Greek opposition urges no-confidence vote over wiretaps
Greece's main opposition party proposes a no-confidence vote in the wake of the "wire-tapping scandal".
Greece's main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, on Wednesday, called for a no-confidence vote in the government over a long-running wiretap scandal which he claimed the Prime Minister had personally orchestrated.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis' conservative government came under heightened scrutiny after a bombshell media story in November claimed that state monitoring had targeted more than 30 lawmakers, journalists, and business executives.
The former premier said during a parliament session that conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was the "mastermind and chief behind this criminal network," after divulging that a minister and five top defense officials had been under state surveillance.
Mitsotakis, who is on a visit to Crete, took up the gauntlet, stating, "We are absolutely ready for this political battle."
The no-confidence vote is scheduled for Friday. In the 300-seat parliament, the government can count on at least 156 members to survive the move.
This is happening as Mitsotakis is expected to announce a date for early elections this year.
He was supposed to make a decision in March, but the no-confidence vote might speed the process.
During a speech, Tsipras on Wednesday said he had proof of state surveillance from Greece's communications watchdog ADAE, which recently carried out an audit at the country's telecoms operators.
He said state officials had "hounded" investigative reporters who sought to uncover the scandal and also tried to "bully" ADAE's chairman Christos Rammos into silence.
After the revelation, Mitsotakis confessed that state intelligence had monitored Androulakis, without disclosing the reason, but flatly denied authorities used Israeli-made spyware Predator.
Read more: Greek authorities fine Israeli owned spyware company Intellexa
Not an isolated incident
Israeli-led spyware industry has been embroiled in a seemingly never-ending spate of extremely prominent controversies. Revelations that it sells its spyware to authoritarian regimes, that its products have been used to spy on journalists, activists, politicians, and even potentially world leaders, and accusations that it played a role in murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death have put it at the center of international criticism.
In November 2021, the United States placed "Israel's" spyware maker NSO Group, the corporation behind the notorious Pegasus, on its list of restricted companies.
Read more: Le Monde: Moroccan Intelligence Spied on Macron via Pegasus
NSO Group's Pegasus was exposed as having been used by oppressive regimes to spy on journalists, human rights activists, dissidents, and even heads of state.
Washington also targeted another Israeli company, Candiru, a Singapore-based Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE (COSEINC).
According to an investigation led by The Washington Post and 16 media partners, Pegasus is military-grade spyware leased by the Israeli firm to governments who used it in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, and business executives, among others.
Read more: Bin Salman’s “Cyberweapon”: Not Only Against Saudis
Smartphones infected with Israeli spyware would become pocket-spying devices, allowing the user to read the target's messages, look through their photos, track their location, and even turn on their camera without their knowledge.
Pegasus has also "enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian governments targeting dissidents, journalists, and activists outside of their sovereign borders to silence dissent," the US Commerce Department said in a statement.
Last December, US senior senators said they will look into the government's purchase and use of strong spyware developed by two Israeli hacking firms, as Congress passed legislation in recent days aimed at limiting the spread of hacking tools, NYT reported.
Representative Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, wrote to the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration last week, requesting extensive information about the agency's use of Graphite, yet another Israeli spyware tool developed by Paragon.
In further detail, Graphite, like the more well-known Israeli hacking tool Pegasus, can infiltrate targets' mobile phones and extract texts, videos, photographs, and other data, the report noted.
In September of 2022, Israeli-made spyware, Predator, was reportedly used to hack into a Greek ex-minister's phone in the third case of a Greek national being targeted with the malware.
Predator and Pegasus spyware are very similar to each other, with the latter made by the competing and more famous cyber firm NSO Group. Like Pegasus, Predator allows the operator to access the entire contents of the target’s phone, as well as secretly activate its camera and phone and recording.
Greece is involved in a massive political scandal over revelations involving spyware, which was found on the phone of a prominent investigative journalist and the leader of the country's social democratic party.
The head of Greece's intelligence service Panagiotis Kontoleon stepped down amid increased scrutiny of the agency's surveillance practices, including an accusation by an opposition party leader that his phone was bugged by Predator in 2021.