For the first time, and indeed by a unanimous decision of the Plenary of the Council of State—one of the three highest courts in Greece—, an institutional route has been created by which the President of PASOK, Nikos Androulakis, and any other person whose constitutional right to confidentiality of communications has been violated, can go straight to the Independent Authority for Communication Privacy (IACP) and request information on why they were surveilled.

“The significance of this decision, which has undoubted legal and political dimensions, becomes greater still when one considers that it bears the seal of the Plenary of the Greek Council of State, and that not one of the judges on that senior judicial body expressed an dissenting opinion on the unconstitutionality of the 2021 law that placed a ban on people placed under surveillance by the National Intelligence Service being given a full explanation of why this was done,” senior sources within the judiciary note, highlighting the value of this decision, which they describe as a “legacy ruling for the protection of the Rule of Law.”

The grounds underpinning the decision

“The provision in Article 87 of Law 4790/2021 which introduced, in cases in which the measure to lift the confidentiality of communications for reasons of national security was imposed, a blanket ban on the possibility of the affected person being informed after the measure has expired, even when the national security objectives that led to its imposition are no longer at risk, constitutes an excessive restriction on the inviolability of communication, which cannot be justified in the context of the operation of the Rule of Law, and is therefore in breach of Articles 19(1) of the Constitution; Articles 5(1) and 15(1) of Directive 2002/58; Articles 7, 8 and 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; and Article 8 of the ECHR and shall therefore be null and void.” This phrase encapsulates the reasoning of the CoS, whose judges have now passed the baton on to the Authority for Communication Privacy (ACP) and its president, the honorary vice-president of the Council of State, which must provide victims with the information they request.

The list

The CoS’s decision gives any other person who was the target of surveillance the right to request information from the ACP on their own case.

According to information former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras revealed from the floor of the Hellenic Parliament in January 2023 on the basis of a file he had received from the ACP, the list includes the names of the former Minister of National Economy and Finance, Kostis Hatzidakis, and the former Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, Konstantinos Floros. Tsipras went on to say that also listed were the former Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff, Charalambos Lalousis; former National Security Adviser, Alexandros Diakopoulos; as well as the former Heads of the Directorate for Defense Investment and Armaments, Theodoros Lagios and Aristides Alexopoulos. The journalist Thanasis Koukakis and the Greek-American cybersecurity expert Artemis Seaford are just two of the victims who have denounced their surveillance to date.

In the light of the CoS decision, everyone, whether journalists or officials, who was put under surveillance by the Greek National Intelligence Service (NIS) can now formally request information on why they were targeted for surveillance. We shall have to wait and see how many of these persons, and who, will be seen entering the offices of the ACP in the days ahead.

But how can they proceed? Based on the CoS’s decision, their next step is to apply to the ACP for the release of the relevant information. The Authority will then ask the NIS whether the purpose of the surveillance would be prejudiced by the information’s release. If the answer is no, the NIS will have to provide the ACP with all the documentation relating to the surveillance.