NEWS

Evidence of attackers’ identity but not of acts

6. Was there any negligence in guarding the embassy? The embassy recently changed the company that guarded it and the lack of experience of the new company’s staff may have made a difference. But the Americans explain that «they are not responsible for the area outside the perimeter of the embassy and for guarding every corner around the building,» hinting that the onus is on the Greek police. There are numerous security cameras in the area, but since it was dark at the time of the attack it is not certain that the videos will reveal anything useful. 7. Will foreign agents be involved in the investigation from now on? Certainly. The Athens FBI chief was in another Balkan country and arrived in Athens within a few hours. A special FBI team that is based in Europe was expected to arrive Saturday. The team is on standby to visit the site of terrorist attacks on American targets and collect and analyze evidence. Together with Greek police officials they will examine any remains of the rocket and use special equipment to analyze any videos that were filmed. The government has requested the assistance of Scotland Yard and agents of other services will undoubtedly be in Athens. The Americans were impressed with the preparedness of the Greeks after the attack. American Ambassador Charles Ries was informed at 6.06 a.m. that the rocket had exploded 11 minutes earlier and that police officers were already on the site. Officers in special uniforms entered the ambassador’s office with the embassy’s security chief and collected evidence, while some fragments of the rocket were later found in the courtyard of the embassy. The provenance of the rocket is considered of crucial importance, If it came from the black market, security services may be able to trace it. 8. Could the attack have been made by a foreign terrorist organization? Initially there was some concern about this, especially when the rocket was found to be of the type used by Iran and some African armies. Later, however, officials concluded that it was a local operation, because it resembles similar attacks by N17 on the embassy and on the German ambassador’s residence. 9. Was there any negligence on the part of the Greek authorities? After the Olympic Games, both the Greek police’s anti-terrorism team and other services slacked off. This was mainly due to lack of interest at the highest political level. When Giorgos Voulgarakis was public order minister he visited the anti-terrorism service once, while his successor Vyron Polydoras rarely deals with the issue. Voulgarakis made history when he interrupted his vacation for a day after the murder of the special guard, having first decided that the police and not the anti-terrorism service would be responsible for the investigation, which «was probably a common crime.» Time was lost then, and an opportunity. Despite continual advice from the British, the anti-terrorism service was slow to investigate. But following an unsuccessful attempt on Voulgarakis’s life, the present minister only spoke in generalities to the officials in charge and was never briefed about the planning of the investigation. Also crucial was the departure of prosecutor Yiannis Diotis, who had been to a large extent the brain behind the dismantling of N17. «Diotis knew all the names and cases inside out. He could get inside the mind of a suspect,» said an experienced officer. There are three to four staffers from the anti-terrorism service who played a vital role in investigating N17, but who have never been given the green light to carry out the surveillance and investigation operations that have proposed. «There was an intensely bureaucratic climate, a fixation with trivia,» commented a former police officer. «This branch, like all of the Greek police, needs a minister on top of it day and night who understands what’s it’s doing and chases after things,» he added. Moreover, many experienced staff have been transferred from the anti-terrorism service because it is considered a privileged post for party cronies, and there has also been a return to some of the old conspiracy theories linking the opposition party PASOK with N17. Greek and foreign terrorism analysts believe that the main problem was that in the past three years there has not been direct and systematic political interest by the prime minister or the public order minister, even though the number of unsolved cases has mounted. «Up until the Olympic Games they entrusted then public order minister Michalis Chrysohoidis’s team… Then the balancing act began,» remarked a senior police officer who supports the government and who has repeatedly tried to warn the politicians concerned. 10. Is there any hope that the new terrorists will be caught? There is already strong evidence of who they are. But there does not seem to be any evidence that would stand up in court of their latest action, or of earlier ones. International experience has shown that if vital evidence is not found within the first few days, the investigation becomes much more difficult.