Nevertheless, concerns that Greece’s severe depression, and the Samaras government’s continuing pressure on the Greek people through barbaric austerity, have resurrected the thought that domestic “militants” may be preparing for escalatory action beyond aiming simply to cause material damage.
To add to the stress of the days, the government is also afraid that current socio-political atmospherics could ignite larger scale violence similar to the riots that wrecked downtown Athens in December 2008. The repeat of such a devastating strike could endanger the administration’s already shaky position and trigger serious political instability.
So far, the official reaction to the terrorist upsurge continues to depend on traditional tactics, with the Greek Police’s counter-terrorist unit conducting the investigation. The Antitromokratike Yperesia, as the counter-terrorist unit is known in Greek, is responsible for both collecting and analyzing intelligence regarding terrorist action and sending out into the field action teams which take the lead in searches and arrests.
This formula has remained the same over the past several decades and has an overall average record. Observers, especially from abroad, point out though that the changing nature of terrorist strategies plus the introduction into the fray of a younger generation of “militants,” responding to new political narratives and a largely de-ideologized “theory of violence,” creates the pressing need for a thorough revamp of Greece’s intelligence response.
Ideally, any such reform should center on a unified domestic intelligence agency to act as the clearing unit of intelligence originating in other parts of the executive branch as well as the military.
Such an entity will be responsible for both oversight and coordination of intelligence action and the sharing of intelligence across government bodies, including the police, coupled with the task of accountability.
In theory, there is little dispute over the need for such a domestic intelligence agency. Greece faces various border control and security issues and is located in a part of the world where instability and violence are significant risks, not to mention the severe illegal immigration crisis.
Political circumstances in Greece at present, however, dictate caution concerning any move to establish a domestic intelligence arm.
The Samaras government has assumed an authoritarian approach to anti-austerity protests, a fact which justifiably raises questions as to the exact mission any such future agency would have under a government increasingly at violent odds with its society.
On the other hand, few would put their money on the Samaras government lasting long enough to affect successfully such critical steps like a major overhaul of the country’s intelligence services.
Greece is still a country where even the most monumental of tasks are assumed by governments with pitifully little planning. If, indeed, we apply a “Greek scenario” to presumed intelligence reform we would be confronted, most likely, with a lot of paper, lengthy legislative bills, and appointments directly from the pool of the “boys network” – a sequence that guarantees the failure of the initiative (and, in fact, the failure of any other initiative of any substance) from the outset.
That being said, brutal austerity raises the potential of social unrest and intensified political violence. With Mr. Samaras choosing conflict and suppression in his contest with those protesting the destruction of their livelihoods, the playing field is wide open to action that could take Greece back many decades into the past: for example, civil mobilization, an extraordinary measure for a democracy in time of peace which brings strikers under military jurisdiction, has been applied as a strike-breaking method twice in recent weeks to force workers back to work without the slightest effort to lean on the employers as well in search of a compromise.
Such government behavior fuels exponentially the popular determination to protest and, consequently, increases possibilities of widespread violence. Under these circumstances, the question of strengthening intelligence could be transformed into a key component of nascent government authoritarianism.
In view of the above, any domestic intelligence reform must carry guarantees that it won’t become part of a government strategy to suppress the vast majority of the population opposing “bailouts,” the destruction of the Greek economy, and the severe dilution of national sovereignty under orders from the country’s creditors. Agreeing to parliamentary oversight for any domestic intelligence arm, while desirable, is insufficient given the regimented rubber stamp habits Greek parliament has acquired since 2010.
It would be wise, therefore, to address the much-needed intelligence reform once democratic guarantees have been restored and the country regains the control associated with the status of an independent and functioning democracy.
In any other case, attempting to strengthen the government’s intelligence reach domestically under the present circumstances could be tantamount to opening a can of worms that only those with nefarious intentions would prefer to see it open.
PS: What has gone completely and conveniently unnoticed, by those who insist to see “improvement” in the current chaos that surrounds Greece, is that Mr. Samaras and his accomplices in the coalition government have taken to governing through cabinet executive orders. Such orders are constitutionally allowed only in extraordinary circumstances and especially when parliament is unable to convene because of emergencies like war, natural disasters, and any other similar emergency. Such executive orders must be ratified by parliament within forty days of their signature by the president; otherwise they cease to exist within three months from the day they were introduced. The Samaras government, in its haste to push through various measures that promote austerity as dictated from abroad, has taken to issuing such orders despite the ongoing parliamentary session which can legislate regularly. An executive order of course pushes out of the way inconveniences like parliamentary votes. Criticism of such clearly unconstitutional action by a supposedly “democratic” government has bounced off the administration’s thick hide. What would be next?