On 5 August 2022, following checks by the independent Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE), it was revealed that in September 2021 the National Intelligence Service lifted the communications privacy of MEP and later PASOK President Nikos Androulakis for a period of three months, citing national security reasons.
Constitutional and public law professors, including the former Deputy Prime Minister, now Professor of Constitutional Law of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Evangelos Venizelos, has argued that the lifting of the privacy of the communications of an MP or MEP is illegal.
In a speech on August 8, Mitsotakis characterised the surveillance of Androulakis as ‘a mistake’ that ‘should not have happened,’ however, the prime minister defended the legality of the surveillance.
These revelations follow the discovery that the politician’s phone had also been targeted with the Predator malware in September 2021, the same time period in which he was targeted by the National intelligence Service.
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.
Following New Democracy’s victory in the 2019 elections, the Prime Minister brought the Intelligence Service under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister’s office. The Prime Minister’s nephew, Gregory Dimitriadis, was placed as the Prime Minister’s Secretary General and the political head of the National Intelligence Service.
The use of illegal surveillance mechanisms, in violation of the Constitution, against both politicians and journalists raises issues not only around the rule of law, but also around the freedom of the press and the proper functioning of democracy.
It should be noted that the Greek government has denied any involvement on the part of the Greek authorities with the use of Predator or any other malware, though the identity of any third party using it has yet to be determined.
Although Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees the absolute inviolability of the confidentiality of communications, MEP and opposition party leader Nikos Androulakis was surveilled by the National Intelligence Service, raising serious issues with democracy and the rule of law in Greece.
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