By George Psyllides
The head of the island’s secret service has resigned following revelations that it had been using phone surveillance technology, the government said on Saturday.
Andreas Pentaras’ resignation was accepted by the president.
“Following the information and the shadows cast in relation to the use of specific software by KYP, and to protect the service’s notable work to date, its chief … submitted his resignation today,” a written statement from the government spokesman said.
Pentaras’ resignation came after revelations a few days ago that KYP had apparently purchased phone surveillance tech from a manufacturer with a poor reputation among privacy advocates.
A published copy of a December 2014 invoice made out to KYP for the purchase of such technology showed that KYP had paid €35,000 for items as “Android Platform,” “No.5 Agents Software License,” Physical Infection Vectors,” and “Remote Mobile Infections.”
The issuer of the invoice is “HT Srl,” short in Italian for “HT, Società a responsabilità limitata,” or HT Ltd.
It is the designation used by Hacking Team, an Italian company that sells intrusion and surveillance tools to governments and law enforcement agencies.
Reporters Without Borders has listed the Italian firm on its Enemies of the Internet index due largely to Hacking Team’s business practices and their primary surveillance tool Da Vinci.
Several countries other than Cyprus are listed as customers.
Communications surveillance is illegal in Cyprus. Parliament amended the constitution some five years ago to allow such activity under certain circumstances, but the legal framework to enforce it has not been approved yet.
Nevertheless, it is a known fact that phone tapping has been going on probably since the foundation of the Republic.
In a written statement on Wednesday, Pentaras said KYP’s actions were in accordance with the constitution, the laws, and full respect of human rights.
“This technology is used solely within the national security remit of KYP and the need and importance of maintaining a reliable operational intelligence service due to the circumstances caused by the [Turkish] occupation, but due to modern-day asymmetric threats resulting from the instability in our region.”
He said the recent actions of KYP in tackling international terrorism was self-evident. He was referring to the recent imprisonment of a Lebanese-Canadian man, with links to Hezbollah, who was found in possession of eight tonnes of ammonium nitrate in Larnaca.