Hacked - The crippling liberal facade of Mitsotakis

Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Kyriakos Mitsotakis

© picture alliance / ANE / Eurokinissi | Giorgos Kontarinis

Explaining the wiretapping in Greece and the political debate

Political confrontations and international outcry were the outcomes of the wiretapping scandal in Greece. It all started when Nikos Androulakis, the leader of the socialist party PASOK-KINAL was informed by the European Parliament that there was an attempt to bug his mobile phone with Predator spyware. Admittedly, this was the last straw after revelations of the surveillance of the reporter Thanasis Koukakis and other Greek journalists.

The discovery prompted the resignation of high-profile officials and sparked a wide-ranging public debate that has embroiled politicians, political parties, constitutional experts, and others. It even led to an intervention from the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou. However, this was only the beginning of a crucial and deep political discussion in Greece.

The opposition parties, led by Mr. Androulakis, immediately demanded answers from the Government regarding the use of spyware and who ultimately gave the order to monitor not only him but also a number of journalists. The government’s response came late and focused on the legality of the surveillance, even if this was wrong. Moreover, the emphasis was given to external threats and the importance of secret services to preserve national security. So far, the government has found itself unprepared and has not provided convincing answers on the case. This, of course, raises fundamental questions about the security of citizens and the observance of democratic institutions, especially in the context of political procedures.

Greek journals, EfSyn and Inside Story are constantly publishing investigative reports about the wiretapping scandal. They revealed that "Predator" is sold on the black market for up to $50 million, not only to governments and anti-terrorist agencies but also to individuals, by those who have hacked the company that sells the product legally. The Government has used the same strategies as in other instances. Thus, the defamation of the media and the journalists themselves were government’s tools to diminish their work and reliability.

The International Outcry

Greece’s wiretapping case has been attracting growing interest from outside observers. From an international perspective, the issue has gained attention from the media and news agencies. Numerous articles ranging from the New York Times to Reuters and the Financial Times have reported and criticized the Greek Government for the incident and its response.

At the same time, Brussels is also waiting for answers regarding the use of spyware and, more precisely, in cases where the targets are political figures. Sophie in 't Veld, a member of the European Parliament for Renew Europe, urged Europol to intervene after a Greek newspaper revealed that the illegal spyware "Predator" is being sold on the black market to private citizens as well as governments.

Clearly, the concerns regarding the evolution of the issues extend beyond the domestic scene and partisan politics. The reaction from the Greek political system and especially the stance of the government need to be convincing and accurate on such a crucial democratic issue.

Surveillance, democracy and rule of law

The issue of surveillance and the rule of law is highly connotated with the democratic values and procedures in our liberal societies. Privacy and the rule of law are not entirely unrelated. Constitutional doctrines regarding unreasonable search and seizure—understood to protect privacy rights—have deep roots in the rule of law ideas concerning the need to constrain the arbitrary discretion of state authorities. In this vein, the Greek Watergate creates many unanswered questions regarding the decision-making, the government's political procedures, and the corruption cases. Moreover, Brussels is also having a hard time preventing intelligence and security services at a national level from violating EU citizens' fundamental rights. This is also the challenge in the Greek case.

Moreover, the issue of surveillance cases goes deeper from just the legality of the actions. How moral is to violate personal data and information, especially when we are talking about your political opponent? In any case, the implications and the ramifications for the democratic procedures are at stake. Nevertheless, the fact that journalists’ surveillances has gained less attentions, and as an extent concern from the public is also troubling. Undoubted, the journalistic environment needs to be protected in order to guarantee the freedom of express and the administration of justice.

The Mitsotakis’ liberal facade

The wiretapping scandal has caused significant problems to the Government and inevitably harmed ND’s and Mitsotakis’ image on national and international level. From the beginning of his term, Mitsotakis tried to promote the progressive profile of his government. Both domestically and internationally, he was characterized as a politician with a liberal profile, despite the fact that his party is a member of the European People's Party (EPP) and generally promotes conservative policies.

His attempts to disrupt the public interest from that case with other issues were unsuccessful. Undoubtedly, a shadow of doubt and insecurity hovers over Greek society. Many experts and political analysts are concerned about the state of democratic institutions and the freedom of expression in the country. Besides that, Greece is ranking low on crucial indexes, such as the Democracy Index, in which has been characterized as flawed democracy and also holds the last position on the RSF’s Media Freedom Index. Taking all these into consideration, obviously, the actual political decisions of the Greek government are far from their pubic perception. As a result, Mitsotakis is losing not only his liberal and progress facade but also voters, as the latest polls are showing.

Eleni Siapikoudi is a project assistant at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Greece.