What do Doris Kearns Goodwin, Sy Hersh, Mitch Zuckoff, and Steve Kinzer and other illustrious authors have in common? They’re all high on “The Greek Connection: the Life of Elias Demetracopoulos and the Untold Story of Watergate.” Goodwin calls it “a magnificent work….. “a sweeping biography of an absolutely captivating figure who captures our attention from beginning to end.” Investigative giant Hersh says the subject is “a real life Zelig as an investigative reporter, committed to the telling of truth and the making of trouble for Presidents from Jack Kennedy through the post-Nixon years.” Zuckoff says, “In our own era of political and journalistic skullduggery, this is a must-read.” And what do I say?
The Greek Connection is the result of ten years of research and original reporting by former journalist and attorney James H. Barron. The book uncovers the story of a man who was a relentless freedom fighter and journalist, and who held the secret behind Watergate. And yes, by the way, Jim Barron is also my husband. For the better part of a decade, Elias Demetracopoulos was like the third member of our household, a person whom I’ve never met, with whom I had only occasional brief telephone conversations, but one whose character and courage never fail to amaze me. His was a lifetime of standing up for democracy and a free press against powerful special interests. His story is a model for today’s whistle blowers, journalists, and anyone else determined that the truth must prevail.
The Greek Connection is a real life non-fiction political thriller about abuse of power, foreign interference in elections, dark money, vicious smear campaigns, intimidation of journalists and bravery against enormous odds. The story spans events from World War II to the end of the Cold War that are still relevant today.
Elias was a decorated teenage hero of the Greek resistance in WWII, who was captured, brutally beaten and sentenced to death by the Gestapo. He was saved from execution by being moved to a frightful mental asylum for the last year of the war. During the ensuing Greek Civil War, he survived being shot by the Communists and later developed near fatal tuberculosis. He went on to become a controversial and celebrated journalist covering important Cold War stories for major US and Greek publications.
When a military dictatorship took over Greece in 1967, Elias had to flee. After a harrowing escape, he made it to Washington and led the fight to save his homeland. Elias’ goal was to end Greece’s repressive military dictatorship, which was supported by the United States. In the process, he rattled so many cages that the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies hounded him with a disinformation campaign that lasted for decades. The Greek Connection is about his relentless battle against abusive authorities, his fights to free his country and later clear his name. His courageous battles over years made him a marked man, targeted by powerful governments and spies, and set up for kidnapping, torture and probable death.
One of many pivotal moments for him came in 1968 when he uncovered an illegal transfer of money from the Greek CIA to the Nixon campaign. This potential October Surprise could have swung the election outcome from Nixon to Humphrey. But the Democrats, at the highest level, failed to act, and Nixon won. Nixon’s fear that the full story would leak out in the 1972 campaign is a largely unknown reason for the Watergate break-in.
As investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote, “There is much new history in this book, especially about the beginnings of Watergate.” But The Greek Connection is more than just a good yarn about dramatic events in our past. Think about the rampant abuses of power today, the attacks on journalists and a free press, the impact of dirty money on the political process, the interference of one government in the political affairs of other countries, the mauling of human rights, the weaponizing of lies, and the reckless breaking of democratic norms. Elias had to confront all these issues decades ago.
Dear Reader, please forgive my shameless promotion. This is a book about an enigmatic man who relentlessly stuck with his principles in the face of adversity…over and over and over again. I’ve read it three or four times, in different iterations, and it never fails to move me, even though I know how Elias’ story ends. Given what’s happening in the world around us, we need to know that people are capable of standing for democratic principles and facing down powerful interests determined to undermine those values. We need heroes, and Elias Demetracopoulos is one of them.