Thodoris Chondrogiannos 30 • 05 • 2023

EU’s PEGA Committee report on illegal surveillance in Greece

Thodoris Chondrogiannos
EU’s PEGA Committee report on illegal surveillance in Greece
30 • 05 • 2023

The European Parliament’s PEGA Committee report confirms the illegal surveillance of journalists, politicians, businessmen and senior members of the Armed Forces, both by the National Intelligence Service and by malicious Predator spyware.

On 8 May 2023, the PEGA Committee (the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into the use of malicious spyware in the EU) adopted its final report on its investigation into the use of Predator in Greece, as well as other illegal software in EU Member States. 

In its observations, the PEGA Committee noted that Predator was used illegally in Greece “for political and economic gain”, at a time when “legislative amendments have weakened the safeguards” of the communications privacy framework. “This has resulted in spying software being used against journalists, politicians and businessmen and exported to countries with a negative human rights record.”

“Our investigation has made it clear that spy software has been used to violate fundamental rights and endanger democracy in many EU member states, with Poland and Hungary being the most glaring cases,” said PEGA’s chairman Jeroen Lenaers against the backdrop of the adoption of the PEGA report, with rapporteur Sophie In ‘t Veld adding: “The unfettered use of spy software available on the market without proper judicial oversight poses risks to European democracy as long as there is no accountability.”

It should be noted that at that time no legislation had been passed in Greece that would allow the use of software such as Predator. Until then, the basic law for the operation of the National Intelligence Service did not contain any provision for the conditions of using such software (Law 3649/2008 – Government Gazette 39/Α’/3.3.2008). Therefore, surveillance through software such as Predator was entirely illegal and violated Article 19 of the Constitution, which guarantees the absolute inviolability of communications. Furthermore, the use of Predator in Greece is still not legal even under the new law on the procedure for the lifting of the confidentiality of communications (Law 5002/2022 – Government Gazette A’ 228/9.12.2022), while the lifting of the confidentiality of an individual’s communications on the pretext of national security reasons and not due to the actual existence of such reasons is contrary to the above legislative framework guaranteeing the absolute inviolability of the confidentiality of communications.

It should also be noted that, according to experts’ opinions, the surveillance of politicians as well as ministers and senior military officials by the intelligence services, under the pretext of national security, is illegal.

The Greek government has denied the supply and use of Predator or other malware by the Greek authorities. However, it has not to date identified who is using Predator in Greece.

This apparently widespread illegal surveillance raises questions not only about the use of malicious spy software in Greece, but also about the operation of the National Intelligence Service for which the Prime Minister is institutionally responsible, since with his decision just a few days after the victory of New Democracy in the 2019 elections (Government Gazette: Issue  Α’/119/8.7.2019), Kyriakos Mitsotakis placed the service under his direct control. In fact, the use of illegal surveillance mechanisms, in violation of the Constitution, against both politicians and journalists raises an issue not only of the rule of law, but also of freedom of the press and the proper functioning of the democratic constitution.

Where is the problem with the rule of law?

Although Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees the absolute inviolability of the confidentiality of communications, the PEGA Committee report shows that journalists, politicians, ministers, senior military officials and other public figures were unlawfully under surveillance by the National Intelligence Services and the spy software Predator.

Thodoris Chondrogiannos
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