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Journalists seek more links between Greek government and spyware | Media news

Journalists seek more links between Greek government and spyware | Media news

Eliza Triantafilou knew that the Greek government was trying to censor her reporting, but she remained undeterred. She has been interviewing sources and pouring over financial records regarding Greece’s surveillance of its own citizens for nearly a year.

This week, Triantafilo and colleague Tasos Teloglu published another investigation for the investigative media outlet Inside Story, filling a gap in the complex story.

Their reports indicated that the Greek government secretly sent millions of dollars to a company selling illegal Predator spyware.

How did it start?

detection About Greece’s surveillance of its politicians and journalists, it first broke out in the middle of this year.

Since then, accusations and investigations have piled up almost week after week into a complex but related scandal.

The Greek government has acknowledged, in official statements and leaks, that the country’s national intelligence service allowed the wiretap of at least one journalist and a Greek member of the European Parliament.

But even more exciting is the evidence that the illegal Predator spyware has been used against these and dozens of politicians and journalists, and the indications that this illegal spyware was bought and used by the Greek government.

So far, the scandal, often referred to as the “Greek Watergate,” has led to the resignations of the Prime Minister’s Secretary-General and Head of the National Intelligence Servicea Greek parliamentary investigation, the European Parliament’s investigation into the use of spyware in Greece, and repeated calls for his resignation Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The Greek government has repeatedly denied any use or purchase of Predator. But Greek journalists have spent months digging into the maze of links between companies selling spyware and the Greek state.

Predator malware has the ability to access every message, call, photo and password on a mobile phone, as well as the ability to unlock a phone’s camera and microphone – turning any device into a mobile surveillance bug.

infected with the predator

In April, Inside Story reported that Greek financial journalist, Thanassis Kokakis, confirmed that his phone was infected with Predator.

They had previously revealed that a consortium of companies called Intellexa, based in Athens, was selling Predator.

Days later, United Reporters, a Greek investigative media network, reported that Koukakis had previously been under surveillance by the National Intelligence Service, which was suspended on the day he complained to the Greek state that he was under surveillance.

Journalists Thodoris Chondrogiannos and Nikolas Leontopoulos of Reporters United began investigating the story in December 2021, following advice to consider a new law that would prevent Greece’s Communications and Privacy Authority from informing citizens that they were being watched.

“From the beginning, we thought if they changed the law, it shouldn’t just be about Thanasis Koukakis, but it should be a bigger network of people,” Chondrogianos told Al Jazeera.

“We thought it was a very important story in terms of protecting democracy, the right to privacy that is protected by the Constitution.”

Little by little

Throughout the year, both investigative teams kept themselves updated on the story: An inside story investigation revealed that a group of businessmen had connections both with the Greek government’s official supplier and with Intellexa.

Another United Reporters investigation established business ties from Grigoris Dimitriadis, the prime minister’s general secretary – and his nephew, which led to businessmen involved in Intellexa.

Demetriades responded to that story by denying the connections and allegations made.

Dimitriadis has now sued Chondrogiannos and other journalists who were, bit by bit, pulling strings between his business dealings and those involved with Intellexa and Predator.

“We feel very confident in our story. We are sure that we followed all the principles of journalistic work. We are confident that we can support our reporting even in court,” Chondrogianos said.

“The fact that Dimitriadis is connected in a commercial way to Intellexa would probably mean nothing if he wasn’t in charge of the National Intelligence Service. The fact that he was in the scandal and had connections to these people, that’s something the public should know.”

Four other businessmen implicated in the report also filed legal complaints against Chondrogiannos and his colleagues.

warning

In June, an intelligence source told Inside Story’s Tasos Telloglou that he and colleagues Eliza Triantafillou, Thodoris Chondrogiannos and Thanasis Koukakis were being watched for their reporting — the Greek government was tracking the location of their cellphones with antennas and trying to determine if their movements matched those of sources within the government.

Triantafilo also noted that she was sometimes followed on her way to interview sources.

“It was confirmation that we are on the right track,” Triantafilo said. “I choose to see it as an affirmation that we did our job and did a good job.”

“The only problem was that we had to go to a meeting and hide our backs and check every now and then if we were being followed, or we had to change our route in order to go to a meeting. Other than that, I think it had the opposite effect – it motivated us more to dig deeper into this story “.

In July, the wiretap story fully stormed into the Greek new cycle when Nikos Androulakis, the leader of Greece’s third-largest political party and MEP, lodged a complaint that he, too, had been targeted along with Predator.

This led to the revelation that Androulakis had also been placed under surveillance by the National Intelligence Service due to unspecified national security concerns.

Pointed toes

An outcry ensued, with fingers pointing at the ruling New Democracy party and the prime minister for official and illegal wiretapping.

Prime Minister Mitsotakis acknowledged that the surveillance of Kokakis had been ordered by the National Intelligence Service, but blamed other members of his government.

His government has repeatedly denied any connection to the Predator.

In the following months, an investigation into the Kokakis case by the Hellenic Communications and Privacy Authority concluded that the Greek government had not purchased Predator.

But journalists and opposition politicians said the investigation was incomplete.

European Parliament Committee has urge Greece for a more complete investigation. However, the scandal continued to widen.

Last week, a front-page exposé of the left-wing newspaper Documento claimed that, according to anonymous sources, more than 30 high-ranking politicians and journalists — including a former prime minister, foreign minister and editor-in-chief of one of Greece’s largest newspapers — had traces of Predator on their phones.

“incredible lie”

In a televised interview, Mitsotakis called the list an “incredible lie” containing “no evidence that this actually happened and absolutely nothing to do with me personally”.

Documento editor-in-chief Kostas Vaxevanis stood by his reporting.

“Every information that Documento publishes has been proven historically to be correct,” he said in an email to Al Jazeera, referring to several other revelations Documento published that he said were challenged but ultimately proven accurate.

“The role of the journalist is to publish what the relevant authorities do not want to publish,” said Veksifanis.

He added that “Documento newspaper insists on publishing the truth, even though it has been repeatedly slandered by government officials and suffered financial strangulation attempts.”

In a TV news appearance on Tuesday, Vaxevanis promised more revelations next weekend.

Triantafilo said in Inside Story that she will continue to investigate links between the Predator and the Greek government.

“The National Transparency Commission has done a very poor job of investigating Kokakis, the government is doing absolutely nothing, and the judicial system is going very slowly,” she said.

“So we need to keep researching, keep writing about this story, and keep investigating until someone offers a solution to this problem – illegal wiretapping of Greek citizens.”

Chondrogiannos of Reporters United likewise plans to continue digging.

“We haven’t reached the end of the story,” Chondrogianos said. “This story is not about revelation or a story that many people read and media coverage, it is about finding the truth. It is a matter of democracy and freedom of expression. The outcome of this story will determine the day after for our society.”



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