Arlington National Cemetery Website. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/rwelch.htm, accessed October 3, 2006.
One of the key issues in this gesture of classification, both by the state and the calcified Left, was, of course, the fact that the Left, legal and forgotten, had finally managed to pass the dangerousness of its existence on to a different self. What were the political issues at stake in differentiating among the various forms that violence takes? Terrorism, urban guerrilla warfare, armed citizen self-defense, armed national liberation movements, political liberation movements, partisan armed struggle, and, more recently, the antiglobalization movement (and especially Black Bloc) are all now semantically collapsed into “terrorism” when their tactics, objectives, political mandates, and relationship to the state, and to often-competing political ideologies, demand the preservation of their differences.
Of course, the latest such gesture by the liberal U.S. state is the recent morphing of the Iraqi insurgents into something that hasn't acquired its own nomenclature yet. “I hesitate to call them 'insurgents,' ” Donald Rumsfeld announced at a news conference. “They are against a legitimate government.” When Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the U.S. military was “taking cities from the—I have to use the word 'insurgents' because I can't think of a better word right now,” Rumsfeld cut him off in mid-sentence, saying: “Enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government—how's that?” George W. Bush went even further the next day, creating three new categorical classifications: Saddamists, rejectionists, and terrorists (William Safire, “On Language,” The New York Times Magazine, January 15, 2006, p. 16).
The issue of terrorism has become common with reference to radical political action both outside and within the United States. In regard to Greece, especially as the Olympic Games of 2004 were approaching, terrorism became the primary concern of the U.S. government, which sought nominally to protect its athletic delegations but in essence to promote and protect its financial and corporate interests. Of the urban guerrilla groups operating in Europe, none has created more consternation for the U.S. State Department than 17N, not only because it has assassinated a number of American citizens and dignitaries but also because in 2002 it was still the longest-existing urban guerrilla organization in Europe. It was on account of 17N's actions, specifically the assassination in 1975 of Richard Welch, chief of the CIA station in Athens and “a brilliant Harvard-educated classicist” (according to the Arlington National Cemetery Web site), that the U.S. government criminalized the public disclosure of the names of covert CIA agents . If the assassination of Richard Welch inaugurated 17N as an urban guerrilla group, the assassination of British military attaché Brig. Stephen Saunders on June 9, 2000, sealed its demise. British intelligence landed in Greece for the first time since 1947 and joined forces with the U.S. security units already in place, demanding the apprehension of the group and its swift bringing to justice. The symbolism could not have been clearer. Once again, the British and the Americans were taking over from a Greek liberal government in policing the political landscape, again with the total acquiescence of that government. Only things were a bit different this time around: 17N was a marginal political group trying to be the conscience of a country that had lost its political edge. And 17N had only marginal public support.
“Plamegate” probably would not have happened without this initial assassination by 17N. Plamegate was one of the many political scandals of the George W. Bush administration. Members of Bush's close circle (by all accounts Vice President Dick Cheney) disclosed the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame in retribution for Plame's husband, Richard Wilson, having exposed the administration's lies regarding the acquisition of yellowcake by Iraq from Nigeria to produce nuclear and chemical weapons.
The established opinion is that disclosing names of CIA agents was criminalized in the wake of the Welch assassination, given the publication of names of CIA agents in Agee 1975. This position has been claimed by the legal expert Floyd Abrams during an event at Columbia University. Abrams (or George H. W. Bush, for that matter) does not refer to Agee's 1975 book, which does not mention Welch's name at all, but rather to a list of names of CIA agents that Agee published in 1975, in an issue of the magazine that he had founded, CounterSpy. This did include Welch's name but had him still stationed in Peru (where he was stationed before his transfer to Athens). In his 1987 On the Run (132), Agee notes that Welch's name had already been published in 1968 in an East German book by Julius Mader, under the title Who Is Who in the CIA, and that it was published again in November 1975 in the Athens Anglophone daily Athens News. Agee further mentions that Welch's cover had been exposed a number of times before the CounterSpy article “by Mader in 1968, [the] Peruvians in 1974, and CounterSpy and the Athens News in '75—and who knows how many other times in between” (1975: 133), so that its inclusion in CounterSpy was not the first disclosure. On a certain level, all this discussion about the publication of Welch's name concerns only the CIA and the U.S. Intelligence Identities Protection Act introduced by then CIA Chief George H. W. Bush and passed into law. It has very little to do though with the Welch assassination.
A close look at the transcripts of the 17N trial shows that 17N itself stated very clearly that they never knew of (let alone looked at) CounterSpy or the Athens News. What 17N has said is that they followed their targets around and established their identity. The identity of Richard Welch was widely known in Greece in 1975 and did not require any special research, all the more so since the CIA used the same house as the CIA station chief's residence (Agee 1987: 133). What might not have been known in Greece at the time is that Welch had been stationed in Greece before, in 1951, before being transferred to Cyprus from 1960 to 1964, Guatemala from 1966 to 1967, Guyana from 1967 to 1969, and Peru from 1972 to 1973.
Stephen Saunders was assassinated on the assumption that he was responsible for coordinating NATO attacks on Kosovo, an allegation that has been denied by Great Britain but sustained by 17N in subsequent communiqués. Saunders's assassination took place the day before a UN Security Council meeting that was to mark the end of the first year of the UN action in Kosovo.