Greek intelligence services keep tabs on thousands of citizens under the banner of national security protection, while the government effectively removed mechanisms ensuring democratic control over these special services, Greek newspaper Documento reported on Sunday.
Greece is embroiled in a wiretapping scandal after the relevant agencies in the European Parliament said that somebody attempted to wiretap the phone of Nikos Androulakis, the leader of the opposition Greek party Panhellenic Socialist Movement. Other prominent figures were also targeted, including economics journalist Thanasis Koukakis.
The Greek prime minister’s general secretary, Grigoris Dimitriadis, and the head of the National Intelligence Service, Panagiotis Kontoleon, were dismissed amid the scandal. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address to the nation that he did not know about the surveillance, calling it an “inexcusable mistake.”
Documento points out that one Greek official, prosecutor Vasiliki Vlachou, appears to be particularly culpable in the spying scandal. Vlachou supervises the National Intelligence Service (EYP) and reportedly approves virtually all requests and greenlights all of their practices with no verification of the reliability of the grounds.
According to the newspaper, Vlachou approved around 30,000 surveillance orders since taking office in 2020, excluding those filed this year.
She reportedly signed 11,680 EYP wiretapping requests in 2019, with 13,751 in 2020 and 15,475 in 2021. Calculations made by the news outlet suggest that Vlachou had to sign 40 orders every day, working seven days a week, all year round.
Documento said that the political system itself legally turned the prosecutor into an instrument that lends credence to police surveillance instead of ensuring security and privacy of communications.
The newspaper questioned the grounds on which the request to wiretap Androulakis’ phone was approved, adding that 10 to 15 other politicians also found out that they were spied on.
Vlachou became notoriously known in Greece during the drug trafficking case, when 2.1 tonnes of heroin were found on Noor 1, a tanker intercepted in the port of Piraeus in 2014. At the court of appeal on the case, Vlachou suggested that all the defendants should be considered guilty, but that all had mitigating circumstances. As a result, the life sentences of the defendants were revoked, and some were acquitted.