In May 1948, as the Cold War escalated and the Communist insurgency in Greece intensified, the assassination of CBS News journalist George Polk in Salonica became an international cause célèbre. Polk had openly criticized the Greek government and questioned the U.S. government's support of an undemocratic regime. Most probably, he was killed trying to reach an insurgent command post to interview guerrilla leaders about the civil war. With no claims of responsibility for the murder and no credible forensic evidence, suspicions of culpability fell on many actors, including the Communists, extreme rightwing elements, common criminals, and rogue British intelligence operatives. Although responsibility for identifying and bringing to justice the guilty fell squarely on the Greek authorities, the country's heavy dependence on U.S. assistance enabled U.S. officials and journalists to influence the case. Eager to blame the crime on the Communists and produce quick results, Greek police and justice officials fabricated a case against two known Communists (never apprehended) and a small-time reporter, Gregory Staktopoulos, whose incoherent confessions were clearly coerced. Staktopoulos's trial, conviction, long imprisonment, and failed appeals to the country's highest court left an indelible stigma on Greek justice. Polk's murder—which has never been solved—and Staktopoulos's cruel fate illustrate the powerfully corrosive impact of Cold War perceptions and priorities on the institutions of Western democracies.

You do not currently have access to this content.