Surveillance state | Eurozine


On 22 October 1981, 27-year-old Greek historian Leonidas Kallivretakis walked into the infamous Normal Safety Sub-Directorate on Mesogeion Road in Athens, decided to take complete possession of his political historical past.

All the way through the army dictatorship of 1967–74, the development were a website of interrogation and torture of Communists (the rustic’s ‘inside enemies’) and others antagonistic to the junta. 8 years into restored democracy, the political local weather had modified considerably: the new triumph of the Panhellenic Socialist Motion (PASOK) in nationwide elections was once a decisive signal of reconciliation with the rustic’s long-persecuted left.

Emboldened by means of the transferring political surroundings – and by means of PASOK’s electoral guarantees – Kallivretakis was once the primary of many Greek voters to officially request get admission to to their non-public information. As a scholar, the younger historian were an activist towards the army junta. Now he was once claiming possession to the state information relating to his movements and political opinions on this regard. His efforts have been to no avail. A couple of days later, Kallivretakis was once simplest in brief granted get admission to to an insignificant a part of his non-public information. Get entry to was once limited to the place of job of the Minister of Public Order, and simplest within the presence of police escorts.

Different Greek voters who complicated equivalent requests had no higher success. It will take every other 8 years for Greek politics to succeed in a last determination at the greater than 15 million information accumulated between the interwar duration and the Metapolitefsi, the transition section following the autumn of the junta. On 29 August 1989, a unusual coalition executive between the conservative Nea Dimokratia birthday celebration and the unconventional left despatched all however about 2,000 information for destruction. Maximum Greeks have been by no means allowed to understand what the state knew about them.

On 12 August 2020, 39 years after Kallivretakis, monetary journalist Thanasis Koukakis approached the Greek government with a equivalent question. He sought legit affirmation from ADAE, the nationwide watchdog for the privateness of communications, of what he already knew from a supply – that his telephone were tapped whilst he was once investigating primary banking scandals within the nation.

The journalist’s formal request remained unanswered for an entire 12 months – sufficient time for the federal government to amend the related regulation. From then on, the watchdog was once not allowed to inform voters, upon their request, as to whether or not they had ever been positioned below surveillance for nationwide safety causes. Within the months that adopted, the Koukakis affair spiralled right into a full-blown surveillance scandal which, regardless of all efforts to silence it, made world headlines because the ‘Greek Watergate’. 

The uncovering of 2 additional information tales was once serious about escalating issues on this approach – for one the surveillance of opposition baby-kisser and member of EU parliament Nikos Androulakis, and for every other, the emergence of the unlawful spy ware referred to as ‘Predator’, which used extremely invasive the best way to undercover agent on Koukakis and a still-unspecified collection of Greek voters.

Within the 4 many years keeping apart Kallivretakis’s and Koukakis’s tales, Greece has confirmed to be a resilient democracy that no longer even a devastating financial disaster may just overturn. The present surveillance scandal, alternatively, raises the shadow of a tense previous that the destruction of secret information may just no longer erase. 

Continuity in state surveillance

The verdict to burn state surveillance information in 1989 got here as no wonder: it had already been made 5 years previous by means of the primary PASOK executive, which then retracted on the final minute. What’s extra, it was once simply a part of a longtime way to the rustic’s fresh previous, rooted in the way in which the Metapolitefsi was once enacted.

Monument to the anti-dictatorship scholar rebellion of November 1973 in Athens. Picture by means of StrangeTraveler. Supply: Wikimedia Commons.

When democracy was once restored in 1974, the so-called ‘nationwide cohesion’ executive confronted the query of methods to take care of the leaders of the army dictatorship and their accomplices. At the one hand, there was once the will to purge the state of its maximum heinous figures, at the different the wish to steer clear of feeding a way of revanchism or compromising the functioning of the state equipment. Whilst the prime ranks of the militia and the academy underwent extra serious dejuntification, the similar was once no longer the case in different sectors. As historian Vangelis Karamanolakis places it, 

Lots of the state equipment, together with the protection our bodies, retained sturdy hyperlinks with its dictatorial previous when it comes to staff and forms. If the dictatorial regime was once became an undesired previous, its legacies … weren’t destroyed.

Within the greater than 50 years keeping apart the top of International Struggle I and the Metapolitefsi, the amount of surveillance information had persisted to extend regardless of converting governments and regimes: the bureaucratic construction of the Greek state ensured continuity within the assortment and cataloguing of knowledge. With the top of the army dictatorship, this ‘deep state’ and its mentality remained in large part intact and liable to be instrumentalized, this time round by means of democratically elected governments. 

Between the overdue Eighties and early Nineteen Nineties, the 2 outstanding political leaders Konstantinos Mitsotakis and Andreas Papandreou, heads of liberal-conservative Nea Dimokratia and of PASOK respectively, exchanged mutual accusations of getting arrange a surveillance machine towards political combatants and businessmen. These days, in the latest iteration of a dynastic custom in Greek politics, the accusations fear Konstantinos Mitsotakis’s son, Kyriakos. 

Anatomy of a scandal

One of the crucial first actual projects of the Nea Dimokratia executive in 2019 was once to carry the nationwide intelligence carrier below the direct duty of High Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. His nephew Grigorios Dimitriadis took up the function of Normal Secretary of the High Minister’s place of job, and a prison modification decreasing the desired {qualifications} made Panagiotis Kontoleon eligible as the brand new head of the Nationwide Intelligence Carrier, the EYP. Each Dimitriadis and Kontoleon resigned final summer season when the surveillance of Ecu Parliament member and newly elected PASOK chief Nikos Androulakis was once exposed. 

Mitsotakis deemed the wiretapping of Androulakis’s telephone by means of the EYP prison however ‘politically unacceptable’, claiming that he would have averted it, had he been acutely aware of it. He denied categorically that the EYP or some other state authority were serious about buying and running the Predator spy ware – a declare he by no means retracted, regardless of a plethora of journalistic investigations disproving it. 

In November, the weekly leftist newspaper Documento launched an inventory of dozens of names together with opposition individuals, newshounds, editors, militia officers or even ministers of the federal government (and their companions) who have been allegedly positioned below surveillance. In step with Documento’s resources, there’s a unmarried surveillance machine in Greece, run by means of the state and resorting to each wiretapping and the extra intrusive Predator spy ware.

So far, the most powerful piece of proof towards the federal government is its transparent resistance to losing gentle on using Predator in Greece. The committee arrange for enquiry within the nationwide parliament did the whole thing in its energy to hide up the affair, refusing to summon key witnesses and suspects. For months, the Greek government failed to go looking the Athenian workplaces of the corporations buying and selling the spy ware in Greece; once they in the end did, they unsurprisingly discovered not anything helpful for the investigation. In early November, the federal government went to nice lengths to impede the Greek venture of the PEGA committee, arrange by means of the EU parliament to research using spy ware.

Maximum lately, the Greek leader prosecutor Isidoros Ntogiakos dominated that the privateness watchdog ADAE can not habits audits at telecommunication firms to determine who’s below surveillance by means of the EYP. Opposition forces declare that, in Greece, the very rule of legislation is below risk. 

Adware fascination

Koukakis’s case wasn’t the one one to be publicly recognized on the time of its revelation. It were recognized for a while, for instance, that investigative journalist Stavros Malichudis had additionally been spied on by means of the EYP whilst running on migration problems. But it was once simplest after the revelation {that a} outstanding opposition baby-kisser equivalent to Androulakis had additionally been the objective of an (unsuccessful) Predator assault that the mainstream media looked as if it would take realize of the gravity of the case. 

Picture by means of Sascha Kohlmann. Supply: Wikimedia Commons.

When the ‘Greek Watergate’ in the end blew up, it was once met by means of a polarized public opinion. In step with a survey carried out in November by means of Prorata, convictions have been nearly similarly break up on whether or not the High Minister will have to surrender.

Certainly, that Mitsotakis introduced the Greek intelligence carrier below his direct keep an eye on inevitably heightens his obligations for the EYP’s doings. The spying on newshounds additionally exacerbates the decline in press freedom denounced by means of more than a few impartial organisations. In Journalists With out Borders’ International Press Freedom Index 2022, Greece ranks final amongst EU international locations, a 38-place decline at the earlier 12 months. But blaming the surveillance equipment on Mitsotakis on my own would possibly disregard wider trends, each in Greece and on the world degree. Greece’s hobby in spy ware predates the Nea Dimokratia executive. In 2016, a 12 months after the victory of radical left alliance SYRIZA and on the peak of monetary disaster, Greece was once amongst over 40 international locations the place there have been suspected infections with the NSO Pegasus spy ware. 

In December 2022, Greek day-to-day newspaper To Vima published that Alexis Tsipras’s executive were acutely aware of a secret venture, carried out by means of the EYP in early 2019, to guage the purchase of Pegasus from Israeli cyber-arms corporate NSO. It was once the fourth such buying strive since 2016. In an interview, Tsipras conceded that he may just no longer rule out using Pegasus in Greece throughout his time period in place of job.

Adware apart, the collection of licensed wiretaps has greater than tripled between 2015 and 2021. The 4,871 goals monitored when SYRIZA got here to energy had higher to 11,680 by the point of Nea Dimokratia’s victory 4 years later. In 2021, prison wiretaps totalled 15,475. Over 60 requests to boost the confidentiality of communications for nationwide safety causes are processed day-to-day by means of the prosecutor, who isn’t knowledgeable of the title and private main points of the ones being surveilled; simplest the telephone quantity ‘If we’re referred to as upon to simply accept that “someplace available in the market” over 15,000 brokers of international powers or asymmetrical warriors are living and breathe amongst us … we’re necessarily being instructed to panic,’ journalist Pantelis Boukalas noticed.

Identical to up to now, the Greek surveillance equipment turns out to observe a common sense this is, no less than to some degree, impartial from the political management. As with the Predator scandal, it will have to be interpreted within the world context of a thriving spy ware business. 

The canary in Europe’s coal mine

The presence of Predator was once made recognized in a 2021 document by means of the College of Toronto’s Citizen Lab. Advanced by means of North Macedonian start-up Cytrox, Pegasus is traded by means of Intellexa, which describes itself as ‘EU-based and controlled, with six websites and R&D labs during Europe.’ Intellexa has a presence in Greece, Cyprus, Eire, France and Hungary. 

Predator is able to utterly taking up the inflamed software, recording telephone calls, surfing photos and movies, remotely activating the microphone and digital camera, and having access to chats and conversations – a shockingly efficient surveillance asset within the technology of encrypted apps. 

Not like Pegasus, Predator wishes the objective to click on on an inflamed hyperlink previous to its set up on any software. On the finish of 2021, Meta known greater than 300 hyperlinks emulating recognized information shops and websites that were arrange as traps for Predator goals. Over 40 of the ones internet domain names have been attached to Greece.

In step with Sophie in ‘t Veld, reporting for the PEGA committee investigating using Pegasus and identical spy ware, ‘Europe has transform an exquisite position for mercenary spy ware’, whilst the Ecu Union ‘is unwell provided to take care of such an assault on democracy from inside.’ Adware is ‘the canary within the coal mine: exposing the harmful constitutional weaknesses within the EU.’ The Ecu Council and the nationwide governments, it was once reported, are in charge of ‘omertà’. Worse, ‘one of the “perpetrators” additionally take a seat within the (Ecu) Council’, applying ‘nationwide safety’ as a pretext for ‘getting rid of transparency and duty.’ 

Whilst the spy ware business is energetic around the globe, Predator turns out to have a in particular shut dating with Greece. The Greek Ministry of Overseas Affairs admitted to the New York Occasions, for instance, that it had licensed the export of Predator to no less than one different nation, Madagascar. This was once but every other blow to the Greek executive’s claims to lack of awareness relating to Intellexa’s operations. 

The PEGA committee concluded that during Greece, in contrast to in different instances equivalent to that of Poland, the abuse of spy ware didn’t appear to be a part of an ‘integral authoritarian technique’, however somewhat ‘a device used on an advert hoc foundation for political and monetary features’. But even a centered use of spy ware finally ends up jeopardizing the integrity of elections, with detrimental penalties for each Greek and EU democratic integrity. 

By no means waste a excellent scandal

Ever for the reason that Metapolitefsi, Greece has have shyed away from confronting its tense previous with surveillance. The verdict to burn tens of millions of private information was once the results of a want for nationwide reconciliation and the suspicion – no longer solely unfounded – that are meant to the state have saved the information, it do not have left them unused. 

This ‘reconciliation by means of decree’ left the surveillance mentality throughout the Greek state equipment in large part untouched, and averted the improvement of lasting antibodies in Greek society. More youthful generations of Greeks, who did indirectly revel in the tense 20th century, have proven in particular no real interest in attractive with the continued scandal.

With galloping inflation and the cost-of-living disaster, the ‘Greek Watergate’ isn’t in reality prime at the listing of most of the people’s considerations. Normalized notions of surveillance capitalism might also have helped anaesthetize a big a part of the Greek inhabitants in opposition to the problem. 

Neither is the panorama encouraging on the degree of the media. Investigative newshounds who exposed the scandal did so at their very own chance, exposing themselves to groundless complaints (SLAPPs), intimidation and additional surveillance. The ADAE showed that Tasos Telloglou, a outstanding investigative reporter at InsideStory, has been monitored by means of the EYP. As for the mainstream media, the talk has been characterised by means of excessive polarization, reflecting political partisanship and publishers’ pursuits. Ruling Nea Dimokratia has lengthy loved beneficial press protection, which it cultivated via debatable investment allocations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a protracted section of denial, the Greek executive has no less than said the surveillance factor. In December, it handed new regulation criminalizing the sale or ownership of spy ware. But it has saved denying its involvement and absolving the state equipment on the whole, claiming that there’s no Greek specificity however just a Ecu and world downside of a flourishing spy ware business. 

As new revelations stay rising, it’s arduous to are expecting the political penalties of the continued surveillance scandal. However forward of this 12 months’s normal election, to be held by means of the summer season, Greece nonetheless has a chance to begin a good debate on a subject matter which has lengthy been swept below the carpet. Too with a bit of luck has nationwide reconciliation been known with oblivion. 



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