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17N (17 November)
Revolutionary Terrorist Organization
Epanastaiki Organosi 17 Noemvri

Details on the origin and organizational structure of this especially vicious and bloodthirsty terrorist group are sketchy. Close association with other Greek leftist groups, especially the People's Revolutionary Struggle (ELA), is suspected due fo their common goals and operating area.

The Revolutionary Terrorist Organization, 17 November (17N) was established in 1975 and took its name from a day in 1973 when the Greek military junta (1967-1974) sent tanks into Athens Polytechnic School to put down a student uprising where 20 students died. 17N claims to be an ideological movement committed to Marxist-Leninist ideals. Over three decades, the groups operations and evolution had been understated and underestimated. It is known that the group split into two factions in the early 1990's. One faction was from the Greek island of Ikaria and the other from Thesprotia (northwestern Greece). 17N has been held responsible for 23 assassinations and over 140 attacks.

Murder by shooting is the attack of choice by 17 November. Americans are usually the targets, but Greeks who support NATO or voice opposition to leftist revolutionary goals are also subject to attack. In killing Americans, 17 November claimed to be targeting "an occupation terrorist force in Greece". Their attacks on Greeks wre rationalized as "armed and dynamic defense of the people's movement". The bloody history of the group proved it to be as ruthless as it is creative in its propaganda.

It is suspected that 17 November was a small organization. Ballistics tests have shown that the same pistol was used in shooting three Americans and four Greek police officials over the period of 1975-84. The modus operandi for the shootings also tended to indicate a small organization. A attacks on Americans have been limited to the military or to US governmental personnel. Of concern is that the group may begin to target civilians or tourists if the security consciousness of the official targets makes attack too difficult. The rhetoric espoused by 17 November would make it very likely for them to feel justified in killing American civilians which they would excuse as attacks on "American imperialists".

  • December 1975 - Shot and killed US Embassy official Richard Welch.
  • January 1979 - Murdered a former senior Greek police officer.
  • January 1980 - Killed the Deputy Chief of the Greek Antiriot Police and his chauffeur.
  • November 1983 - Shot and killed US Navy Captain George Tsantes and his driver.
  • April 1984 - Wounded us Army Master Sergeant Robert Judd as he was transporting mail to the Hellenkion Air Force Base outside Athens.
  • February 1985 - Murdered conservative editor Nikos Momferatos and seriously wounded his chauffeur. The communique claiming credit denounced the journalist as one of the "fascist agents of the CIA".

CIA Chief of Station Richard Welch was shot to death outside his home on 23 December 1975 as he an his wife were returning from a Christmas Party. At that time, Welch was the highest ranking Agency officer killedin the line of duty, and the first Chief of Station to be murdered in a politically motivated assasination. The assassin was not caught. But within days, the Director of the CIA pointed an accusing finger not at extremists abroad, butat a group in Washington which devotes itself fulltime to muckraking the US intelligence community. The group calls itself the Fifth Estate and had revealed Welch's identity and home address in Counter-Spy, its quarterly magazine. Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, William Colby, denounced the group for what he called irresponsible and paranoid attacks on employees of his agency. Welch had been identified in print as a CIA officer as early as 1968, and several times thereafter.

This eventually led to "Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982" Public Law 97-200, which prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of information identifying certain United States intelligence officers, agents, informants or sources. "Whoever, in the course of a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents and with reason to believe that such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States, discloses any information that identifies an individual as a covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such individual and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such individual's classified intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined not more than $15,000 or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

From its inception until July 2002, there had been no investigative breakthroughs or criminal convictions related to 17Ns operations in Greece. However, June 29, 2002, was the beginning of a 6-week timeline that lead to 14 arrests and the confiscation of weapons, disguises, and paperwork. The events began from an accidental explosion at the Port of Piraeus injuring a 17N member. Nine of the 14 arrests were from the Ikaria faction group and most were not considered to be part of the leadership structure. It was suggested that the explosion was initiated to eliminate the ideological underpinnings of 17N.

In addition, the arrests were politically complicated by the fact that they occurred just months after the Greek anti-terrorism law was passed, promoting lenient sentences for terrorists willing to confess and turnover information. Based on current Greek counter-terrorist developments, it may be concluded that a significant component of 17N met its demise. However, most senior ideological leaders of 17N remain free. Even with the disruption of 17N, there is concern they may join forces with ELA (Revolutionary Popular Struggle) to form a new anti-imperialist, anti-globalization movement. Greece continues to learn how to address the threat posed by criminal and terrorist groups.

On April 22, 2009, the US Secretary maintained the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation of Revolutionary Organization 17 November (17N) after completing the five year review of the FTO designation required by Section 219 of the the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended (INA). Designations of foreign terrorist organizations play a critical role in the fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business. The consequences of these designations include a prohibition against the provision of material support or resources to FTOs and the freezing of all property and interests in property of the organization that are in the United States, or come within the United States, or the control of U.S. persons.




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