NEWS

‘Athens threat level as before:’ Australian spy

CANBERRA (AFP) – Australia’s top spy said yesterday that he saw no need to raise the threat level for nationals visiting Greece, even though the government has just issued a heightened warning about the dangers of traveling to the upcoming Athens Olympics. Dennis Richardson, director-general of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization (ASIO), told a Senate committee his agency’s threat level for Greece remained at «medium,» where it had been for some time. «We took a judgment that on the basis of information available to ASIO, there was not a case to vary the threat level from medium to high,» he said. But Richardson said ASIO agreed with the Foreign Ministry’s decision last week to heighten its travel warning for Greece following a minor bomb attack against an Athens police station that caused no injuries or major damage. The travel warning sparked a furious response from Greek and Olympic officials, with the president of Greece’s Olympic organizing committee, Gianna Angelopolous-Daskalaki, accusing Australia of undermining Games security. «I worry that harm is being done to the Olympic Games. I am concerned that we send a consistent message to those who wish us ill,» she said on Monday. Greek anger was heightened by the fact that Australia is one of a number of governments advising Athens on security for the August 13-29 Games. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer again rejected the Greek criticism on Monday, saying the upgraded travel warning was warranted following the small bomb attacks in Athens earlier this month. «We upgraded out travel advisory to tell Australians to exercise caution. That is just common sense as we see it,» he said on national radio. «Others may think they shouldn’t exercise caution.» Downer dismissed the suggestion Australia’s move would encourage extremists to attack the Games. «To be suggesting that is just wrong. Let’s stick to the facts,” he said.