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Greek, U.S. Officials Tapped For Years 236

Posted by Zonk
from the privacy-is-not-a-right dept.
Bruce Schneier posts on a story being reported in the Seattle Intelligencer. Greek and U.S. officials in Greece apparently had their phones tapped for over a year before the 2004 Olympics. From the article: "It was not known who was responsible for the taps, which numbered about 100 and included Greek Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis and his wife, and the ministers of foreign affairs, defense, public order and justice. Most of Greece's top military and police officers were also targeted, as were foreign ministry officials and a U.S. embassy number. Also tapped were some journalists and human rights activists." Schneier gives a bit of technical background on how the tapping was accomplished.
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Greek, U.S. Officials Tapped For Years

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  • Well duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DarkClown (7673) on Friday February 03, 2006 @02:58PM (#14636632) Homepage
    does this surprise anyone? it's the admissability in court that's really the big deal, as well as being able to point to the use of it in ongoing investigations between agencies and oversight.
    • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rei (128717) on Friday February 03, 2006 @03:10PM (#14636741) Homepage
      You don't tap foreign officials for things to be "admissible in court" - you tap them so that you get the information of what their plans are. Of course, in some states no-party phone taps are legal (I believe that Arizona is one - I'd have to recheck) if you own the phone service, and in most states one-party phone taps are legal (tough luck people of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington who want to tap a phone call that they're taking part of). None of these would cover tapping someone who'se phone you didn't own, but then again, the federal government tapping a foreign government's phones doesn't fall under the jurisdiction of domestic wiretap law.

      Really, though, is this such a surprise? I'd think a foreign government would have to be bloody daft to accept any sort of tech built in the US where any sensitive communication is going to take place. You can make a no-click phone tap from a modem; you think that the US government can't do better? Or do you think that the Bush admin has the scruples not to tap its allies?
      • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Informative)

        by The Angry Mick (632931) on Friday February 03, 2006 @03:16PM (#14636801) Homepage

        For the curious, here's a list [rcfp.org] of how each of the fifty U.S. states handle tape recording of telephone calls.

        • Interesting. I'm in Texas, so I looked up the appropriate statute. Here's a snippet:

          Under the statute, consent is not required for the taping of a non-electronic communication uttered by a person who does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that communication. See definition of "oral communication," Texas Code Crim. Pro. Art. 18.20.

          Now, I wonder just how closely they define "electronic communication"? Ignoring the fact that even a basic Bell telephone is electronic communication (as is a tape
          • The way I understand it (IANAL, but am married to one), IP telephony and PBX calls can be recorded without notification to the person you are talking to, as they're still defined, rather loosely I'd say, as voice traffic. Now, whether or not this remains the case once elected officials start looking more closely at IP telephony due to the screams and howls of their well-funded telco lobbyists remains to be seen. I have a sneaky suspicion that the people who are most likely object to one-way recording are

          • Re:Well duh (Score:2, Informative)

            by Seraphim1982 (813899)
            Now, I wonder just how closely they define "electronic communication"?
            Wonder no longer.
            From Article 18.20 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure:
            "(15) "Electronic communication" means a transfer of signs, signals,
            writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature
            transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic,
            photoelectronic, or photo-optical system. The term does not
            include:

            (A) a wire or oral communication;
            (B) a communication made through a tone-only paging device; or
            (C) a co
            • Cool. Now we just have to define "wire communication" - and for that matter "oral communication" as it refers to audible signal, such as a 300 baud modem. Which the code may well cover - I'm kicking myself for mentally skipping over the reference in my first post.
      • Hasn't "tapping one's allies" been an industry standard best practice ever since factions and allies were first invented, more than five thousand years ago?
      • Or do you think that the Bush admin has the scruples not to tap its allies?

        I don't see why you think our government was doing the tapping. Every country spies on every other country - in recent years just off the top of my head I can think of incidents where the US government was spied on by Russia, France, the Phillipines, China, and Israel. Those were efforts that were discovered by the FBI - I'm sure they're just the tip of the iceberg.

        I'm sure the US embassy already has recording devices on all the

      • Last I checked, Ericsson was a Swedish company (which, according to the article was the provider of the equipment). Also, one of the phones that was tapped was a US Embassy phone. Maybe the Swedes were spying on the Greeks--we should not forget that Sweden was an aspiring nuclear power [wagingpeace.org] (or read this [iht.com]). Maybe they want to become a superpower...
      • I'd think a foreign government would have to be bloody daft to accept any sort of tech built in the US where any sensitive communication is going to take place. I don't think so. Vodafone is headquartered in Newbury, UK. So, Mr. Bond, don't bother to dissemble. And BTW, what WERE you doing with those communications? I thought of handicapping a book on the selection process.
      • You don't tap foreign officials for things to be "admissible in court" - you tap them so that you get the information of what their plans are.

        Exactly. And it's not just foreign officials. A friend of mine worked for the SNP, a Scottish political party. They were warned on the first day that their phones were tapped and they should watch what is said.

        The only scandal about Watergate was that they got caught.

        Or do you think that the Bush admin has the scruples not to tap its allies?

        It's not a parisan

    • Wiretaps aren't all about court cases. They're about information. Information is power, especially when it comes to public officials and conversations that are thought to be private.
      • Corporate espionage especially. It's been common practice for years to have American intelligence services pass on information to Boeing regarding Airbus' activities and vice versa. Helps in the bidding and design process a bit.
  • by tlay (793463) on Friday February 03, 2006 @03:02PM (#14636668) Journal
    Did anybody else think that the article was
    "Geek U.S. Officials Tapped For Years"?

    I dunno...maybe that's just because I was on \. I was thinking that.

    -TLAY
  • I sincerely doubt they were looking for "evidence" for a trial...I also doubt that it was either Greece or the US that did this. The conference calls were probably setup from the provider (Vodaphone's) side, not actually installed on the phone itself.
    • In which case, since it wasn't government-ordered, the provider is guilty of illegal wiretapping. Vodafone is going to have to pay up big for this.
    • Can you say Israel boys and girls?

      I knew you could.
      • Yes... this all makes sense. Because Israel has a vested interest in Greece....

        It's called anti-semitism. Get over it.
        • You're a bloody moron. As Kissinger told Meir, "That has nothing to do with this."

          Of course Israel has a vested interested in what happens during the Olympics in Greece. What do you think would have happened to the Israeli athletes in Munich if Israeli intelligence had an inside line on what the Germans were planning?

          Furthermore, you poison the well. Saying something about Israel that isn't glowing and praiseful is not antisemitism. Saying something about Israel slaughtering Palestinians is not an
    • The conference calls were probably setup from the provider (Vodaphone's) side

      What's to stop Vodaphone from doing this with all of their phones? I imagine a few corporate executives would be looking long and hard at their mobile phones if they knew they were potentially tapped at purchase. The possibilites for corporate espionage are limitless, but perhaps the discovery of a few unauthorized corporate wiretaps is what it'll take to make people take a harder look at warrantless wiretapping in general.

  • by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Friday February 03, 2006 @03:13PM (#14636762) Homepage Journal
    a phone conversation encryptor?

    Actually the idea is as old as the MAD magazine, but with today's technology it could be implemented using public keys and a tiny modem in the headset.

    voice -> data -> public-key encrypted data -> voice.

    Ta-da! :D
    • by OzPeter (195038)
      One slight problem I can think of :-)

      1. Build encryptor for phones to hide nefarious deeds
      2. Authorities take interest in you
      3. Authorities tap your phone and find out that they can't decode your speech data
      4. Authorities go " .. Hmmm .. I wonder what he is hiding?" and throws mainframe full of cracking software at the problem.

      At this point you are effectively putting head to head two computer systems:

      1) The *hand held* device that you built to encode and decode speach in *real time* in order to hide what
      • The objection to "roll your own" reads:
        1. Build encryptor for phones to hide nefarious deeds
        2. Authorities take interest in you
        3. Authorities tap your phone and find out that they can't decode your speech data
        4. Authorities go " .. Hmmm .. I wonder what he is hiding?" and throws mainframe full of cracking software at the problem.

        Several problems with this objection. First of all STU phones have existed for years (and they keep replacing them with STU I, STU II, STU III etc) -- well because the keep gettin

        • I'm not saying that a phone couldn't be built .. and you point out that they are built .. but also are being cracked (which is what I was mainly alluding to happening in an arms race)

          The more general point I was trying to make (and badly) was that if the authorities are interested in you, then they will bring to bare on you as many resources as matches their interest. And that any small, portable device will never be a match for a much larger, more powerful device.

          Hiding your voice as another type of data
      • Could one not make 2 encryption devices that would go on either end of the phone conversation that are pre-populated with identical large sets of random data to be used as a one-time pad? Or some kind of real-time random number generators that share a common seed? Seems like that would be pretty tough to crack...
      • yes, the better idea would be to feed a *completely* different, unemcrypted mind-numbingly harmless conversation down the phone at the same time.
      • That's OK, because at least that would stop them from potentially filtering phonecalls "en masse" thru stuff like Echelon [wikipedia.org].

      • It's a whole lot easier to just steal your encryption devices, put in something that will give away the keys, and return it.

        Or just put someone hear you when you are talking.

        Or look at other information about you to see if you are worth listening to.

        Or ask a bunch of folks about you.

        Or feed you some information about something nefarious and see if you use encryption to relay it to someone.

        It is way too easy to put your faith in high tech cryptography and high tech cryptanalysis, when old fashioned methods w
    • Why not just use VoIP and an SSL tunnel between the two people?
    • From official Greek sources, actually all high ranked officials have end-to-end encryption enabled handsets. The problem is that many officials admitted that many times they do not use this feature because of the inconvenience, since both parties have to have them enabled. The same way we do not always enable gaim encyption even though we and I our geek friends went through the trouble to set it up once.
    • that's too much work, you can fly under the raid much easier than that. you think Echelon is going to pick up a conversation about "ihad-Jay"?
  • Organized Crime? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by egarland (120202) on Friday February 03, 2006 @03:16PM (#14636790)
    This sounds like an organized crime activity to me. Lots of cash flowing around and knowing people's secrets could be just what somebody needed to get a fat contract where they could skim millions. Follow the money and you'll probably find who did this, even if you cant prove it.

    I wouldn't be surpriesd if organized crime here in the US hadn't figured out a way to tap into people's phone calls. The telepone companies don't seem to care who listens to our phone calls anymore.

    It's time for end to end encryption of all communications. We should get an SSL session from one handset to the other.
    • Re:Organized Crime? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Organized crime? I don't think so. Why would the organized crime care about what greek human right activists and anarchists talk about just before and during the 2006 Olympic Games in Athens?

      Something else that the fine article fails to mention is that the cells that the eavesdroppers used were spotted and all of them are very close and around the US embassy and most of the embassy people live in that area. There isn't any real doubt in Greece that the US embassy was at least involved.

      From an anonymous gree
      • Organized crime? I don't think so. Why would the organized crime care about what greek human right activists and anarchists talk about just before and during the 2006 Olympic Games in Athens?

        These "targets" tend to more imply government. Leaving the question of "which one". Of course it could be that organised crime put the taps in on behalf of a government...
    • This sounds like an organized crime activity to me. Lots of cash flowing around and knowing people's secrets could be just what somebody needed to get a fat contract where they could skim millions. Follow the money and you'll probably find who did this, even if you cant prove it.

      Another possibility is that following the money leads somewhere which it would be politically incorrect to accuse.

      I wouldn't be surpriesd if organized crime here in the US hadn't figured out a way to tap into people's phone call
  • Vodafone - one of the country's four mobile telephony providers - discovered the tapping after receiving complaints from customers over problems operating their phones.

    "Hello, Vodaphone Greece. Yeah, I've got a complaint about my service. I think someone's tapping my phone. How can I tell? Every time I talk to my wife I hear heavy breathing that isn't hers, if you know what I mean..."

  • by DysenteryInTheRanks (902824) on Friday February 03, 2006 @03:23PM (#14636885) Homepage
    The first rule of surveillance is this: Always bug yourself.

    "Omykod, neighbor, I just discovered a webcame in MY shower, too! Chekkidout!"

    "Wow dude, someone put that same keylogger on my laptop, too! Here it is, right in the process list on my Windows Task Manager!"

    "Greek Allies: Thank you for sharing your concerns that we were behind the recent suspicious rerouting of cell phone calls made by your top government officials. As you can see from the attached mobile phone company records, our embassy has been a victim of this heinous eavesdropping as well. We look forward to working with you to find the Real Perpetrators. Sincerely, CIA Field Chief -REDACTED-"

    • I can think of an other group who from a historical point of view has interest in what is going on during the Olympics. Remember Munich? I think they are more likely to be involved in this.
    • Neighbours several houses down on the next street once bought a cheap baby intercom that ran on FM radio. It was rather suprising to be cycling through the channels fo find a new but rather gritty family sit-com, only to realize that events were actually synchronised to the events happening in their backyard.
  • by Gunfighter (1944) on Friday February 03, 2006 @03:25PM (#14636905) Homepage
    I mean... c'mon. Everyone knows that at least one third party [echelonwatch.org] was already listening in on those conversations anyways. What's the surprise that someone else figured out a cheaper way to do it? That's just good geeks at work trying to impress the bean counters over at the GAO.

    Note to self: two tinfoil hat posts in one sitting... I need to cut back on the Mt. Dews after lunchtime
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday February 03, 2006 @03:27PM (#14636913) Homepage
    These games are played all the time by foreign intelligence services. The most important question here is, if this was not a Greek agency that was behind the wiretapping, why didn't Greek counterintelligence know about this for so long?
  • by Sub Zero 992 (947972) on Friday February 03, 2006 @03:28PM (#14636919) Homepage
    Some more interesting details:

    1) The software used was developed by Vodafone's major supplier,
    Ericsson. It was installed although Vodafone does not own any licenses
    to use it.
    http://news.kathimerini.gr/4dcgi/_w_articles_polit ics_371_03/02/2006_172382 [kathimerini.gr]

    2) Vodafone was notified by a Reseller, Q-Telecoms, about delays in
    text message delivery, after which they undertook an ad-hoc analysis.
    They found the software, supposedly a remotely activated Trojan (how
    the hell could a Trojan get onto an SMS gateway?), by sheer luck, and
    then disconnected the computer from the network.

    3) The day after (2) the local security manager was discovered dead.
    "Suicide", don't you know.

    4) Ta Nea (http://digital.tanea.gr/ [tanea.gr]) are claiming it was the CIA,
    since the remote proxy used for collecting data appeared to lie in the
    vicinity of the American and / or British embassies. How amateurish is
    that? Their motive was "Anti-Terrorism" before, during and evidently
    also after the 2004 Olympics, which is no doubt why the list of
    mobiles being tracked also included those of some prominent, and very
    very active (if you follow the news about bombs and firebombs at Greek
    banks and ministries, you'll know what I mean) anarchists (not
    commies, much more left wing than those boy-scouts).

    So long,
    • anarchists (not commies, much more left wing than those boy-scouts).

      As an anarchist, I am offended by that.
  • by slapout (93640) on Friday February 03, 2006 @04:29PM (#14637434)
    Come on. You know it was just the Olympic Committee making sure no one violated their trademark on the term "Olympics" [slashdot.org]. Because you know they have to protect the term "Olympics" [bbc.co.uk] so that know one else can make money off the word "Olympics" [bbc.co.uk]. If these officials where caught using the term Olympics [tmcnet.com] they could be in big trouble with the Olympic Committee. Hold on, someone's knocking on my door.....
  • Oh! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Guppy06 (410832)
    Wiretaps!

    "Stop poking me. Stop poking me. Stop poking me. Seriously, stop poking me."
  • by portforward (313061) on Friday February 03, 2006 @07:31PM (#14638836)
    I once heard a story about someone who claimed that they were being listened to. This person says that he heard an odd "clicking" and other bizzare noises when he was talking on his home land line. When he complained to the phone company, the repairman said his phone was wired really weird. He claimed that it was wired through to the company he used to work for. This was in the mid-nineties. I don't really trust the word of this person, but I would like to know if this has any validity.

    Now, thanks to the wonder of Slashdot, I can ask multiple people who may know something about this.
    1) Is this story believable?
    2) Do you hear "clicks" if your phone line is being tapped?
    3) Can any private organization arrange to have another wire leading from another phone?
    • I once heard a story about someone who claimed that they were being listened to. This person says that he heard an odd "clicking" and other bizzare noises when he was talking on his home land line. When he complained to the phone company, the repairman said his phone was wired really weird. He claimed that it was wired through to the company he used to work for. This was in the mid-nineties. I don't really trust the word of this person, but I would like to know if this has any validity.

      1) Is this story b
  • If you think this is news, it'll shudder you to your core to know that...brace yourself...the UN is also completely bugged. Been that way since the start.

    A lot of you zombies think it's some good-hearted organization for finding lost puppies, but part of the Iraq-war intel came from there. And it stretches back all the way....I suppose to the Bay of Pigs or so.

    It's not new; it's just new to you...part of how the world has always worked. Don't panic.
  • just have a look on the list of names of the persons that were spied upon, it is publicly available on the mainstream media.
  • I am surprised that this story made headlines. In the age of electronic and wireless communications one should assume that all conservations are monitored, without exception (the only limiting factor being the cost, which is not that high nowadays). Just read some books of former spies and you can quickly understand that no small country is safe from spying. Today, saying that a politician's phone was tapped is like saying that Windoze is full of bugs. Expected news is no real news, and I cannot believe all
  • It is worth noting that only one of the three cellular network operators in Greece was providing services to the people whose phones were tapped, and that a day before the company notified the prime minister, one of the managers of that company was found burned in his house (reported as a suicide). The press also says that the company completely destroyed the surveillance software detected in its systems.

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