Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Greek wiretaps

/ scandals / spy /
I originally posted a diary over at Eurotrib on the story of the Greek wiretapping scandal, where I described the events as they were presented by the Greek government along with some related info and a list of unanswered questions. I have been waiting for some solid developments to occur before I posted a story in Histologion, but the whole affair is, if anything, even more labyrinthine after ten days of announcements, news stories and counter-news stories, so I'm posting here an edited comment I made in a related diary today, as a follow-up/discussion of the matter beyond the original facts mentioned in the European Tribune:

... The list of people bugged is so extensive and varied that the only party who could conceivably have such broad surveillance "interests" seems to be the US. The fact that the cell phone of one US embassy employee (whose ID has not been disclosed), is allegedly among those wiretapped, does not preclude CIA involvement at all. A good part of the list of people tapped are either anarchists, members of leftist groups, anti-authoritarian human rights and anti-war activists or "Arab businessmen" about whom we still haven't learned much, as well as an Al Jazeera correspondent in Athens. This part of the list would be of no interest for any other perpetrator.

Note that among those listed are military officers involved in procurements. Now Greece has traditionally been a very interesting market for weapons manufacturers. It is spending now ~3,5 billion dollars per year on defense (and that's without the "clandestine" budget re-purposed for military needs). This translates into one of the highest defense spending percentages of GDP in Europe. Add to that the extravagant amounts paid for Olympic security, and there are lots of people that would be interested in finding out about procurement plans over the past few years - not least of which is the government of our main suppliers. Bear in mind that over the past years, military officials have often leaked their "surprise" at how quickly and, one could say, clairvoyantly, US defense companies reacted to their private discussions among themselves.

Note also that one of the people tapped was Greek businessman Vassilis Katsikeas, with business interests in Bulgaria. Now it turns out that Katsikeas, immediately after the list was announced, reported that he was illegally abducted in Bulgaria last year and questioned by self-described CIA agents regarding, among other things, the leftist terrorist organization November 17 (why the CIA might think he was connected with that group is a sad story having to do with how the CIA has misunderstood what the leftist terrorist groups in Greece were about).

Anyway, the only alternative to the US agency scenario is that the published list was in fact two lists: one list of "quasi-legal" surveillance on "suspicious" individuals, installed with Vodafone's cooperation by the Greek Secret Service before the Olympics, and another list, "added" afterwards to the first covertly, by unknown perpetrators. That list included government and military officials. This scenario does not necessarily require US involvement.

It seems likely also, that the wiretaps were put in place with "inside" help, which means that either Vodafone, or Ericsson employees (Vodafone used Ericsson hardware) are quite likely implicated as well.

Today the only new element that is certainly connected with the story is that the "suicide" of a high ranking Vodafone Technical Officer (whose expertise would have certainly involved him in the phone tapping detection and investigation) one day after Vodafone officially acknowledged that they had detected the wiretaps, looks more suspicious with each passing day and each journalist's investigation.

It now seems evident however, that Public Order Minister (re-assigned today as Culture Minister, I might add) Voulgarakis left quite a bit of information out of his official statement. It is also likely that the only reason that the Greek government went public with the incident was that certain newspapers had picked up the issue and were calling officials and asking "curious" questions.

Anyway, the ten questions I listed in the European Tribune diary remain unanswered. And this spy scandal (as it is referred to in the Greek Press) has severely shaken the conservative government, which stands accused of mismanaging the whole affair. We're hoping here in Greece that either the investigation of the suicide or the official judicial inquiry might shed some light on this shocking affair, though I wouldn't bet on it.


Frank Partisan said...

Interesting addition to the subject. maybe they'll capture a pacifist.

Anonymous said...

From "Conversations with Daniel Ellsberg, part 6" at Daily Kos:

"...But I did see that happening in the future, as I started thinking 40 years ago, when I had clearances. I knew then that there was no great technical problem in simply turning on the NSA domestically, to listen to the American public the same way they listened to foreign countries. There was just a political problem, you could say a constitutional problem. And the day that they flipped that switch, for whatever reason, we would become a total surveillance society. I would say that switch was flipped, secretly, just after 9/11 (if not before).

I think that what the NSA is probably doing is a massive, massive vacuum cleaner operation here within America as well as in and out, and that we're talking about millions and millions of intercepts. I suspect what we're going to find out is in effect what Admiral Poindexter called Total Information Awareness, that's what was turned on."