US Embassy in Athens, among others, served as surveillance center, report suggests

The United States has been using its embassies around the world, including in Athens, to operate electronic surveillance facilities that allow it to tap into telephones and monitor communications networks, according to a report published Monday by German news magazine Der Spiegel, citing leaked information from CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

According to a top-secret map from August 2010 published on Der Spiegel’s website but later censored, a joint Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA) group known as the Special Collection Service allegedly operated 90 surveillance facilities worldwide, including at the US Embassy in Athens.

The report also suggested that US diplomatic premises in most European capitals hosted special collection facilities including the embassies in Berlin, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Prague, Geneva and Vienna, as well as Moscow and Kiev.

The allegations came as German intelligence officials were preparing to travel to Washington to explore allegations that the NSA had been tapping telephone calls by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The alleged locations of the special collection facilities largely correspond to known locations of servers for the National Security Agency’s “X-Keyscore” program that were disclosed in other top-secret documents leaked by Snowden, reports said on Tuesday.

The alleged Athens facility, which Greek daily Ta Nea on its front cover shows as being on the roof of the US Embassy in Athens on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, is reported as being among 14 that were operated remotely.

Meanwhile in a related development, former Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, who served from 1996-1999, told Vima radio that the Greek National Intelligence Service (EYP) systematically tapped into telephone calls at the US embassies in Greece and Turkey.

“EYP had succeeded in surveying not just the American ambassador in Athens but also the American ambassador in Ankara,” he said.

“Every time I went in with my coffee and my sesame roll, I would have a pile of papers on my desk; they would not send me everything, just that which I would be interested in,” Pangalos said.

“I wouldn’t learn anything serious, because I knew most of it already. Sometimes it was simply very amusing,” the veteran politician said.