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Greece: Top officials' phones were tapped

Associated Press
Published February 3, 2006

ATHENS - Mobile phones belonging to top Greek military and government officials - including the prime minister - and the U.S. Embassy were tapped for nearly a year beginning in the weeks before the 2004 Olympic Games, the government said Thursday.

It was not known who was responsible for the taps, which numbered about 100 and included Greek Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis and his wife, and the ministers of foreign affairs, defense, public order and justice. Most of Greece's top military and police officers were also targeted, as were foreign ministry officials, a U.S. embassy number, some journalists and human rights activists.

The phone tapping "started before the 2004 Olympic Games and probably continued until March 2005, when it was discovered," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said at a news conference.

Roussopoulos said it had not been possible to identify who was behind the tapping.

"It was an unknown individual, or individuals, who used high technology," he said.

Roussopoulos said the surveillance was carried out through spy software installed in the central system of Vodafone, the mobile telephony provider that served the targets.

Calls were then diverted to mobile phones using pay-as-you-go services, which are difficult to trace.

An investigation showed that these mobiles had been used in a central Athens area where many foreign embassies are located, though Roussopoulos refused to speculate on whether foreign agencies might be involved.

"I estimate that no harm was caused to our national issues," Roussopoulos said. "The prime minister does not just use one mobile phone." He said the government first heard of the tapping in March 2005, when it was tipped off by Vodafone Greece CEO Giorgos Koronias.

Vodafone - one of the country's four mobile telephony providers - discovered the tapping after receiving complaints from customers over problems operating their phones. Koronias issued a statement saying the company removed the spyware immediately after it was located.

[Last modified February 3, 2006, 01:25:14]

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