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NSA’s bugging antennas in Athens

29 October 2013 / 14:10:49  GRReporter
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The U.S. Embassy in Athens is the centre of phone tapping and spying as stated in a document of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The document was published by the German magazine Der Spiegel and is part of the revelations of Edward Snowdon, a former assistant to the U.S. Secret Service.

According to the article in Der Spiegel, special centres for collecting information, known as the Special Collection Service (SCS), are located in 80 places on the planet, 19 of which in Europe. They are employing agents of the National Security Agency, the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) and other U.S. secret services.

First on the list of European centres is the one in Athens. According to the document, additional remote controlled equipment has been installed in Athens, which does not require the presence of personnel. Of the 19 centres in Europe, similar remote controlled equipment has been installed only in Athens, Vienna and Moscow whereas there is just spying equipment in the centre in Milan.

Photo: Reuters

According to the article in Der Spiegel, the agents from the National Security Agency are working in complete secrecy, in specially equipped premises of the U.S. embassies and are protected by diplomatic immunity. The document to which the edition refers states that the centres are using the most modern equipment and can tap mobile phones, wireless networks and satellite communications and collect data from them. The equipment is usually placed on the highest floors or on the roof of the embassy buildings, under panels or structures which are to hide it from external monitoring. In Athens, there is such a structure of white-coloured building materials on the older of the two buildings of the U.S. Embassy.

 

The U.S. Embassy in Athens, Photo: tovima.gr

The placement of suspicious 'booths' on the roofs of U.S. embassies in various countries has been attracting the attention of researchers and journalists for years. In November 2000, during an investigation of the global system for the interception of satellite and wireless communications, experts had detected such equipment at the U.S. Embassy in the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia. One of those experts was Mike Frost, a former Canadian secret service employee, trained at the National Security Agency in installing bugging equipment at the embassies of the U.S.A. and Canada.

After reviewing photos of the embassy, he had said that at least part of the top floor of the building could have been used for the collection and analysis of data collected through the interception of wireless communications. According to Frost, at least three types of antennas used for the interception of various signals could have been installed at the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia. Based on the number and type of antennas, the former agent had assessed that the equipment had been operating day and night.

The specific equipment can tap mobile communications, digital and analogue telephones, pagers, wireless internet connections, satellite telephones, and spy on data of ATM transactions. Investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, one of the people who have revealed the existence of the Echelon spying system, had arrived at the same conclusions regarding the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia.

It is worth noting that on 2 February 2006 Ta Nea newspaper had published a report revealing the existence of a network tapping the telephones of more than 100 people, including that of the Greek Prime Minister at the time Costas Karamanlis. During an emergency press conference later that day, the Ministers of Public Order, George Voulgarakis, and Justice, Anastasios Papaligouras, and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos had revealed that the authorities had received information about this as early as March 2005. According to them, the cabinet of the time had preferred to not disseminate the information as it was more than clear that the U.S. Embassy in Athens had been involved in the bugging, which had been established during a routine technical check of the system of the mobile operator Vodafone. The technical team of the company had found out that high-tech spy software had been installed in the system. Costas Karamanlis’ government forwarded the scandal associated with the investigation to the judicial authorities but did not accept the formation of a parliamentary committee to consider the topic.

At the same time, participant in several governments of PASOK Theodoros Pangalos states that, during his tenure at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Greek counterintelligence had spied on the U.S. ambassador in Athens, without specifying the period.

In an interview for To Vima FM radio, he says, "We had learnt nothing new because we had been aware of everything. But it was great fun to hear the U.S. ambassador in Athens using expressions unacceptable for minors in his conversations with the ambassador in Ankara and the State Department."

According to Pangalos, the interception happened more than 20 years ago and therefore "it is already statute-barred". In his words, the interception had been interrupted "because the Americans had been aware of it."

Tags: PoliticsBuggingSpyingNSAUSAEmbassyAthens
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