The recent disclosure that the National Intelligence Service (EYP) phone tapped conversations between a SYRIZA member and a jailed terrorist brought forth the issue of phone bugs that is more common in Greek politics than generally thought.
Office homes and smart phones of ministers, politicians, journalists, businessmen, even everyday citizens are often tapped and monitored from mini vans, satellites, offices, apartments and in most cases from the cross-connect boxes telephone companies put on residential and commercial streets.
In many cases, phone tapping devices have been found in politicians’ offices and homes or party headquarters, yet the perpetrators were never found.
On March 4, 2005 during a routine check of the software system, technicians of mobile phone provider Vodafone discovered that certain members of the Costas Karamanlis government were tapped during the 2004-2005 period. New Democracy was notified by Vodafone of the existence of bugs six days later, on March 10.
However, on March 9, Vodafone network developer Costas Tsalikidis was found dead and his death was attributed to suicide.
Supreme Court Prosecutor Dimitris Linos was notified of the phone tapping by the conservative party and was asked to keep it a secret. A year later, three New Democracy ministers gave a press conference on the issue. They disclosed that during the 2004-2005 period all conversations on about 100 phone numbers that belonged to party officials were recorded. However, the investigation proved fruitless and the case was put on file in August 2008.
The file was opened again in 2010 when evidence showed that telephone conversations were monitored from the building of the American Embassy in Athens that were involved in spying on Greek politicians. The case is still open and the file is in the hands of prosecutor Dimitris Foukas.
Going back to the secret history of phone tapping in Greek politics, in June 1994 the Greek Parliament accused New Democracy leader Constantinos Mitsotakis of phone tapping. However, a special “parliamentary court” in January 1995 exonerated Mitsotakis.
Further back, during the first great rivalry between PASOK and New democracy (1981-1989) two “famous” phone tappers became household names. Theofanis Tombras, employee of public telecommunications provider OTE and close friend of Andreas Papandreou was phone tapping conversations of the conservative party politicians.
From the New Democracy side, Christos Mavrikis collected several conversations of the rival party on behalf of the conservative party.
But history repeats itself and in January chief Supreme Court Prosecutor Elias Zagoraios ordered an emergency investigation on phone tapping in all political party headquarters.
The Council of State and the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE) have confirmed that bugs have been found in several outdoors OTE cross-connect boxes in Athens and other cities. ADAE has fined OTE 145,000 euros for not taking the appropriate measures to protect citizen privacy.
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