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Bill tightens wiretapping procedures by Greece’s National Intelligence

Greece’s  government has posted online for public consultation a draft legislation with the aim to optimize the wiretapping procedures the National Intelligence Service (EYP) is required to take to wiretap citizens. At the same time, the draft bill updates the process of lifting the confidentiality of communications, and upgrades the use of illegal spyware by companies and individuals to a felony from a misdemeanor.

The joint legislative initiative by the ministers of Justice, Kostas Tsiaras and of State Giorgos Gerapetritis has the title “Procedure for lifting the confidentiality of communications, cybersecurity and protection of citizens’ personal data.”

The state can still purchase spyware, but procedures are tightened and made more transparent. The acquisition must be announced by ministerial decree and approved by the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court.

The National Intelligence Service can no longer buy spyware on its own.

The bill includes a provision allowing the person whose communications confidentiality is affected to be briefed, but only three years after the fact and provided that the revelation does not negatively impact state security.

To tap politicians’ phones, the Parliament speaker must be notified, and approve.

EYP itself can only be led by a director who is either an active or retired senior diplomat or high-ranking officer. This would preclude the appointment of people such as Panagiotis Kontoleon, a security firm executive, who was made director days after the present conservative government came to power in 2019 and who resigned in the wake of the wiretapping revelations, notes daily kathimerini.

The bill comes after the wiretapping revelations during recent months that politicians, journalists and others had their cellphones hacked with the Israeli-made Predator spyware. The first person whose cellphone was revealed to have been tapped was leader of socialist PASOK, Nikos Androulakis.

The bill is revealed also a few days after the Greek Authority for Communication Security and Privacy(ADAE) reported of thousands for surveillances for reasons of “national security.”

According to the ADAE report, the 2021 progress report lists 15,475 prosecutor’s orders that involved declassification for national security reasons, compared to 13,751 in 2020 and 11,680 in 2019. In addition, it highlights that the government’s decision to ban disclosure of surveillance for national security reasons is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, daily efsyn and other media reported.

In a Q&A section of the new draft bill, the government defines among others:

2. For what reasons can communications be legally declassified?

According to Article 19 of the Constitution, secrecy is lifted for reasons of national security or to investigate particularly serious crimes by decision of a judicial authority.

3. What is “national security” on the basis of which declassification may be lawful?

To date, there is no definition in the law. With the bill “reasons of national security” are characterized the reasons that are concluded with the protection of the basic functions of the state and the fundamental interests of society and include the prevention and suppression of activities capable of causing harm to the constitutional, political, economic or social structures of the country such as, in particular, reasons related to national defense and security, foreign policy, energy security, cyber security and protection against other hybrid threats, protection of the currency and the national economy, protection from humanitarian crisis, public health and environmental protection. – more details in Greek here.

The public consultation runs until November 22.

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