A spy crisis compared to Watergate, calls for more resignations amid reports of “black activities,” and an eavesdropping controversy that prompts the resignations of Greece’s intelligence chief and the head of his personal office within minutes.

After learning that the head of the third-largest party in the country, the political rival of the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, had his phone tapped by the intelligence agency EYP, which directly reports to his office, he is currently facing his most difficult time in office.

“I never expected the Greek government to spy on me using the darkest practices,” the Pasok party head, Nikos Androulakis who is also a member of the European parliament, said in a televised address late on Friday as the extent of the espionage became 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 a few hours earlier, the Prime Minister’s Maximou office had announced Panagiotis Kontoleon’s resignation for “incorrect behavior,” resigning him from his position as the much-respected head of the EYP.

The news came after Mitsotakis’s nephew and closest aide, Grigoris Dimitriadis, shocked everyone by announcing that he had also resigned, taking a bullet for his boss in an effort to put an end to the scandal. Dimitriadis had served as Kontoleon’s point man in Maximou and was regarded as an eminence grise with broad-reaching abilities.

The resignations were seen as an admission of guilt by Sunday, when Mitsotakis said that the wiretapping had been a “big and inexcusable blunder.”
The socialist former prime minister Alexis Tsipras compared the spy scandal to Greece’s very own Watergate, saying it “brutally insults our democracy,” and he vowed to do everything in his power to expose the wrongdoing.

He asserted that the centre-right administration had a need to be transparent regarding both Androulakis, whose phone was allegedly monitored for three months before to his election as Pasok leader last September, and other allegedly targeted individuals.

“Instead of hypocritical apologies and lies, Mr Mitsotakis should say which other politicians and journalists have been followed,” said Tsipras, who heads the main opposition Syriza party. “This is not a huge and unforgivable mistake. It’s a huge scandal [that represents] the unforgivable arrogance of a regime, of a prime minister that thought no one could control him.”

The issue began when Androulakis stated he had been told by the European parliament of an effort to bug his mobile phone with Predator malware. This revelation has brought to mind the darkest days of military control, when opponents of the Colonels’ regime of 1967–1974 were routinely spied on.

After using a cybersecurity tool provided by the Strasbourg-based parliament for parliamentarians to check their phones are not being illegally tracked, the MEP made the revelation. Predator is one of the most advanced spyware programs currently on the market, with the ability to open encrypted messages and turn on mobile devices’ cameras and microphones.

Androulakis detailed the attempted wiretapping in a complaint he submitted to prosecutors at the nation’s supreme court last week.

Following charges of similar illegal surveillance by a government that has drawn harsh international criticism for limiting media freedom, two Greek journalists—one covering migration and the other finance—have also filed lawsuits.

According to MPs present at the closed-door committee meeting on July 29, Kontoleon, the spy head, acknowledged that the Greek intelligence service had tracked Thanassis Koukakis, the financial reporter, at the request of a foreign intelligence service.

At first, government representatives 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 was despite the fact that Androulakis’s cellphone had been tapped at the request of foreign intelligence services.

The request was attributed by certain media outlets to the Pasok leader’s contacts with “shady personnel acting on behalf of Chinese interests,” according to Greek media over the weekend, which identified the foreign intelligence services as being Ukrainian and Armenian.

The administration’s line of defense was instantly criticized as being a complex network of lies from a time when it was in its biggest crisis since taking office in July 2019.

The Greek parliament was urged by Androulakis on Friday to form an inquiry committee to look into possible political liabilities.

Mitsotakis has declared he will 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 garnered praise for his reform agenda and management style, which are more closely related to those in the US than those in the Mediterranean and are considered by some as a breath of fresh air following years of crippling economic instability in Greece. He has shown signs of savoring the challenge of many crises since inheriting the helm.

However, Mitsotakis, who is up for re-election in 2019 under a new electoral law that will make it nearly impossible for his New Democracy party to form a government – even if, as predicted, it comes first – has also come in for increasing criticism for a management style that doesn’t allow for constructive criticism.

The MEP Giorgos Kyrtsos, who was booted from New Democracy earlier this year for publicly criticising 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 authority has become out of hand. His genuine standing as a European liberal will come under scrutiny as a result of this massive situation involving spies.

CODEC Stories:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *