, has forced the resignation of the head of the intelligence service and a close aide to the prime minister. Parliament is cutting short its summer recess, and Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said in a statement Tuesday that personal privacy is “a fundamental condition of a democratic and liberal society.”

“What happened may have been legal, but it was a mistake,” Mitsotakis said In a televised address to the nation on Monday. “I didn’t know and frankly I would never have allowed it.”

When PASOK socialist party leader Nikos Androulakis first disclosed the scandal last week, the European Parliament reported that his phone had been hacked using Predator spyware.

Androlakis, a member of the European Parliament, said he contacted the organization’s cyber security service after receiving suspicious messages on his phone. In an address on Friday, he said he later learned that the EYP had been listening to his conversations over a three-month period when he was campaigning for the leadership of the PASOK party in 2021.

“The Greek government never expected me to be under surveillance with shady practices,” Androlakis said, according to Associated Press.

Mitsotakis has pledged to strengthen the EYP’s legal framework and transparency mechanisms. The agency reports directly to the Prime Minister’s Office and any surveillance must be approved by the prosecutor.

Earlier this year, two Greek journalists made similar complaints about being monitored by the EYP. The European Parliament decided in March to investigate the use of spyware against citizens, officials and journalists in EU member states.

Predator was developed by North Macedonian start-up Sytrox Purchased In 2019 by former Israeli intelligence officer and entrepreneur Tal Dillion. Researchers say It is comparable to the Pegasus software developed by Israel’s NSO Group and can extract messages and other information from a target’s cellphone.

Private Israeli spyware used to hack cellphones of journalists, activists around the world

“European governments are giving legitimacy [spyware] sellers — companies that are created to sell to abusers,” said John Scott-Relton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab research group at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

It’s typical that spyware abuse disclosures reflect a broader pattern, Railton said. “If there is one case, there are probably many more,” he said.

Elinda Labropoulou in Athens contributed to this report.

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