05 May, 2006
New evidence concerning a phone-tapping scandal involving Greece's top mobile phone provider Vodafone was presented by Greece's independent communications privacy authority ADAE on Thursday, during an ongoing Parliamentary investigation into the affair.
Testifying before Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee regarding the 'intruder' software that made the phone-taps possible, the head of the Authority of Assurance of Information and Communication Privacy and Security (ADAE) Andreas Lambrinopoulos also asserted that Ericsson, which had provided the systems used by Vodafone, must have at least some idea of who was behind the surveillance.
Noting that the illegal software was "remarkably ingenious" and had all the parameters and codes that allowed it to interact seamlessly with the entire Ericsson system, Lambrinopoulos claimed that it had come to Greece "already tested".
"Such tests cannot be carried out except in specific 'testing centers'. It is not possible that the parent company Ericsson does not know who has this extraordinary capability," he said, adding that Greek authorities should ask Sweden to press the company to divulge what it knows.
In response to a question by main opposition PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos, meanwhile, the ADAE chief ventured the opinion that Greece's intelligence service EYP had also discovered the same evidence uncovered in the ADAE investigation.
Presenting the evidence gathered so far by his agency, Lambrinopoulos said that ADAE had traced two outgoing calls made from the card phones eavesdropping on the tapped mobile phones. These had been made to a TIM company card phone that "behaved" in the same way as a 'low-phone interceptor' card phone but had also made calls to the United States.
Phone records showed that the TIM card phone in question had made 11 calls and sent one SMS message to two numbers in the U.S. city of Laurel in Maryland, while it had also made and received calls from other TIM numbers. The ADAE head told the committee that he knew the two U.S. numbers but did not want to call them, in case they belonged to a company or U.S. service and the call was recorded.
According to Lambrinopoulos, all these numbers were activated on the same day in June 2004, their final digits all ended in -90, -91 or -92 and they all expired between July 2 and July 5 that year.
Careful investigation of phone records also revealed that six SMS messages from abroad had been sent to the 'interceptor' card phones, including one from Australia, two from Britain, one from Sweden and three from the United States, he said. Finding the caller in these cases involved records from the SMS centers of the countries involved and the effort was still underway, he added.
A further three suspect numbers belonging to the company KAXY ATE had placed three calls to the 'interceptor' card phones, one of which lasted for 15 minutes, while one phone subscriber had forwarded calls to one of the interception-system card phones, Lambrinopoulos told the parliamentary committee.
He estimated that ADAE will have fully concluded its investigation into the affair in about six weeks time.
The phone-tapping plot involving Greece's top mobile phone provider Vodafone was revealed by the government in February, after a nearly year-long covert investigation by the authorities had failed to find those responsible. It said the roughly 100 phones that were tapped included those of the prime minister, members of the government, high-ranking police and armed forces personnel, activists, journalists, business people and even one U.S. Embassy employee.
It was first brought to the government's attention in March 2005 by Vodafone chief executive George Koronias, who said it operated through a piece of sophisticated intruder software that had activated a legal "low-phone interception" system developed by Ericsson to allow legal phone surveillance but was able to mask its presence when inactive.
Source: Athens News Agency