Greece spyware scandal spreads further – POLITICO


ATHENS — Greece’s growing spyware scandal took another twist on Saturday with the release of a long list of names of government officials, journalists and businesspeople targeted by malware.

According to the Greek newspaper Documento, some 33 people have traces of the illegal Predator spyware on their devices, including several cabinet members of the conservative New Democracy government and members of their families, politicians from the main opposition Syriza party, journalists and businessmen mainly from the media sector.

It is unclear whether all of the allegedly targeted people actually clicked on the malicious link, which in effect infects their devices. Most officials contacted by the newspaper said they were unaware they were being targeted or would not comment.

Among those on the list are the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, two ex-ministers of civil protection, the minister of development, the minister of labor and the minister of tourism, as well as their wives, as well as already known targets like Pasok opposition leader Nikos Androulakis and journalist Thanasis Koukakis.

In a statement on Saturday evening, government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said the report was « overwhelming with stories while the evidence is lacking », adding that the report « needs to be fully investigated. by the authorities and in particular by the Greek justice, even if there is no documentation of the publication.

« It is unthinkable and dangerous to suggest that the prime minister was hitting on the foreign minister, » an official close to the foreign minister said, adding that Greece is constantly taking steps to secure the foreign minister’s communications, both inside and outside the country. Greece would like to hear the conversations.

Greece’s eavesdropping scandal began to unfold this summer when Androulakis discovered a Predator wiretap attempt on his phone. In August, the government of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis acknowledged that Androulakis had been under state surveillance (but not with Predator) – a move it called legal but wrong.

Since then, the saga has blossomed into a spy thriller involving the planting of spyware on the phones of an ever-expanding network of politicians and journalists. Athens denies ever using or purchasing the illegal spyware.

A report in the Greek newspaper ‘Ta Nea’ last weekend said two Conservative government ministers were under surveillance « who appear to have had less than good relations with the Prime Minister’s associates ».

“Documento is about to release a long list of people targeted by Predator. Buckle up, » tweeted MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, who is the rapporteur for the European Parliament’s PEGA committee investigating the use of spyware in the EU. “Government ministers. Hello European Commission, are we paying attention? Another case of EU institutions directly affected by spyware. »

« These are crucial moments for democracy and justice, » the Syriza party said in a statement. « What a guilty prime minister now claims matters little. What matters is whether the justice system finally rises to the occasion and whether the political system ultimately protects account of its fundamental dignity and its democracy.

The PEGA committee completed its mission in Athens on Friday, but as ‘t Veld said, the group left « with perhaps more questions than we had when we arrived. »

At the same time, she noted at a Friday press conference in Athens that there is every reason to believe that circles within the Greek government were using the spyware.

« There are still 100 pieces missing, but you can see the picture, » said in ‘t Veld. « Everything is pointing in the direction of people in government circles. »

“Do we have rock-solid evidence? No, we don’t because we don’t have the necessary information. If the authorities decide to declassify the information, then we would have it. We have to work based on what we have,” said in ‘t Veld in Athens. « There’s always the presumption of innocence, but that doesn’t mean we should be deaf and blind. »

She also said it was worrying that no hardware was confiscated by the companies selling the spyware in Greece.

PEGA committee chairman Jeroen Lenaers called on Athens to thoroughly investigate allegations of surveillance abuse. He added that the Cypriot and Greek governments have endeavored to cooperate actively with the commission, answering its questions and sharing their proposals for reforms that could strengthen the fundamental rights of citizens.

Meanwhile, another report from the independent investigative site « Inside Story » said that in the days before the arrival of the PEGA committee in Athens, an FBI team from the United States was in the Greek capital to investigate the extent of the spread of the illegal surveillance software and who trafficked it.

The Greek administration had no knowledge of the visit, a government official said.

« The government will carry out a universal ban on the purchase [of spyware]a decision that will make Greece the first country in Europe to ban the circulation of malware on its territory,” Oikonomou said in the statement.

On Friday however, in ‘t Veld highlighted the fact that the use of this spyware is already illegal in Greece, so it would be more important to focus on the implementation of the legal framework.

As Greece heads towards elections next summer, in ‘t Veld stressed the need to clarify the issue by then.

« National elections are also European elections, so they must be free and fair, » she said. « Any shadow must be lifted before the election. »


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