ATHENS – Feeling the heat from critics, rival parties and the targets of wiretapping and spyware use – and attempt – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis agreed for Parliament to come back early to debate it.
The summer recess was shortened and lawmakers will come back from vacations on Aug. 22 after he said he was not informed of the bugging of PASOK leader Nikos Androulakis, nor an attempt to install Predator spyware on his rival’s phone.
Mitsotakis said he wouldn’t allowed it and forced out the former head of the National Intelligence Service (EYP) Panagiotis Kontoleon and the Premier’s his General-Secretary – his nephew, Dimitris Grigoriadis.
“Although everything was done lawfully, the National Intelligence Service (EYP) underestimated the political dimension of that particular action. It was formally adequate, but politically unacceptable. It should not have happened (and it) undermined citizens’ confidence in national intelligence,” Mitsotakis said.
“(The surveillance) may have abided by the letter of the law, but it was wrong. I had no knowledge of this; and, if I did, I would never have allowed it,” he said, making no mention of financial reporter Thanasis Koukakis, whose phone was infiltrated by EYP with the spyware, noted Kathimerini.
The scandal broke after Mitsotakis, also anxious about growing Turkish provocations, said there wouldn’t be early elections and he would serve out his term and run again in 2023.
The newspaper said that government aides it didn’t name were behind his call to try to put the issue behind him, after Androulakis called for a probe and major opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras called for Parliament’s return.
Mitsotakis – who in one of his first acts after being elected in July, 2019 made EYP directly accountable to him – said he would now reform the agency after he was left out of the loop.
The new EYP leadership will be asked, the paper said, to investigate whether illegal surveillance software such as Predator is used by third parties after the spy service former chief said his administration had used it.
They also assured that no other political figures’ phone calls are being intercepted by EYP although Kontoleon said some 15,700 people have had phone secrecy lifted so the agency could listen to their conversations.
While Mitsotakis said the wiretapping was legal he said it was also wrong, especially from a political point of view but his government was said to be hanging his act on that it wasn’t unlawful.
Predator is capable of unlocking access to encrypted messages and activating cameras and microphones on mobile devices and while EYP was already listening in on Androulakis’ phone the spyware would have given them everything about him.