Thodoris Chondrogiannos
Questions raised by government`s choice of agency to lead investigation into the surveillance of journalist
25 • 05 • 2022

Following reports that journalist Thanasis Koukakis was being monitored by the National Intelligence Service (EYP) and Predator spyware, the government announced an investigation by the National Transparency Authority (NTA). However, this is an institutional setback, as the independent Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE) is the competent authority responsible for lifting the privacy of communications in Greece.

Following the revelations from Inside Story and Reporters United about the surveillance of Thanasis Koukakis, government spokesman Yiannis Economou said that the National Transparency Authority (NTA) “on its own motion,” will investigate.

However, the issue raised in this case is that the Koukakis case concerns the removal of telecommunications secrecy and in Greece the competent authority is the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy ADAE (Law 3115/2003 | Government Gazette A ’47/27.2.2003, as amended and in force) or otherwise the Hellenic Data Protection Authority (DPA). In any case, the NTA, as is clear from the description of its responsibilities, can not claim competency over the issue. The sidelining of the other two authorities and the investigation led by EAD may prove an obstacle to true investigation, which may eventually lead to the `cover up` of the case.

Stefanos Loukopoulos, director of Vouliwatch, told Reporters United that the responsibilities of EAD, as defined in Law 4622/2019 (Government Gazette A ‘133 / 7.8.2019) “do not in any way cover the substance of this case, which concerns a clear breach of the confidentiality of communications and the privacy of a journalist.” 

It should be noted that, although the government appointed the NTA as the main body responsible for the investigation of the case, the institutionally competent authority, ADAE, the day after the government publicised this decision, decided to conduct an audit of Cosmote following a complaint by Thanasis Koukakis. This is the company in which the journalist maintained the telephone number monitored by the National Intelligence Service from June 1 to August 13, 2020.

Furthermore, the statement by the government that the NTA would lead the investigation was not accompanied by any announcement from the Authority itself, which gives rise to a key institutional question: How did the government announce the NTA`s intervention “on its own motion” before the authority itself announced it, with no relevant institutional competence?

Where is the problem with the rule of law?

Although the current legislation (Law 3115/2003 and Law 4622/2019) outlining the responsibilities of the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE) and the National Transparency Authority (NTA) shows that the ADAE and not the NTA is the body responsible for cases dealing with telecommunications privacy, in this case the government announced that on its own motion, the NTA, an institutionally non-competent authority, will investigate the surveillance of the journalist Koukakis, which could constitute an obstacle to uncovering the truth of the case.

Thodoris Chondrogiannos
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