John M. Nomikos

Copyright: www.rieas.gr

Human beings have always needed information to secure their livelihood and to ensure their safety – the location of the best fishing stream, the site where firewood might be gathered, when deer herds were likely to appear. In the classical Greece, covert action and clandestine operations were among the most common and yet most vilified methods of statecraft.

All states (Athens and Sparta) used it but no state wanted to admit this, and in case such operations became public, “the world” disapproved severely. Greeks used local citizens who served as “proxenos”. (1) The “proxenos” had to be a citizen of the state in which he served, not of the state he represented. These men became the equivalent of modern spies or agents as a conduit for information and clandestine activities in the course of normal duties during the Peloponnesian Wars (2)

Today, in the current “information age” we are constantly bombarded by facts, opinions, speculations, rumors, and gossip from every direction. Television carries into our homes each night unsettling images of squalor and death from around the world (not to mention our own backyard). Computers draw us into an interactive milieu where e-mail gives, and expects in return, ever more rapid exchanges of information. The cellular telephone assures that a flow of information will follow us everywhere: into our car, the mall, and the meeting place. What effect has this rising tide of information – and its secret undercurrent we call intelligence – had on decisions made in the high councils of government? (3) Foreign policy decisions are preceded in most cases by the gathering and interpretation of information by government officials about the costs and benefits that may accrue to their nation from various options.

Greece position as an industrialized nation and active member of the European Union as well as NATO calls for a higher degree of management efficiency, effectiveness and employment criteria to establish a Greek Intelligence Community that can master those challenges and successfully continue to perform its role of supporting national, political, diplomatic, economic, and military decision makers plus operational and tactical military commanders.

Overall, intelligence is in an exquisite awkward position in adapting to a changed world. It is a service industry once designed to serve Greek foreign policy. It has to embody the qualities of high national security and professional intelligence competence as well as the undoubted integrity that leaders of the Greek Intelligence Community have always had. But they will also have to have the vision so that they can foresee an Intelligence Community of the 21st century that portrays a realistic, credible, and attractive future, but that at the same time is different and better in important ways than that now existing.

For all the reasons analyzed above, the Greek Parliament was currently debating a significant new law covering intelligence reform and modernization. The new law passed (February 2008) by the Greek Government will modernize the Greek Intelligence Service (NIS-EYP). The most important articles in the new law point out that: a District Attorney will be appointed who will decide on a purely legal basis whether privacy laws can be lifted in order to support an investigation by the Greek intelligence service; the establishment of a joint ministerial committee including officials from eight most important ministries; and the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) which will be responsible of protecting the security of critical networks.  

On the beggining of the 21st century, Greece certainly needs a modern and efficient intelligence service that can collect and process information, and that is able to plan and carry out secret operations for the protection of the national interest. Today, the Greek Intelligence Service will have to deal with different tasks. However, the Greek government should seek to keep the more threatening intelligence operations within reasonable limits, particularly those linked with diplomacy! 


(1)John M. Nomikos (2004), “The Internal Modernization of the Greek Intelligence Service (NIS-EYP)”, International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, vol. 17, no. 3, Fall 2004, USA.
(3)John M. Nomikos (2004), “The Greek Intelligence Service and Post 9/11 Challenges” vol. 4, No. 2, Winter, 2004, International Intelligence History Association, Germany.