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JERUSALEM, Israel – Greece became the latest European country rocked by political scandal this week with reports surfacing that the phone of a well-known opposition government leader was being hacked by an intelligence service. The scandal comes after the recent collapse of governments in Italy and Britain amid political corruption and public criticism.
In Greece, news that the National Intelligence Service (EYP) was listening in to the phone calls of Nikos Androulakis, leader of the Greek socialist PASOK party, sparked an uproar among opposition parties and prompted demands for a full investigation.
According to the Associated Press, Panos Skourletis, parliamentary representative of the main opposition SYRIZA party, said Richard Nixon resigned as U.S. president exactly 48 years ago because of a similar scandal and that his party expects Mitsotakis to “at least do the same today … to apologize and resign.”
When the allegations first surfaced last week, a government spokesman said the surveillance had been approved by a prosecutor and was lawful. However, on Monday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis walked back any knowledge of the wiretap and fired the head of the National Intelligence Service, Panagiotis Kontoleon, and his Chief of Staff Grigoris Dimitriadis.
The spyware scandal in Greece, which some likened to the Watergate affair 50 years ago, comes less than a month after the collapse of Italy’s ruling coalition prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Mario Draghi and the resignation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was forced to stand down as leader of the ruling Conservative Party after reckless behavior during the COVID-19 lockdowns was made public.
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Rebekah Koffler, president of Doctrine & Strategy Consulting and a former DIA intelligence officer, said the instability in Europe was a bonus for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Any domestic instability in a NATO country is a plus for Russia, which has as its strategic goal to fracture and weaken NATO,” said Koffler, author of “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America.”
“Putin thrives on instability,” she added. “On his orders, a special doctrine was developed by his intelligence and military planners, called “controlled instability” or controlled chaos, where Russia either seeks to foment chaos by clandestine operations or amplify existing tensions and instability, in any NATO country.”
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In Greece on Tuesday, President Katerina Sakellaropoulou called for the wiretapping affair to be fully investigated, highlighting that protecting the right to privacy was “a fundamental condition of a democratic and liberal society.”
Androulakis, who is also a member of the European Parliament, said on Friday that he had learned his phone was being monitored more than a year ago. Filing a complaint in Greece’s Supreme Court late last month, Androulakis said his cellphone was bugged with a U.S.-made spyware named Predator.
The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) is the third-largest political party in Greece and likely to hold the balance of power in the next general election, which is slated for 2023.
Commenting on the use of wiretaps, Koffler told Fox News Digital that there was “no such thing as privacy in today’s world, given the level of technological advancement.”
“It’s naive and even childish to claim that you have privacy in today’s world when you carry a device with you that spies on you 24/7,” she said, adding, “If you carry a phone or any electronic device, especially if you are a politician or any high-level business or government official, assume that your communications are of interest, and you are a potential target for intercept by foreign intelligence services and possibly domestic opposition.”
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“If you don’t want something to appear on the front page of a newspaper, do not say it,” said Koffler.
THE Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.