The admirable outcry against warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens would be more admirable if Americans also understood the costs of eavesdropping on foreigners. On February 2 three Greek ministers held a press conference to reveal what the government had kept secret for nearly a year: that a sophisticated, self-concealing software parasite had been recording mobile phone conversations of the Greek prime minister, his wife, the foreign minister, the defense minister and 100 other Vodafone subscribers from before the 2004 Athens Olympics until March 2005, when the bug was removed.
A Vodafone network manager, engaged to be married and with no known personal problems, hanged himself at his home one day after the bugging was originally uncovered last March. He was one of a handful of employees with the access required to install such software. Vodafone firmly denied that the death had any connection to the scandal. No one believes the company. A man died who should have lived. The media vultures around his corpse justify their feeding frenzy with charges of murder.
The story has dominated Greek headlines ever since. The ten-month secret investigation has left too many basic questions unanswered. Journalists have concluded that their government did not want to follow where the evidence pointed.
The intercepted calls were forwarded from four cellular antennas. Their coverage circles overlapped atop the US Embassy. The list of victims was also damning. Anyone might eavesdrop on a defense minister, but only one organization still cares about the electrician whose brother-in-law was implicated in the 1975 murder of CIA station chief Richard Welch by the terrorist group called 17 November. One telephone was listed to an inconspicuous Greek-American at the US Embassy. Journalists learned the phone had been lent to the embassy’s Greek police security detail.
A Greek government spokesman has insisted that Greece is in no way accusing the United States. The US Embassy and State Department have refused to comment. The Greek justice minister sensibly reminded everyone that this could be a provokatsia. British and Israeli security interests resemble America’s. Perhaps Mossad had maliciously designed its eavesdropping to incriminate the United States if discovered. For many Greeks, however, the list–Olympics security officials, senior bureaucrats, journalists, Middle Easterners and radical leftists–looked like a snapshot of US intelligence preoccupations during the 2004 Olympics.