58. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1
- Assassination of Senior US Embassy Official in Athens
1. Although we do not yet know the identities or the affiliation of the assassins, various individuals and groups do seem to stand out as possible suspects. These range from the extreme left to the extreme right and their home base could be Greece, Cyprus or elsewhere.[Page 210]
2. The perpetrators of the assassination may well have been extreme leftist Greek youths, possibly associated with the violence-prone splinter groups of the far left. These have been implicated in other violent activities such as the storming of the US Embassy last April on the anniversary of the military takeover in 1967. Four members of the Revolutionary Communist Movement of Greece were recently convicted for their role in the attack on the embassy. Such groups, which reportedly have fraternal ties to Palestinian students in Greece and possibly to elements of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, roundly condemn the traditional communist left as bourgeois and opportunist.
3. It is in fact unlikely that the country’s three main Communist parties, which have condemned violence and seem more interested in improving their respectability, were involved. Even extreme leftist Andreas Papandreou is probably shrewd enough to see the folly in such actions despite his shrill anti-American and anti-CIA rhetoric, although he may not have total control over his numerous youthful followers. Any of the main leftist parties, especially the Moscow-backed Communist Party of the Exterior, could have been responsible for the recent revelation of the identities of alleged CIA case officers in Greece however.
4. There is an outside chance the assassins were right-wing provocateurs. In light of the revelations of the names of the alleged CIA employees, rightist elements may have considered this an opportune time to act in the belief that blame would be heaped on the left.
5. Alternatively, the assassins could have been Greek Cypriots. Various reports have confirmed the existence of extremist groups on the left and right in Cyprus whose avowed aim is to attack Turkish as well as British and American targets. Extreme leftist Vassos Lyssarides, himself the object of an assassination attempt, is one of the most vocal propagators of anti-American and anti-CIA rhetoric. There may also be a connection between this most recent shooting and the earlier assassinations of the Turkish ambassadors to Austria and France. The assassins of the Turkish ambassadors have never been identified, although speculation has centered on Greeks or Greek Cypriots as well as on Armenians or Turkish dissidents.
6. Virulent anti-Americanism and a corresponding desire to rid Greece and Cyprus of US influences are the most likely motives behind the assassination. It was probably also an act of revenge, stemming from a belief that the US has been the principal obstacle to the realization of leftist aspirations going as far back as the Greek Civil War in the 1940s when massive US assistance prevented a communist takeover. Many Greeks also believe that the US installed and sustained the military juntas that ruled Greece between 1967 and 1974 and are convinced that the US engineered or at least could have prevented the [Page 211] Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Greek anger has been fueled by the revelations of the junta’s use of torture on a large scale against leftists as well as by the stories of CIA involvement in Greece and Cyprus emanating from the US press and the Congressional hearings.
7. In the event the assassination was rightist-inspired, the aim of the right would clearly be to force the government to abandon its policy of toleration toward the left that it has viewed with such alarm.
8. The assassination will increase the level of recriminations between the left and right which has grown substantially in the past few months. The Caramanlis Government will now come under greater pressure from the right to take some measures against the left. Caramanlis has thus far resisted such pressures, preferring instead to maintain a middle of the road policy between left and right but he may now bow to pressures and adopt a policy less tolerant of leftist activity.
- Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry, Job 80–M00165A, Box 17, Death of Richard Welch. Secret; Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals.↩