Spies, Lies & Baby Formula
This is our weekly round-up from Greece.
It was the Greek government conducting the wiretapping through EYP: a report documented it this week. The PM denied this was the case, just days ago. Intellectuals and wiretapped journalists compare now Athens with Stazi’s East Germany.
Instead of calling elections after this major scandal, the government pushes for legislation supposedly to improve EYP and the procedure for lifting the privacy of communications. The bill institutionalizes a surveillance state and utterly erodes democracy, critics say.
Greece is the European champion in fuel price hikes, a report proves. While Greeks are burdened with these and all the huge price hikes, supermarkets in the country put alarm tags on baby milk.
It was the government after all (and no one is falling from the clouds)
All indications were pointing there, but it was not documented. On Monday, the proof came with another bombshell report - by Inside Story (Opens in a new window) this time: it was, after all, the National Intelligence EYP that had bought Predator in 2019. The purchase was ‘hidden’ within another contract.
More specifically, according to Inside Story, Intellexa, which markets Predator spyware, was officially established in Greece in March 2020.
“Krikel, owned by businessman Yiannis Lavranou, from 2018 became the preferred official supplier of the Ministry of Citizen Protection… From 2018 to date, Krikel and the Ministry of Citizen Protection have signed seven contracts, six of which were designated confidential,” the report noted.
In the summer of 2020, “EYP signs a contract with the Italian RCS Lab for the MITO system, which is however linked to a subcontracting contract with Krikel – a company whose main (if not only) client is the Ministry of Citizen Protection, and which in its original statutory purposes in 2017 included the wholesale trade of rice. According to reliable information which is available and published by Inside-Story, Krikel personnel in the role of ‘trainer’ visited EYP facilities in Agia Paraskevi for at least two months (December 2021, January 2022).”
The same report unveiled transactions among Krikel and Intellexa bank accounts.
“It is in Agia Paraskevi, in a space controlled by the Greek government, that - according to reliable inside story information- Intellexa's Predator illegal surveillance system was installed. Its purchase cost the Greek side 7 million euros and, from then on, the cost for ten alternating targets per month is 150,000 euros. According to the same sources, the purchase of the system was ‘hidden’ within another EYP contract.”
The report criticises also National Transparency Authority EAD. This is because in July EAD submitted their report to journalist Koukakis regarding his wiretapping with Predator, emphasizing they did not detect any relationship between the Greek state and Intellexa. The journalist had requested the institution to lift bank secrecy for all implicated companies, including Intellexa and Krikel - something EAD did not do.
Inside Story claims that if the connection between Intellexa-Krikel bank transactions had been detected back then, the truth would have come out.
This reporting piece proves that PM Mitsotakis lied last week in his interview with ANT1 TV. As we analyzed here, the PM claimed Documento revelations (the list of wiretapped people) is an utter lie, a not substantiated accusation. He specifically said: Ï don’t know who conducts the surveillance, we should find out. It is not EYP who is handling spyware and I personally have no involvement whatsoever.”
Well, now we did find out.
It is also interesting what Inside Story’s Tasos Telloglou, speaking at the Criminal Bar Association (Opens in a new window) this week, said: “At the end of June, a government meeting considered to arrest Thanassis Koukakis for spreading fake news, while a campaign to discredit CitizenLab [ie the lab where phones are sent to be checked if they have been wiretapped] was also in the works.”
He also compared the situation with East Berlin. Referring to leaving his phone at home while having critical meetings with sources: “We were working in analog East Berlin/Athens 1973 conditions.”
It is interesting that Political Science professor at Macedonia University Nikos Marantzidis made the same comparison in an article (Opens in a new window) for the daily “Kathimerini.”
Marantidis recalled what he described as “the most terrifying story” he ever heard about Stazi, the East German secret police. He referred to an environmental activist in East Germany in the 80s. Every time she was returning home she would find things in a slightly different place from where she had left them. When the regime fell, she gained access to her file with Stazi, only to see that secret agents were doing this on purpose, only for her to know she was spied upon and to feel helpless and alone.
“This is the story the groundbreaking Tassos Telloglou article reminded me of,” the professor wrote referring to the article (Opens in a new window) Telloglou had published describing how he was being followed and spied upon.
We shall mention here that we detected the similarity before Maranztidis (our previous newsletter had the title ‘The Lives of Others'). And we shall emphasize that Kathimerini did something unprecedented.
They wrote under the article:
“The article expresses the personal opinion of the writer, with which ‘K’ disagrees.”
This disgrace for free press happened despite Kathimerini’s head Alexis Papachelas being also on ‘Documento’s’ list of wiretapped persons.
The government legislated to further strengthen surveillance state
Inside Story’s slamming report may have been published, but the Greek government did not feel the urge to finally go to elections. This is despite more names of wiretapped officials and journalists having been published by Documento newspaper this week.
Instead, the government put on public consultation (until 22 November) a draft bill (Opens in a new window) supposedly aiming at optimizing the procedures the National Intelligence Service is required to follow to wiretap citizens. It also supposedly updates the process of lifting the confidentiality of communications and upgrades the use of illegal spyware by companies and individuals to a felony from a misdemeanor.
Soon afterward, the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE), an independent body, expressed (Opens in a new window) its “surprise and institutional displeasure” that they were not consulted on this draft law.
In a statement published on Wednesday, ADAE said the draft bill “drastically changes the regulatory framework that has been in force for almost 30 years regarding the lifting of the confidentiality of communications and modifies the operation of the ADAE in many critical points.”
ADAE said that despite the tight deadline, it would formulate a position on the bill.
What is more, the bill has been described by knowledgeable experts like lawyer Thanassis Kampagiannis, as “a cause of war.”
As Kampagiannis explained (Opens in a new window), this bill demarcates everything as a ‘national security issue (even environment protection and public health). Instead of one, now there would be two prosecutor orders for wiretapping, not obliged however to justify the cause of action. There is no reference to a judiciary committee.
The wiretapped person would have to wait three years until he/she is informed about his/her wiretapping as the bill allows this person to be briefed but only three years after the incident and… provided that the revelation does not put state security at risk. At the same time, wiretapping material would be destroyed after six months. Plus EYP chief and EYP prosecutor could block the revelation - with ADAE having only a minority vote.
“It is scandalous that the only additional protection to be put into law covers solely politicians, as the President of the Parliament would have to authorize their wiretapping,” Kampagiannis explained. “Double standards for politicians and citizens now become law,” he added.
“But this is the best,” he concludes. “They make software like Predator legal for the state, as now the option for EYP to buy it, is enshrined into law by the government with a presidential decree.
Greece: European champion in fuel price hikes, puts security tags on baby milk
It was all explained thoroughly in an article this week:
“Greece has the most expensive unleaded gasoline in the Eurozone and one of the highest diesel prices in the entire Eurozone, while it is in the top positions in liquid fuel prices in the entire European Union,” Oikonomikos Taxydromos reported (Opens in a new window).
“According to data from the European Commission, between October 31 and November 7, a significant increase in fuel prices, above the European average, was recorded in Greece, with the average increase being 0.057 euros per liter compared to October 31, when in the whole of the E.U. 27 the average increase was €0.013 per liter,” it was added.
The article went on to explain that high prices are also attributed to the high taxes imposed in Greece, which are holding steady “despite the fact that in other eurozone countries other solutions have been found” and that in most of the Eurozone “incomes are higher than those in Greece.”
At the same time, given also skyrocketing inflation in the country, people’s purchasing power is reaching new lows. In a November Labour Institute report, it was estimated that the poorest (those with less than 750 euros wage) has lost 40% of their purchasing power (Opens in a new window).
Quite illustrative of the situation is that a supermarket chain has put security tags on baby formula.
Pictures showing baby milk in alarm tags circulated widely on social media and websites and triggered an outcry throughout the country.
Mega TV reported that makers of such devices said they have been asked by supermarkets to produce such devices not only for baby formula but also for instant coffee, honey jars, alcohol drinks, razor blades, and even feta cheese in plastic containers.
A Mega TV reporter said that two supermarkets of the same chain in downtown Athens have put security tags also in other baby food items.
Asked to comment on the baby milk security tags, Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said it was normal. “It is normal that some chains want to protect their property,” he stated.
Where exactly lies the problem? It is promoted as “normal” to protect private property as opposed to a starving baby.
That's all for this week, please get in touch if you have any questions or just want to say hi!