Haspel's team
Haspel's team
(l. to r.) CDIO Sonya Holt, DDCIA Vaughn Bishop, DCIA Gina Haspel, and COO Andy Makridis. (Credit: CIA)

CIA director Gina Haspel’s appointment of Andrew Makridis as the agency’s Chief Operating Officer last month reminded me of the remarkable role of Greek-Americans in the clandestine service.

Ever since Tom Karamessines served as the agency’s first station chief in Athens in the late 1940s, Greek-Americans have served in leadership positions in numbers that seem disproportionate. This, I admit, is not a scientific conclusion but rather an impression based on my knowledge of CIA history and what I learned in researching two books about the agency.

Some examples of Greek-Americans at the CIA.

  • Nick Natsios followed Karamessines as chief  of the Athens station in the 1950s and went to run CIA  stations in Vietnam, France, and South Korea.
  • George Kalaris, former station chief in Brazil and Indonesia, succeeded the legendary James Angleton as chief of Counterintelligence Staff in 1975.
  • Mickey Kappes served in Miami station in the 1960s would go on to long career in the agency. Stephen Kappes (no relation as far I know) served as deputy director from 2006 to 2010.
  • Undercover officer John Kiriakou, convicted of leaking information about the CIA’s torture program, is Greek-American.
  • So is  George Tenet, CIA director under Presidents Clinton and Bush.
  • So is John Negroponte, the former Director of National Intelligence.

I would venture to say that the Greek-American cohort at CIA is larger than that other demographically larger ethnic groups such as African-American and Jewish-Americans. If this is true, I don’t have an explanation of why.

The Makridis story was  picked up by the National Herald, the Greek daily of New York City and the California-based Greek Reporter