NEWS

The Watergate scandal had a Greek side, and historians ask if burglars sought evidence of it

Further excerpts from «The Trial of Henry Kissenger»: As we have seen more than once, Kissinger has a tendency to personalize his politics. His policies have led directly and deliberately to the deaths of anonymous hundreds of thousands, but have also involved the targeting of certain inconvenient individuals – General Schneider, Archbishop Makarios, Sheik Mujib. And, as we have also more than once glimpsed, Kissinger has an especial relish for the Washington vendetta and localized revenge. It seems possible that these two tendencies converge in a single case: a plan to kidnap and murder a man named Elias P. Demetracopoulos. Mr Demetracopoulos is a distinguished Greek journalist with an exemplary record of opposition to the dictatorship that disfigured his homeland between 1967 and 1974. In the course of those years, he made his home in Washington, supporting himself as a consultant to a respected Wall Street firm. Innumerable senators, congressmen, Hill staffers, diplomats and reporters have testified to the extraordinary one-man campaign of lobbying and information he waged against the military gangsters who had usurped power in Athens. Since that same junta enjoyed the sympathy of powerful interests in Washington, Demetracopoulos was compelled to combat on two fronts, and made (as will shortly appear) some influential enemies. After the collapse of the Greek dictatorship in 1974 – a collapse occasioned by the events I discuss in Chapter 7 on Cyprus above – Demetracopoulos gained access to the secret police files in Athens, and confirmed what he had long suspected. There had been more than one attempt made to kidnap and eliminate him. Files held by the KYP – the Greek equivalent of the CIA – revealed that the then dictator, George Papadopoulos, and his deputy security chief, Michael Roufogalis, several times contacted the Greek military mission in Washington with this end in view. Stamped with the words «COSMIC: Eyes Only» – the highest security classification – this traffic involved a plethora of schemes. They had in common, it is of interest to note, a desire to see Demetracopoulos snatched from Washington and repatriated. An assassination in Washington might have been embarrassing; moreover, there seems to have been a need to interrogate Demetracopoulos before despatching him… One sentence stands out from the COSMIC cables: «We can rely on the cooperation of the various agencies of the US government, but estimate the Congressional reaction to be fierce…» Seeking to discover what kind of «cooperation» US agencies might have offered, Demetracopoulos in 1976 engaged an attorney – William A. Dobrovir of the DC firm of Dobrovir, Oakes and Gebhardt – and brought suit under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act. He was able to obtain hundreds of documents from the FBI, the CIA and the State Department, as well as the Department of Justice and the Pentagon. A number of these papers indicated that copies had been furnished to the National Security Council, then the domain of Henry Kissinger. But requests for documentation from this source were unavailing. As previously noted, Kissinger had on leaving office made a hostage of his own papers – copying them, classifying them as «personal,» and deeding them to the Library of Congress on condition that they be held privately. Thus, Demetracopoulos met with a stone wall when he used the law to try and prise anything from the NSC. In March 1977, however, the NSC finally responded to repeated legal initiatives by releasing the skeletal «computer indices» of files that had been kept on Demetracopoulos. Paging through these, his attention was not unnaturally caught by the following: «7024513 Document = 5 of 5 page = 1 of 1 Keywords Acknowledging Sens Moss, Burdick, Gravel RE Mr Demetracopoulos Death in Athens, Prison Date 701218.» «Well it’s not every day,» said Demetracopoulos, when I interviewed him, «that you read about your own death in a state document.» His attorney was bound to agree, and wrote a series of letters to Kissinger asking for copies of the file to which the indices referred. For seven years – I repeat, for seven years – Kissinger declined to favor Demetracopoulos’s lawyer with a reply. When he eventually did respond, it was only through his own lawyer, who wrote that: «Efforts were made to search the collection for copies of documents which meet the description provided… No such copies could be found.» «Efforts were made» is, of course, a piece of obfuscation that might describe the most perfunctory inquiry. We are, therefore, left with the question: Did Kissinger know of, or approve, or form a part of, that «cooperation of the various agencies of the US government» on which foreign despots had been counting for a design of kidnap, torture and execution? He [Demetracopoulos] began it [his exile campaign] auspiciously enough, by supplying «derogatory data» about the Nixon and Agnew campaign of 1968. This campaign… already tainted badly enough by the betrayal of the Vietnam peace negotiations, was also receiving illegal donations from the Greek military dictatorship. The money came from Michael Roufogalis at the KYP and was handed over, in cash, to John Mitchell by an ultra-conservative Greek-American businessman named Thomas Pappas. The sum involved was $549,000 – a considerable amount by the standards of the day… In 1968, Demetracopoulos took his findings to Larry O’Brien, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who issued a call for an inquiry into the activities of Pappas and the warm relations existing between the Nixon-Agnew campaign and the Athens junta. A number of historians have since speculated as to whether it was evidence for this «Greek connection,» with its immense potential for damage, that Nixon’s and Mitchell’s burglars were seeking when they entered O’Brien’s Watergate office under the cover of night. Considerable weight is lent to this view by one salient fact: When the Nixon White House was seeking «hush money» for the burglars, it turned to Thomas Pappas to provide it… The United States Ambassador in Athens at the time was Henry Tasca, a Nixon and Kissinger crony with a very lenient attitude to the dictatorship. (He later testified to a closed session of Congress that he had known of the 1968 payments by the Greek secret police to the Nixon campaign.) In July 1971, shortly after Demetracopoulos testified before Congressman Rosenthal’s subcommittee, Tasca had sent a four-page secret cable from Athens. It began: «For some time I have felt that Elias Demetracopoulos is head of a well-organized conspiracy which deserves serious investigation. We have seen how effective he has been in combatting our present policy in Greece…» This was certainly taking Demetracopoulos seriously. So was the closing paragraph, which read as follows: «I am, therefore, bringing the matter to your personal attention in the hope that a way will be found to step up an investigation of Demetracopoulos to identify his sponsors, his sources of funds, his intentions, his methods of work and his fellow conspirators…» The cable was addressed, as is usual from an ambassador, to Secretary of State William Rogers. Yet it was also addressed – highly unusually – to Attorney General John Mitchell. But Mitchell, as we have seen, was the only attorney general ever to serve on Henry Kissinger’s supervisory Forty Committee, which oversaw covert operations… Now look again at the computer index disgorged, after years of litigation, from Kissinger’s NSC files. It bears the date of December 18, 1970 and appears to apprise Senators Moss, Burdick and Gravel that Demetracopoulos had met his end in an Athens prison. Was this a contingency plan? A cover story? As long as Dr Kissinger maintains his stubborn silence, and the control over his «private» state papers, it will be impossible to determine. The same applies to the second attempt on Mr Demetracopoulos of which we have knowledge… In order to be cleared of the suspicion [of knowing of a plan to abduct Demetracopoulos], and to explain the mysterious reference to Demetracopoulos’s death in his own archives, Kissinger need only make those same archives at last accessible – or else be subpoenaed to do so.