Reform of intelligence service enters third and final stage prompted by terrorism probe

The government is making an attempt to deal with weaknesses in Greece’s National Intelligence Agency (EYP) and the partisan influences that have eaten away at it in recent years. The effort is linked to the apparent annihilation of the November 17 terrorist group. At a meeting last week between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, it was agreed to make use of methods successfully employed in the fight against terrorism to improve the organization of the national security forces. EYP, associated with some of the darkest moments in Greece’s postwar history, is undergoing a transformation. Firstly, it is being modernized with the introduction of new technology and specialized staff. Secondly, from now on, its brief will be clearly set out. The service will not be autonomous, nor its departments used for arbitrary purposes. EYP will also be acquiring transparency, its activities monitored by Parliament and with safety valves in place to protect individual rights and personal data. Lastly, it is being adapted to new conditions and will be involved in fighting domestic financial crime which is often closely linked to international financial crime. The decision to make in-depth changes to EYP was made before the barrage of revelations over the past three months in the fight against terrorism. Its head, Pavlos Apostolidis, was assigned the task of preparing recommendations. However, terrorism was a major factor influencing the new changes. The fact that Chrysochoidis chose to keep EYP out of the crucial phase of the investigation into November 17 indicates that even now the political leadership has serious doubts as to the service’s operational competence. It also has reason to question the role played by specific «circles» that were once, or still are, active. It is no coincidence that one of the areas which the terrorism investigation is still pursuing is the so-called «theory of extremes.» In any case, EYP’s sins go back much further and are, perhaps, just as serious. It is common knowledge in Greek political circles that it is only over the past three or four years that the powers-that-be have not given in to the temptation to use the secret services for their own purposes and at the expense of their political rivals. Within EYP, it is known that some officials or even entire departments are independent of the political leadership. In fact, these «nuclei» often amassed great power and information and have played their own games with politicians, economic interests and foreign centers. Simitis and Chrysochoidis’s initiative in bringing about major change in the service essentially brings to a close a series of changes put in motion right after the Ocalan fiasco. At that time, the prime minister approved a recommendation from then Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou to appoint as head of EYP Apostolidis, a career diplomat with long experience and no links with the «sinister world» of the secret service. The second stage came during last October’s reshuffle, when EYP came under the jurisdiction of the Public Order Ministry in order to open up proper channels of communication with police and to curb any tendency toward autonomy within the service. The third stage comprises the changes just announced.