ATHENS – Greece’s spyware and phone tapping scandal has gotten the attention of a European Parliament Committee looking into the use of surveillance, with three Greek journalists testifying about their experiences.
The so-called PEGA committee, named for Pegasus spyware that’s in wide use in the European Union, heard from reporters Thanassis Koukakis and
and Stavros Malichudis, who said they were being tracked by spyware.
Also testifying, said Kathimerini, was journalist Eliza Triantafillou, who is following the story the New Democracy government is trying to keep secret, including in an Greek Parliament committee allegedly investigating it.
That panel was set up – but is controlled by a majority of government lawmakers – after PASOK Socialist leader Nikos Androulakis, who’s also a Member of the European Parliament, found his phone was bugged.
That was reportedly by the National Intelligence Service (EYP) who Koukakis said was monitoring his phone calls and installed Predator spyware on it when he opened a text message.
Androulakis said an attempt to put the spyware on his phone failed when he didn’t open a link sent to him via text and EYP said it has bugged the phones of 15,745 people but won’t identify them nor why they’re being tracked.
Both Koukakis and Malichudis said they were being bugged because of their investigative work, Koukakis said looking into links between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and business.
Malichudis said while he was being surveilled he was in contact with colleagues for the creation of an international journalists’ network that would look into refugee and migrant issues.
Greece’s government has denied accusations by human rights groups and activists of trying to push back refugees and migrants that Turkey is allowing human traffickers to send in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.
MUM’s THE WORD
Triantafillou reportedly said that official investigations into privacy breaches seem to move slowly, while investigations into media leaks move much faster, suggesting the government is trying to keep a lid on the story.
The government lawmakers on the investigative panel nixed any attempt to let Koukakis testify before them, drawing the ire of rival party members from PASOK and the former ruling SYRIZA, who walked out in protest, and reports Androulakis wouldn’t be called either although they were being surveilled.
“The PEGA committee has shown a sincere interest in the case of surveillance in Greece and I am sure that it will exert a lot of pressure to highlight aspects of the case that have not yet been clarified. I think this will become clear when the committee visits Greece,” Koukakis had earlier told the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN.)
“We received questions from all MEPs from all parties, who even asked for our opinion in which direction they would move legislatively regarding spyware’s use,” Triantafyllou told BIRN of the hearing.
Triantafyllou, together with her colleague Tasos Telloglou, from Inside Story, revealed the extent of the spyware scandal that the government is trying to control, the panel saying its work will stay confidential.
When PEGA members asked about the destroyed files, Christos Rammos, head of the supposedly independent Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy, didn’t deny it but said he’s not allowed to talk.
BIRN said that Panos Alexandris, Secretary-General of the Greek Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, told the committee: “I heard about a scandal, why is it a scandal? I don’t know if it is just because it is expressed in the press? Because some people believe so? … We (should) wait for the official results,” he said, even though they will be kept secret.