Greater snooping powers planned

Only months after reforming Greece’s anti-terrorist laws, the government is seeking to extend the powers that authorities have to snoop on personal communications such as telephone conversations and e-mail exchanges, legal sources said on Saturday. The Council of State is currently examining a 16-page draft presidential decree, which will seek to allow exceptions to the privacy law in cases concerning organized crime, terrorism and threats to national security. Effectively, the presidential decree will hand security forces greater power to observe various types of communications by suspects. These include telephone conversations, Internet chat rooms, e-mails, Internet banking transactions, mobile phone text messages, credit card purchases, letters and packages. The draft decree stipulates that these enhanced powers of observation must not result in an individual’s privacy rights being overridden unnecessarily or for longer than required. After pressure from fellow member states, Greece passed new anti-terrorist legislation in June, coming into line with EU standards just weeks before the Olympics. According to the June law, the statute of limitations for terrorist actions punishable with a life sentence was extended from 20 to 30 years. New provisions included the adoption of an EU-wide arrest warrant, jailing terrorist leaders for at least 10 years and punishing those providing assistance to such groups.