The Greek Prime Minister defends the functioning of the intelligence services

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s prime minister on Thursday defended the operation of the country’s intelligence service amid a wiretapping scandal, saying its operation is critical to the country’s security despite what he described as the faux pas of tapping the phone of an opposition politician.

Speaking during a parliamentary debate called by the main opposition party on phone tapping of politicians and journalists, Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that “nothing should jeopardize this precious branch of the state”.

Parliament returned early from its summer break for the debate, called by the main opposition party SYRIZA after revelations that Nikos Androulakis, leader of Greece’s third political party, was put under surveillance for three months last year while that he was running for his PASOK party. management, and that a financial journalist was also under surveillance.

Mitsotakis, who faces re-election next year, insisted he was unaware of what he called Androulakis’ forensic wiretapping, but did not would not have approved if he had known. The Greek National Intelligence Service reports directly to the Prime Minister’s Office.

“When I was informed of this, I had no hesitation in saying that it was untrue,” Mitsotakis said during his parliamentary opening speech on Thursday. He did not reveal why Androulakis was under surveillance, citing national security concerns, but insisted the wiretap was legal and called on Androulakis to take the case to Greek or European courts. if he didn’t agree.

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras criticized Mitsotakis’ handling of the issue, accusing him of criminal behavior by tapping an opposition politician’s phone without giving a reason, and calling on him to resign.

“You are legally, politically but above all morally obligated to… indicate why you were monitoring the then MEP and now leader of the third largest party in Greece,” Tsipras said. “Give an answer. You are obligated to give an answer. What was that national reason? Is he a foreign interest agent? … Is he dangerous to national security?

The scandal has already led to the resignation of EYP leader Panagiotis Kontoleon and the secretary general of the prime minister’s office, Grigoris Dimitriadis.

The three-month-old wiretap of Androulakis’ phone from September 2021 was uncovered after Androulakis, as a member of the European Parliament, was tipped off by the European Parliament’s cybersecurity service who had been the target of eavesdropping attempt by the Predator spyware.

In April, Greek financial journalist Thanassis Koukakis said he was told by digital rights group Citizen Lab that his phone had been the target of surveillance by Predator software from July to September 2021.

The government insists he did not use Predator, but admitted that Androulakis’ phone was separately monitored by intelligence services.

Androulakis filed a complaint with prosecutors at Greece’s Supreme Court on July 26 regarding the Predator spyware and demanded to know the reasons behind the intelligence services’ surveillance.

Mitsotakis said the government will propose changes to the functioning of the EYP, including increasing its accountability and parliamentary oversight, and making internal changes to strengthen transparency, staff training and internal controls.

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