Continuing his reputation as a loose cannon even in retirement, former Greek Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos’ claims that Greece listened in on private talks of U.S. Ambassadors in Athens and Ankara have drawn a swift rebuke from the government.
Pangalos’ assertion was made in the wake of a report that the American Embassy in Athens had been used as a surveillance center by U.S. officials to spy on its allies in Europe and Greece.
“The National Intelligence Service (EYP) carries out its mission within the framework of the constitution and the law, while respecting friends and allies,” said government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou after Pangalos, who was foreign minister between 1996 and 1999, made his allegations on a radio show. “EYP has been working for years with the equivalent US agencies and other countries to combat terrorism.”
Privately, Greek government officials expressed outrage at Pangalos’s comments, which they felt took the pressure off Washington to account for its eavesdropping of European leaders by making the assertion that Greece’s intelligence service had targeted American officials. “He made it difficult for us to seek explanations from the US,” a Greek official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Kathimerini.
Pangalos had said that the Greek government was spying on two American Ambassadors although analysts said it’s well known that all governments try to listen in on conversations from their allies, as was asserted by the CIA chief to Congress.
“We didn’t learn anything new … everybody can monitor anybody … Greece’s intelligence service (EYP) had managed to tap the phones of the U.S. ambassadors in Athens and Ankara during my term in office,” Pangalos said.
“It wasn’t anything big but it was entertaining to hear the US ambassador in Athens talking to the ambassador in Ankara and the State Department using inappropriate language and calling me bad names,” Pangalos said.
But he said since more than 20 years have elapsed that it doesn’t matter anymore and that the spying stopped because “the Americans figured it out.” American security officials have had a dim view of EYP, which was considered to be so poor in keeping secrets that it was nicknamed “The Sieve,” for its lapses.
Pangalos’s claim came in the wake of German news magazine Der Spiegel citing leaked information from CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden that indicated a joint Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) group known as the Special Collection Service operated 90 surveillance facilities worldwide, including at the US Embassy in Athens.
The Athens facility, allegedly located on the roof of the US Embassy in Athens on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, is reported as being among 14 that were operated remotely. The Hellenic Authority of Communications Security and Privacy (ADAE), the country’s privacy watchdog, was due to meet on Oct. 30 to discuss this report.