Backtrack on foreign agency link to tapping

The watchdog investigating the tapping of government mobile phones said yesterday that it had not meant to give the impression that foreign intelligence agencies were involved in the process. The head of the Communications Privacy Protection Authority (ADAE), Andreas Lambrinopoulos, told a parliamentary committee on Thursday that some of the mobile phones used to eavesdrop on conversations had also been used to contact the USA, Great Britain, Australia and Sweden. In a statement yesterday, ADAE said that the calls to those four countries needed further investigation but added that there was no evidence to suggest foreign agencies had been involved in tapping some 100 phones. The watchdog also said that it had no evidence to support claims that the calls made to the USA were actually made to the National Security Agency in Maryland. ADAE clarified that it did not want to implicate mobile phone service provider TIM Hellas in any wrongdoing. Lambrinopoulos told MPs that his team had discovered three «shadow» phones that were operating on the TIM network in the summer of 2004. Until that point, it had been thought that all the phones used to monitor and record conversations were part of the Vodafone network – as were the phones they were listening in on. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras is considering the idea of assigning an investigative magistrate to look into the whole affair. «Every possible initiative by the independent judiciary, such as assigning an investigative magistrate, is looked upon favorably by the government, which turned to the judiciary from the beginning so that the tapping matter could be solved,» said Papaligouras. His comment came after PASOK leader George Papandreou called for such a move after repeating accusations that the government was trying to cover up the affair with the alleged assistance of Supreme Court prosecutor Dimitris Linos and chief prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos. Judicial sources said that a final decision will be taken on the matter when prosecutor Yiannis Diotis finishes his probe into the circumstances surrounding the death of Vodafone software engineer Costas Tsalikidis and whether there is any link between his alleged suicide and the phone tapping.

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