Greek government's phones tapped for a year

Friday, February 10, 2006

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis

The phones of more than 100 people including the Prime Minister of Greece Costas Karamanlis and key ministers were tapped for a period of almost a year starting before the 2004 Olympics. The illegal wiretapping was carried out by spy software installed in phone provider Vodafone's central system and discovered when the company started receiving complaints from customers about their phone service last March. The case, as well as the government investigation that followed, became public last Thursday in the Greek press.

While the government refutes main opposition party's PASOK accusations of mishandling the investigation by keeping it secret, the identity of the culprits remains unknown, although both American and MI6 agents are widely blamed. The Greek government has said four antennae near the US embassy in Athens were used to transmit the conversations recorded. The embassy is located at approximately the center of the surveillance triangle. On Thursday approximately 800 protesters in Athens marched peacefully to the US embassy and shouted anti-CIA slogans while about 400 protesters in Thessaloniki clashed with the police, after trying to smash traffic cameras.

The death of Vodafone employee Kostas Tsalikidis contributes to the espionage-mystery nature of the case. Tsalikidis, who was Vodafone Greece's head of network design at the time, was found hanged in his Athens apartment on March 9, 2005, two days after the illegal taps had been discovered. While his death was at first ruled as suicide, his family has filed a lawsuit claiming he was murdered. The lawsuit calls for his body to be exhumed, an autopsy to be performed and his apartment investigated. A check of emails on Vodafone's server was also requested in order to locate evidence of their deletion, and the company to give details on why they were deleted. His brother Panagiotis Tsalikidis has already given testimony quoting his brother's fiancée claiming that a few weeks before his death Tsalikidis told her that "Vodafone is in danger of closing down," and "leaving Vodafone is a life and death matter."

While the case continues to unfold, a poll shows a great majority of the Greek public believe the government has not revealed all the evidence pertaining to this case. Most also believe that foreign secret services, governments, and embassies are most likely responsible for the wiretaps.

The government has not released all the names of the people that were victims of the illegal wiretapping. Government figures that were targeted include the ministers of foreign affairs, defense, public order and justice.