The country’s counterterrorism capabilities improved during its deep decade-long crisis, while urban guerrilla activity waned, even though one might have expected the opposite in both cases.
When I became a crime reporter in 2007, New Democracy was in government, and the counterterrorism unit was run by experienced and capable officers affiliated with the ruling party. On the other hand, “PASOK-affiliated” officers had been marginalized, although some of them were handling critical terror-related information on suspects including the mastermind of the Revolutionary Struggle group, Nikos Maziotis.
In the wake of the December 2008 “uprising,” authorities managed, thanks to covert investigations and surveillance, to find the thread that led them to the homes of members of the group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire in Halandri. However, a few days after the first arrests, the investigation was interrupted. In the fall of 2009, PASOK won the national election and the leaders of the counterterrorism unit were gone, literally overnight.
The investigation into Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire continued, but only temporarily and with less intensity, as the new administration chose to focus its attention on Revolutionary Struggle. This choice was justified because after the clash in Dafni and the death of Lambros Fountas in March 2010, police arrested members of the organization.
In the years that followed, the financial crisis worsened, resulting in unprecedented political upheaval. George Papandreou was succeeded by Lucas Papademos as prime minister, and then Antonis Samaras, who co-governed with PASOK. The cycle, which had until then determined the leadership of state anti-terrorist agencies, was broken. The officer at the helm of the service in 2009 remained in his post until the spring of 2014, while the two brigadiers who succeeded him in 2014-19 secured administrative “peace.”
This continuity in leadership ensured a continuous flow and processing of information by the intelligence services, which eventually led to the so-called “urban guerrilla war” being dealt a severe blow. In the wake of the new reality, the current government chose this summer to give the leadership of the counterterrorism unit to the man who served for eight years as the head of the department’s domestic terrorism division.