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Columnists

As Greek Politicians Argue over Wiretaps, the Real Security Threats Go Unnoticed

September 17, 2022

Over the past weeks, Greece was rocked by a wiretapping scandal that has sparked political uncertainty. The current administration lost some points from its still sizeable lead, but sustained enough damage to cast a doubt on its ability to win the next elections outright.

Greece’s main opposition SYRIZA party hastened to capitalize on the scandal, attempting to present it as a major institutional crisis, as has the main victim of the wiretaps, center-left PASOK party leader Nikos Androulakis, who hopes to play the role of kingmaker whenever elections are held.

Mr. Androulakis, who still hasn’t given up his cushy Brussels post as a Euro-Deputy to take on his domestic role full-time – likely out of uncertainty – seems somewhat uncomfortable in the limelight. On the one hand, his relationship with the current Premier soured before it even had a chance to start. On the other hand, a political partnership with SYRIZA is risky because the PASOK party, currently polling third, has been undergoing an identity crisis (it has changed names twice in less than a decade) and would be in jeopardy of becoming a subsidiary of SYRIZA, which is attempting to monopolize the center-left, which was once the exclusive terrain of PASOK.

In any event, Mr. Androulakis’ handling of the matter is starting to grow tiring and may lead him to a dead end. “The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks” as Shakespeare would say. Whining wears thin fairly quickly, and it is quite likely that his otherwise justified complaints over the eavesdropping will leave the public indifferent, sooner or later. By then, if he has not made any constructive proposals to remedy the situation institutionally, he’ll become yesterday’s news, much like the wiretapping itself.

Does anyone really believe that Greek citizens, who are struggling to keep their heads above water in this perfect storm featuring an energy crisis, skyrocketing prices decimating the monthly budget, and – God forbid – a possible global food shortage actually give two cents (which they would be hard pressed to find anyway) about the taps on Mr. Androulakis’ or anyone else’s phone? These sorts of concerns are the privilege of politicians – and party leaders at that – who directly control party coffers and whose paycheck is guaranteed rain or shine! Their employers (sic) – political parties – receive ample funding from the state…and if cash is still short, they borrow money from the banks.

We’re not talking about the raw deals banks offer private individuals or small businesses. Parties seem to have an unlimited credit line, if their enormous debts are any indication. Besides, ‘banksters’ know full well that they are loaning money to the current or future heads of government, who (soon will) have the final say on bank recapitalization and the restructuring of bad loans…

They would have to be crazy to refuse. Instead, they are content to push around everyday Greek depositors, who have to produce their own self-made dossier of confidential information just to complete simple transactions, renew a debit card after it expires, get access to web banking, etc. And for the privilege of being thoroughly inconvenienced by the bank, it goes without saying that customers have to pay a fee for each and every transaction they make.

The only difference between Mr. Androulakis’ affair and that of the rest of the plebs (sorry, citizens) is that his case will be discussed in Parliament and at the very least, he’ll be issued an apology, while the rest of the people must suffer the unpleasant ‘endoscopy’ from the long arm of the state, and likely end up being the ones on the defensive!

As Greece’s politicians quarrel over the protection of their rights (while everyday citizens’ rights went out the window long ago) and brandish publications in foreign newspapers, where hit pieces seem to be ordered as common as take-out dinners while a blind eye is turned to more serious problems, they’re likely to forget the following. Whoever owns a smartphone (there’s an oxymoron, if there ever was one) essentially exposes themselves to daily eavesdropping. Or is it just a coincidence that our social media streams are filled with related ads whenever we search for a product on the web, or lately, whenever we even discuss a product via text message of phone calls? Anyhow, wiretaps are costly, so the new generation is trained from infancy to post all aspects of their public and personal life on multiple platforms…

That’s reality. It’s just that no one went to the trouble of questioning these practices institutionally, because none of us are party leaders. We had the ‘misfortune’ of being born as everyday citizens, not members of the political ruling class.

The real scandal is not the current wiretaps on the phones of the PASOK party leader, or Greece’s asset development fund chief during the previous administration, etc. The true scandal will arise if it is proven that the national intelligence agency wasted valuable resources and time tapping political allies and opponents of successive governments, but left seditious NGOs, human traffickers, and undercover Turkish agents and Islamist extremists – who are very likely slipping in amidst the slew of illegal migrants crossing the border at will, far surpassing the nation’s capacity to handle them – to operate unchecked, like a state within a state!

Greece has been the target of hybrid warfare for some years now…even if the New York Times or Der Spiegel, who suddenly are very sensitive, despite having targeted citizen’s individual rights and freedoms during the pandemic and memoranda era, haven’t bothered to write about it. The question is whether Mr. Androulakis and the other political leaders will deign to deal with this burning issue of national security or merely be content to cynically remind us that as party leaders in modern Greece, some citizens are more equal than others and have the power and privilege to promote lesser issues and quash greater ones as they see fit.

 

Follow me on Twitter @CTripoulas

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