From glow to grief

The editorial in Kathimerini yesterday said that the nine-month tapping of top officials’ phones including that of the prime minister, right under the nose of Greece’s intelligence services, «has stoked a heightened sense of humiliation among the people.» It’s hard, though, to believe the government has its finger on the public pulse and is hunting for a remedy. The government is still in the self-congratulatory mode of last week’s press briefing, where the three ministers sought to translate embarrassment into responsibility and cowardice into respect for institutions. Quite paradoxically, the national grief derives from an event that was meant to boost Greece’s image in the world: the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. That event created the need for a mammoth surveillance network and preventive security checks under the moralist stewardship of foreign secret agents who possess both the necessary know-how and the ideology that allows them to treat individual and civic rights – including the privacy of communications – as trivial issues. The Olympic angst of the conservative government, as with its Socialists predecessors, made it bend to the US and British whims, which were ostensibly mandated by the needs of the anti-terror war. The toll of the Games was hefty in terms of money, the environment, and childish nationalism. And just when we expected to capitalize on the success of the Games, we instead get to suffer deep disappointment. There is no evidence incriminating any secret services. The firms implicated in the scandal took care of that – not out of responsibility, as the public order minister rushed to declare. As for the argument that the Americans are not so naive as to spy out of their own embassy, there is also a counterargument. One might argue that they are so certain no one will turn against them that they do not even worry about being caught.

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