U.S. Helping Greece Make Security Preparations for Olympics

By Maria Kalafati | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Athens, Greece (CNSNews.com) - Facing a major challenge of ensuring security at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, the country is appealing to other countries with extensive experience in security and counter-terrorism to provide help.

The United States, Australia, Spain, Britain, France, Germany and Israel have offered training and intelligence to the Greek authorities.

"Terrorism is a problem in Greece, but the Greek government had taken steps to address it by passing a new law on organized crime," said Thomas J. Miller, the U.S. ambassador-designate to Greece, this week.

While applauding the decision, Miller said the step could have been taken years ago.

He promised to work closely with the Greek government on security issues related to the Olympics.

Stung by the criticism following the assassination of a British diplomat in June 2000, Greece has initiated a series of anti-crime measures.

The November 17 group, which gunned down British defense attache Stephen Saunders, has operated for more than 25 years, killing 23 Greeks and foreigners since emerging in 1975.

Anti-terrorist legislation will provide police with greater access to personal data such as phone numbers and private conversations during investigations.

Last year Greece reached an agreement with the U.S., giving the FBI permission to work more closely with the Greek police in stamping out organized crime.

FBI agents operating in the country will be allowed more access to Greek police inquiries into bomb attacks, arms and drugs smuggling, and cybercrime.

In return, their Greek counterparts will have access to U.S. crime labs and systems, which could help accelerate investigations.

Up to now, 125 Greek officers have been trained. Two are spending a year working with FBI in Salt Lake City as they prepare for the 2002 Winter Games.

The government says it is drafting a $600 million security plan, which includes a special forces unit to protect athletes and visitors at the Games, as well as major surveillance across the city.

Security is not the only headache facing the authorities. Just three years ahead of the Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) remains concerned about transport problems and accommodation shortages.

Officials are playing down the worries. "Greek organizers have overcome initial delays, and now they are confident of producing a smooth event," said organizing committee member Spyros Capralos.

See also:
Greece Downplays Olympics Terror Fears (Oct. 6, 2000)
Greece Assures US, Europe It Is Tackling Terror (June 30, 2000)