20-day Greek-US security drill

A giant Greek-US exercise focusing on security during the Athens Olympics will go ahead as planned next month, the government said yesterday, but refused to reveal the exact legal status under which American military forces will be allowed to enter Greece for the drill. Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis, who discussed the joint exercise during meetings with US officials in Washington last month, said it will last for 20 days. «It will be a very big exercise,» he told a press conference. On Sunday, Greek security and emergency forces ended a three-day security exercise ahead of the August 13-29 Games, which was held in Piraeus and southern Attica in the presence of foreign observers. Floridis said next month’s drill would be «more of a police nature» than a military maneuver and would thus be legally covered by existing bilateral agreements with the US. Its military aspects, he said, would be within the framework of NATO – under which US-led forces were allowed passage through Greece during the 1999 NATO attack on Yugoslavia. Questioned on the security cameras being installed all over Athens ahead of the Olympics, Floridis admitted that the move has not been approved by Greece’s official privacy watchdog, the Authority for the Protection of Personal Data (APPD). However, he said, an APPD decision on the matter is expected soon. The minister said a total of 1,296 cameras – which are to be fitted with microphones – will be set up in Attica and other parts of Greece where Olympic events are to be held. The majority (1,013) will be at sports venues, and the rest will cover the streets of Athens. After the Games, Floridis said, the cameras at sports venues will be turned over to Greece’s main cities to help regulate traffic flow.