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Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State, August 2002

A scan of the original document is available for download (PDF, 208 KB, 5pp.)

Source: Department of State, State Archiving System, 2002 ATHENS 002867. The cable was sent Priority to the Department and for information to the Consulate in Thessaloniki and the Embassies in Nicosia and Ankara. The requested distribution included Grecinos, Gollner-Sweet, and R. Glover in EUR/SE; L. Schwartz and M. Toner in EUR/PA; J. Miller in H; and M. Makri in Thessaloniki PA.

Cited in Toward “Thorough, Accurate, and Reliable”: A History of the Foreign Relations of the United States Series, Chapter 12, Footnote 43

Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State

02867. Subject: Release of FRUS Volume Elicits Mild Media Interest and Questions About Lacunae

1. Summary. The 15 August release of the Foreign Relations of the United States volume pertaining to Greece, Turkey and Cyprus in the period 1964-68 drew secondary attention from TV, radio and print media. All media noted that the USG was fully aware of possible coup attempts during this period of political ferment, but seemed to display “apathy and indifference” to then King Constantine's request for US military support for a coup of his own. The media noted that American authorities feared that Andreas Papandreou's political ascent would result in a more anti-American course, and said the documents showed then-US Ambassador Phillips Talbot unaware that the CIA station was in touch with the Greek colonels who plotted the successful coup d'etat in April, 1967. Despite this material, most media were rather disappointed by the contents of the volume, and seemed more intrigued by the USG bureaucratic in-fighting which delayed the release of a volume printed in 2000. All media asserted that the USG gave the go-ahead in the wake of recent arrests of members of the Greek terrorist group 17 November. End Summary.

Who Knew What, and When

2. The 777-page volume was released on a Greek holiday, so it took until Sunday and even Monday for most papers to sink their teeth into the contents. Radio and TV news bulletins carried highlights of the report as a secondary item in their Sunday bulletins, and noted the points cited above. The two largest TV stations, Mega and Antenna, ran voice-overs of “revelations” in the FRUS volume over historical photos from mid-1960s and the coup d'etat. Some reports noted that Talbot seemed to be expecting the King to engineer a coup in cooperation with the generals, and was somewhat shocked when it turned out to be the colonels who were responsible. All newspapers, including pro-government, anti-American Eleftherotypia and conservative, pro-main opposition Eleftheros Typos, pointed out that the documents show the CIA operated under no such misapprehension, and was “fully aware of what the colonels were going to do.” In a front-page story, independent, respected Kathimerini wrote that even those US officials blind-sided by the coup were reassured by the pro-US sympathies of Col. Papadopoulos, who had served as a liaison with DIA, and of Col. Pattakos, “who had relatives in the US Army.”

Reasons for Delay

3. All media devoted equal attention to the delay in the release of the volume. On Sunday 18 August, extensive inside reports in To Vima and Kathimerini claimed that CIA authorities had delayed release of the published volume in the fear that there would be reprisals against American officials currently in Greece. The two papers said there was considerable wrangling between the State Department, represented by then US Ambassador Burns and by historian Jim Miller, and the CIA over both what the volume should and should not contain, and the date of its release. Even though only 0.04 [percent] of the declassified documents were censored, the 19 August edition of Eleftherotypia divined a suspicious number of holes in the account, and ran the sub-head “the Americans are hiding the role of their secret services.” To Vima noted that the volume's release had been carefully timed to coincide with the sleepiest time of the summer: August 15 is a holiday and traditionally the high point of the Greek summer, with most of the country at the beach.

4. Most electronic and print media, still awash in non-stop coverage of the cases of the arrested terrorists belonging to the 17 November group, elided between the two stories, and claimed, on the basis of circumstantial evidence alone, that the CIA lifted its objections to the release of the report once the GOG had “broken” 17N. Thus ended a deadlock that began when the declassification project ended in 1999.

Government Reaction

5. Back from the beach and in typical form was government spokesman Christos Protopappas, who said “none of these revelations come as big news to us. It was well-known that the secret services of certain countries were involved in what happened during that time. It is no coincidence that President Clinton, on his visit here, apologized for the role those services played in creating and in sustaining the junta.” (Comment: this is a deliberate misreading of Clinton's far more nuanced statement in November, 1999.)

Is That All There Is?

6. Comment. Overall (and fortunately) there seemed to be a sense of disappointment at the contents of the FRUS. The two year delay in the volume's release and the conspiratorial bent of most Greek media had tempted readers to believe there would be new evidence of skullduggery and malfeasance. Instead, as an insightful op-ed piece in Kathimerini (8/19) noted, it showed the disorganization and vanity of the Greek political establishment, and that establishment's responsibility for allowing the junta to remain in power for seven years. “No one has ever accepted that the old regime collapsed because of the inability of the politicians who comprised it, given that all those who survived its collapse, with the exception of King Constantine, resurfaced to build the post-1974 political system,” wrote diplomatic editor Costas Iordanides.

7. Indeed, in a country where paranoia is as rife as it is in Greece, it may be the wisest course of action to be as open as possible with the release of declassified, archival material. In this case, doing so allowed us to map out the limits of what US involvement in Greece's domestic affairs has been, and to advertise, by example, the openness of American political culture. Releasing the documents as promptly and as unabridged as possible helps us in our continuing campaign to “normalize” the Greek-US relationship and reduce the level of anti-Americanism based on suspicion of US policy interests in Greece. End Comment.

Miller