A report by Documento newspaper names 33 politicians, journalists and businessmen that were allegedly being monitored by the illegal spyware, Predator, and the National Intelligence Service (NIS), raising serious questions about the functioning of democracy and the rule of law in Greece.These findings raise serious concerns about the effective protection of the constitutionally guaranteed privacy of communications, especially in light of the fact that most of the targets have served in positions sensitive to the state and the democratic control of power.
The politicians named are: former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the former Minister of Citizen Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias, the former Minister of Citizen Protection, Olga Gerovasilis, the Minister of Development Adonis Georgiadis, the former Minister of Health and current Minister of Tourism Vassilis Kikilias, New Democracy MP Olga Kefalogianni, Deputy Minister of National Defense Nikos Hardalias, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, Labor Minister Kostis Hatzidakis, Deputy Government Representative Aristotelia Peloni, Attica Regional Governor Giorgos Patoulis, former Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, the head of the financial office of Prime Minister Alexis Patelis and the former National Security Advisor of Greece, Alexandros Diakopoulos.
The journalists named include the editor of Kathimerini and the editors, managers and CEOs of other major broadcasting channels and newspapers.
Additionally the close relatives of some of these targets were also monitored, including the wife of the Minister of Development.
The Deputy Chief of the Police was targeted, as was actor Lakis Lazopoulos and businessmen Thodoris Karypides and Irini Karypides. According to Documento, the surveillance of the Karipides brothers was aimed at indirectly monitoring the businessman and shipowner Vangelis Marinakis.
Although the Greek government has denied that they have used the malware, these new allegations raise questions about the use of Predator by Greek authorities. The journalist Thanasis Koukakis and opposition leader Nikos Androulakis were targeted by both the intelligence services and Predator spyware, and in the case of the president of PASOK, this was just five days apart in September 2021.
The widespread naming of targets of surveillance calls into question the sincerity of the government, which has thus far failed to identify any private individual using Predator against Greek targets, which would be the only alternative explanation.
Predator is a powerful surveillance tool, allowing its operator full and permanent access to the target device. It enables the extraction of important information such as passcodes, files, photos, contacts and web browsing history, and can take screenshots. The operator can also activate the device’s microphone and camera, making it possible to monitor any activity through or near the device, such as conversations taking place in the same room as the device.
In Greece no legislative framework has been passed that provides for the use of spyware software such as Predator. Furthermore, the basic law governing the operation of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) does not provide for the use of such software (Law 3649/2008 – Government Gazette 39/Α’/3.3.2008). Therefore, the targeting and hacking of victims through Predator or any other similar spyware in Greece is completely illegal, whether done by the state authorities or by a private actor, and is in violation of Article 19 of the Constitution, which enshrines the absolute inviolability of communications.
Mounting evidence of illegal surveillance raises questions not only about the use of malicious software in Greece, but also about the modus operandi of the National Intelligence Service, for which the prime minister is institutionally responsible. Following his victory in the 2019 elections Kyriakos Mitsotakis placed the agency under his direct control (Official Gazette: Issue Α’/119/8.7.2019). The use of illegal surveillance software to monitor politicians and journalists raises issues not only for the rule of law, but also for the freedom of the press and essential democratic values.
Although Article 19 of the Constitution enshrines the absolute inviolability of the privacy of communications, these revelations suggest that dozens of citizens have been targeted for surveillance through the Predator spyware as well as by the Greek Intelligence Services.
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