Breach of Etiquette

The wife of Ambassador Kubisch led her guests into the foyer while the maid retrieved their coats.

“I’m so glad you and the children could come tonight,” she told Mrs. Welch. “It doesn’t quite seem like Christmas without children.”

Mrs. Welch gave an uneasy smile, pulled her daughter closer to her side. “Thanks for having us.”

Ambassador Kubisch and Dick Welch stood apart, speaking in low tones. Lately, Dick had been a frequent dinner guest at the official residence, though this was the first time he’d brought his family.

Her husband never told her who did what at the embassy. Last week, Dick’s identity as CIA Station Chief had been revealed in the Eleftheros Typos and other Greek papers. She thought it was irresponsible of them to finger him like that.

Dick looked at her and winked. She smiled.

The men finished their conversation and shook hands. “Merry Christmas, Dick,” said the ambassador. “If I don’t see you.”

What Pegman Saw: Athens

Historical note to this story:

While serving in Latin America, CIA Station Chief Dick Welch, a fanatic about personal security, was always careful to hide his identity. Once he arrived in Athens he was confident that he was at last in a politically stable country and could relax a bit despite the fact that his name and Agency connection had been reported in the Greek newspapers.

On the night of December 23, 1975, he and his family attended a Christmas party at the American Ambassador’s residence. Upon returning home, Dick exited the car to open the main gate. A man appeared amid the darkness and called to him. As he turned, the man blew Dick’s head off with a pistol.

Five days after the attack, a terrorist group called “Revolutionary Organization 17 November” claimed responsibility for Dick’s death. It wasn’t until 2003—almost 28 years later—that the people responsible for the murder of Dick Welch and several other foreign diplomats were caught. They were sentenced for the murders of the diplomats, but escaped conviction for Dick’s death because of a 20-year statute of limitations.

15 thoughts on “Breach of Etiquette

  1. Even before I read the historical notes, I felt something was coming. You built such a good sense of unease there, Josh, I could sense all would not be well. Do you know why they murdered Welch? Just because they didn’t want foreign interference in the country? Nicely paced and a great atmosphere.

    1. The CIA never gives a straight story about their activities. Tim Weiner wrote a superb history about the CIA up until 9/11 called Legacy of Ashes. He used a lot of the Declassified documents to piece together what looked to be a record of continued colossal failure in foreign policy combined with arrogant bloodthirsty over-reach that resulted in millions of deaths the world across. He asserts the agency’s one skill is using PR lies to spin failure as success. They did in Laos, Syria, Iran, and other places beyond counting. They do this now.

      1. It’s terrifying to think what might be covertly happening in the name of any given country and it’s in the security agencies’ interests to build the paranoia, the sense of threat, without which they might be out of work. Frightening too, to think how much the West has aided our current crop of terrorists – you’ll know this as a student of history, how much the West has meddled, aiding one side over another for our own ends, destabilising countries then pulling out, leaving the local people flailing. The British have been stella at this in the past – some of today’s climate of fear we have caused ourselves.

        1. The worst thing about it is that it is all for corporate money. Everything that is said about patriotism or national security it’s just so much bullshit. There’s money in war and there always has been and that is why we keep fighting them. Those who make the money no longer have to send their children to die so we can’t expect this to change anytime soon. The more you know about it the worse it gets.

          1. It’s certainly a depressing thought – how much profit there is in war. You’re quite right though – we stop making war, many powerful people stop making a profit

  2. Interesting bit of history and wonderfully written as always. Like Lynn, I wonder if you know why they killed him?

    I also wonder if any of this features in that super-secret-CIA novel you’ve been working on.

    1. It is not unlikely that they killed him for the role the CIA played in the military rule of Greece 1967 – 74. The CIA were known to be actively involved in supporting a regime that practised arbitrary arrest and torture of its citizens. On 17 November 1973 the army crushed protests with violence that left many dead. An extreme group took the date as their name and murdered several people, including Dick Welch.

  3. A statue of limitations on murder? That hardly seems just. It must have been terrible for his family to witness his execution right in front of them. Glad the killers have finally been caught and hopefully are serving lengthy sentences for their other crimes.

  4. It’s always bad news to out someone in the CIA. Newly arrived he hadn’t done anything to anyone, but fanatics only need to know who he worked for. It’s a shame that operational security wasn’t any better than that. Great story and great notes. I loved it all.

Don't just stand there.