Greece’s New Democracy government has been in crisis since early August after it was revealed that the National Intelligence Agency (EYP) had hacked the phone of Nikos Androulakis, leader of the social democratic PASOK.
The chain of events leading to the revelations began when Androulakis, a member of the European Parliament since 2014, submitted his phone to the European Parliament’s cybersecurity department for review on June 28. This revealed that in September 2021, an attempt was made to infect his phone with the Predator spyware.
On July 26, Androulakis filed a complaint with the Greek Supreme Court, which resulted in the Hellenic Communications Security and Privacy Authority (ADAE) requesting data from Androulakis’ telephone provider to conduct its own investigation. Predator spyware leaves no easily identifiable traces, but Androulakis’ phone records showed he was under surveillance by the Hellenic National Intelligence Agency (EYP) using conventional eavesdropping techniques.
A court order for wiretapping was reportedly given in September 2021 on “national security” grounds during the same period that an attempt was made to infect his Predator phone. At the time, Androulakis was a candidate in the PASOK leadership election and the surveillance reportedly ended shortly after he was elected party leader in December 2021.
The revelations led to the August 5 resignations of EYP chief Dimitris Kontoleon and chief of staff and Prime Minister’s nephew Grigoris Dimitriadis. In a televised address three days later, Mitsotakis accused the EYP of mismanaging the case, which led to the “immediate removal of the head of the EYP” while his chief of staff assumed “objective political responsibility” by also resigning. Excused, Mitsotakis denied that he was aware of the hacking of Androulakis’ phone.
This requirement cannot be accepted. One of the first steps taken by Mitsotakis after coming to power in July 2019 was to transfer EYP to the Prime Minister’s Office. EYP was formerly part of the Ministry of Civil Protection. It is incredible that Mitsotakis did not know that the well-known politician, who shortly thereafter became the leader of Greece’s third largest party, was being followed.
Government sources cited by conservative newspaper cathimerini and according to the news report about Alpha TV claimed that the wiretapping was carried out at the direct request of the special services of Ukraine and Armenia, since Androulakis is a member of the European Parliament committee that deals with trade relations between the EU and China. According to Alpha TV report “two countries expressed concern that Russia [a key ally of China] prepared for war and what [by bugging Androulakis] they might know something about it.”
It is equally inconceivable that such intelligence gathering was not carried out at the direction of the major NATO powers, and in particular Washington, which was involved in a series of provocations that ultimately forced Russia to invade Ukraine in February 2022.
Greece has been one of the staunchest supporters of NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine and was one of the first EU countries to pledge arms supplies, sending mainly rifles and anti-tank missiles. The Greek armed forces are represented in the NATO Rapid Reaction Force (NRF), which was activated after the Russian invasion and deployed on the eastern flank. According to the latest data compiled by NATO, Greece spent 3.7 percent of GDP on its military in 2021, making it the alliance’s leader in per capita spending. This trend will continue, with the country projected to spend 3.76 percent by the end of this year.
The revelations have raised concerns in ruling circles that they have undermined Greece’s role as a reliable client state of Western imperialism. Recent The newspaper “New York Times The article lamented that “Greek Watergate” had “exposed high-level surveillance under the shiny surface” of Mitsotakis’s “Greece 2.0” project, which had only recently managed to attract investment into the country from companies such as Microsoft, Pfizer and JPMorgan Chase.
Even before Androulakis’ wiretap was exposed, reports of intrusive government surveillance had been circulating for more than a year. In November 2021, an investigation report in I Ephimeris Tone Sintakton (Ef.Syn.) showed that EYP is actively involved in collecting information about journalists, lawyers and activists who advocate for the rights of refugees and migrants.
In April of this year, Reporters United revealed that in June 2020, EYP received permission to hack the phone of journalist Thanassis Koukakis for “national security” reasons. According to the report, the surveillance abruptly ended two months later after Koukakis filed a complaint with ADAE due to repeated technical problems with his phone since spring 2020 and a subsequent warning from the source.
According to Reporters United, after ADAE confirmed that the alleged wiretapping had taken place, it applied for court clearance in early March to ensure that the wiretap’s operational goals were not compromised, informing Koukakis. Just 20 days after the ADAE’s request, a law was expedited through parliament to deprive citizens under surveillance of the legal right to be informed of the fact.
A few days before Reporters United part, separate investigation report Inner history testified that at the end of March, Koukakis was informed that in addition to wiretapping, his phone had also been successfully infected with Predator spyware. This was confirmed after he submitted his phone for analysis at the University of Toronto’s Citizen’s Lab.
In a December 2021 report, Citizen’s Lab stated that its Internet scanning of Predator servers around the world found “probable Predator customers in Armenia, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Madagascar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Serbia.”
Citizen’s Lab has confirmed that the Predator was used to hack the phones of an Egyptian TV journalist and Ayman Nur, a political exile living in Turkey.
Predator was developed by North Macedonian startup Cytrox in 2017 and was subsequently acquired in 2019 by Intellexa, a cybersecurity company owned by Tal Dillian, the former Israeli commander of Unit 81, the secretive technology arm of the Israeli army. Intellexa is the main commercial competitor of NSO Group, another Israeli cybersecurity firm that owns the Pegasus spyware used to spy on journalists and politicians around the world. According to Dillian’s LinkedIn profile, his current location is listed as Greece, while Intellexa has a strong corporate presence in the country.
According to inner story, the involvement of Felix Bitzios, former deputy director of Intellexa in Greece, in the Bank of Piraeus capital control breach scandal points to a likely motive for Koukakis’ phone hack. Koukakis has written extensively about this case. Prior to his role at Intellexa, Bitzios was the front man for Libra Group in Greece, the US shipping conglomerate at the center of the scandal.
The fallout prompted calls in the EU Parliament to investigate allegations of espionage. The Greek Parliament also voted in favor of holding a parliamentary inquiry. Investigations into such sensitive issues are typically conducted to quell public anger and terminate without real coverage – again under the pretense of “national security”. Earlier this year, the European Commission ruled out an investigation into member states that used Pegasus to spy on journalists and politicians, saying: “It’s really something for national authorities.”
In a debate ahead of the parliamentary inquiry vote, Alexis Tsipras, leader of the pseudo-left SYRIZA, Greece’s main opposition party, said Mitsotakis was “accused of an unprecedented legislative and anti-democratic deviation since the restoration of democracy.” [after the fall of the junta in 1974]”.
Although wiretapping increased significantly under Mitsotakis, with 15,475 wiretapping requests approved in 2021 according to ADAE, it was under the previous SYRIZA government that EYP surveillance really began. Under Tsipras’s watch, the number of approved wiretap requests skyrocketed from 4,871 in 2015, when SYRIZA came to power, to 11,680 in 2019, when Mitsotakis came to power. In 2018, Tsipras simplified the wiretapping approval process by reducing the number of prosecutors needed to approve an operation from two to one.
The fact that Greece’s ruling elite is using methods of government closely related to those of the military dictatorship that ruled as recently as the 1970s should serve as a warning to workers around the world. In an article about the January 6, 2021 fascist coup in the United States, the WSWS noted from the perspective of August 28 that January 6 was not “an exceptional event in the world. There has been a resurgence of attacks on democracy and shifts towards dictatorship around the world: in Brazil, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and most recently Australia, where it was revealed that in 2021 then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly took over five major ministries to consolidate quasi-dictatorial power in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Europe, Trump supporters are about to lead the government in both Italy and the UK.”