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The ears of the National Intelligence Service hear everything

31 July 2011 / 18:07:08  GRReporter
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In recent years, "government wiretapping" has increased by 70%! The "Big Brothers" of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the Department for combating terrorism have recorded civil phone calls in 3,450 cases in 2010 compared with 2,031 in 2009! Because of public or national security it is estimated that during the day tapped were the phones of at least 1,500 people and during the whole day - 50,000 calls. Around 130 policemen and civil servants work in the two phone tapping centers located on the 15th floor of "Katehaki" Boulevard and the 12th floor of police headquarters on the "Aleksandras" Boulevard. “Vima" newspaper presents an unknown side of the job of the two great systems of "lawful tapping", which became known in recent months with the detection of people involved in match-fixing, hundreds of mobsters in Athens, Larissa, Thessaloniki and the island of Zakynthos, the carnage in Rendis neighborhood, the killing of 45-year-old Manolis Kandaris on "3rd September" Str., etc. However, as it becomes clear from official documents, there are many "sub-tappings", which are not disclosed with the pretext of national security... 

According to the latest annual report of the Office for Protection of Communication Privacy 2,281 orders were issued by the Prosecutor for the deletion of communication privacy for "national security" in 2010 and also 1,169 decrees of judicial councils (total of 3,450) to track members of gangs involved in any criminal acts. In 2009, prosecutors had issued 1,061 orders and 970 orders of the Judicial Council (total of 2,031) to track suspects. To be perfectly clear in the distinction of the use of the two tapping systems, let us note that in 2005 only 199 orders were issued for phone tapping (then only land-lines). That is, the corresponding elimination of privacy in the last five years has increased almost 20 times! 

One very interesting point in the case of "government wiretapping" is one that concerns tapping done due to "national security", which requires only a prosecutor's order in order to activate the NIS system. This is how many officers dealing with cases of common crimes, who want to tap phones, put their cases on "national security" level and speed up the procedures, because this way they only need one document from the prosecutor and not a lengthy procedure for issuance of decree of the Judicial Council. For example, the investigation of the activities of armed groups in the kidnapping of businessman Pericles Panagopoulos, and the activities of the Mafia, was carried out by the NIC for reasons related to "national security" based on the Act 2225 of 1994 and some of its newer amendments. In other words it comes out that a mafia member is a spy. Based on this law the tracking permit is issued almost automatically with an order granting the prosecution, without the need to justify in detail the reasons for the tapping. Naturally, to achieve this all one needs to do is just find an “excuse": there is at least one foreigner involved in almost all criminal groups. So police say that these foreigners are a threat to national security and procedures speed up... 

According to observers of the work of the systems for "official wiretapping”, however, there is a possibility to falsify the prosecution orders and request removal of the privacy of mobile phones of politicians, businessmen or individuals for the support of "other interests". It is noted that the Office for Communications Privacy Protection, which is the competent supervisory authority, does not conduct inspections in the central database system for the interception of NIS and the Department for Combating Terrorism, and in the companies for fixed and mobile telephony, which are associated with these systems and "open lines" for the secret services and law enforcement services. 

As competent inspectors reveal: "If a tapping of phones other than those listed in the prosecutor's order or judicial decree takes place, then the lawful interception systems turn on an alarm. Each year we are faced with 4-5 cases of a similar concern, which was subsequently found to have errors in the system, not illicit phone tapping. For example, for a long time the alarm system was turning on because some people had forgotten the phone tapping of NIS employees, done in order to test the system. And of course, this phone tapping did not come with a prosecution order...”. 

However, responsible officials indicate "that the greatest danger comes from the procedure of correspondence with the claims submitted to the Prosecutor General's Office." Employees of the NIS and the Department for combating terrorism countered that "the procedure is transparent because it is controlled by a competent prosecutor supervising both departments ...”. Ultimately, the new Chairman of the Commission for Institutions for transparency in parliament Athanasios Tsouras stresses that he has placed the full development of national strategy plan and protection of messages as a priority. However, he stated that main goals are the privacy policies in sectors where there are large spaces such as the Internet, but also correspondence. 


Tags: Greece police phone tapping
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