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April 2, 1969: Nixon Begins Secret Political Intelligence Operations

Former New York Police Department detective Jack Caulfield begins his new job as a White House aide. Caulfield was added to the White House by Nixon aide John Ehrlichman after President Nixon’s decision to use private, secretly held funds for political intelligence operations (see January 30, 1969). Caulfield is to conduct various political intelligence operations without being noticed by the CIA, the FBI, or the Republican National Committee. Originally, the idea was to pay Caulfield out of unspent campaign funds from the 1968 elections (see November 5, 1968), but Caufield insisted on being given a White House position. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 67]

July 18, 1969: Nixon Sees Chappaquiddick Tragedy Damages Kennedy

President Nixon learns of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)‘s involvement in the death by drowning of campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne at Massachusett’s Chappaquiddick Island. “He was obviously drunk and let her drown,” Nixon says of Kennedy, who is considered the Democrats’ leading presidential candidate for 1972. “He ran. There’s a fatal flaw in his character.” Nixon aide John Ehrlichman sends his “on-staff detective,” Jack Caulfield (see April 2, 1969) to the site to pose as a reporter and glean information. Caulfield takes along another former New York police detective, Tony Ulasewicz, who is being paid $22,000 a year out of a secret Nixon political fund handled by Nixon’s personal lawyer, Herbert Kalmbach. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 100-101]

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. President Nixon, deep in planning for his 1972 re-election campaign, issues several orders regarding the campaign’s approach towards African-American voters. He notes in the margin of a news story about some blacks possibly supporting his re-election, “Be sure our [public relations] types make it clear we aren’t adopting policy for the promise of being 100% Negro and winning their vote—We know this is not possible.” Beside a headline proclaiming that a court-ordered desegretation deadline will not be enforced, he writes, “Excellent job.” And on a news article about a proposal to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday a national holiday, he writes: “No! Never!” He tells his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, “That would be like making Nero Christ.” He does learn of one idea for mobilizing black voters that he likes. He reads of the formation of a black-led political party in Alabama that will siphon votes from Democratic candidates, and memos Haldeman, “Get this subsidized now.” He underlines “now” twice. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 159]

Lawrence O’Brien.Lawrence O’Brien. [Source: Public domain]President Nixon targets the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Lawrence O’Brien, for surveillance. Nixon worries about O’Brien, a canny political operative, and especially O’Brien’s ties to Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), whom he believes to be by far the biggest threat to his re-election, even after Kennedy’s involvement in the Chappaquiddick tragedy (see July 18, 1969). Nixon orders his Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman, to have veteran campaign operative Murray Chotiner (see 1950) put together an “Operation O’Brien” to discredit the chairman. “Start with his income tax returns,” Nixon orders. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 174-175]

George C. Wallace.George C. Wallace. [Source: Public domain]President Nixon is intent on knocking Alabama governor George Wallace, a segregationist Democrat, out of the 1972 elections. To that end, he has his personal lawyer, Herbert Kalmbach, ferry $100,000 in secret campaign funds (see December 1, 1969) to Alabama gubernatorial candidate Albert Brewer. Kalmbach delivers the money in the lobby of a New York City hotel, using the pseudonym “Mr. Jensen of Detroit.” Through his chief of staff H. R. Haldeman, Nixon also orders an IRS investigation of Wallace. White House aide Murray Chotiner delivers the information gleaned from the IRS probe to investigative columnist Jack Anderson, who subsequently prints the information in his syndicated columns. When Brewer forces a runoff with Wallace in the May 5 primary elections, Kalmbach has another $330,000 delivered to Brewer’s campaign. Brewer’s aide Jim Bob Solomon takes the money, in $100 bills, to Brewer via a flight from Los Angeles to Alabama; Solomon is so worried about the money being discovered in the event of a plane crash that he pins a note to his underwear saying that the money is not his, and he is delivering it on behalf of the president. Wallace, calling Brewer “the candidate of 300,000 n_ggers,” wins the runoff despite the massive cash infusions from the White House. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 228-229]

President Nixon meets with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, CIA Director Richard Helms, and the heads of the NSA and DIA to discuss a proposed new domestic intelligence system. His presentation is prepared by young White House aide Tom Charles Huston (derisively called “Secret Agent X-5” behind his back by some White House officials). The plan is based on the assumption that, as Nixon says, “hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans—mostly under 30—are determined to destroy our society.” Nixon complains that the various US intelligence agencies spend as much time battling with one another over turf and influence as they do working to locate threats to national security both inside and outside of the country. The agencies need to prove the assumed connections between the antiwar demonstrators and Communists. The group in Nixon’s office will now be called the “Interagency Committee on Intelligence,” Nixon orders, with Hoover chairing the new ad hoc group, and demands an immediate “threat assessment” about domestic enemies to his administration. Huston will be the White House liaison. Historian Richard Reeves will later write: “The elevation of Huston, a fourth-level White House aide, into the company of Hoover and Helms was a calculated insult. Nixon was convinced that both the FBI and the CIA had failed to find the links he was sure bound domestic troubles and foreign communism. But bringing them to the White House was also part of a larger Nixon plan. He was determined to exert presidential control over the parts of the government he cared most about—the agencies dealing with foreign policy, military matters, intelligence, law, criminal justice, and general order.” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 229-230]

President Nixon approves the “Huston Plan” for greatly expanding domestic intelligence-gathering by the FBI, CIA and other agencies. Four days later he rescinds his approval. [Washington Post, 2008] Nixon aide Tom Charles Huston comes up with the plan, which involves authorizing the CIA, FBI, NSA, and military intelligence agencies to escalate their electronic surveillance of “domestic security threats” in the face of supposed threats from Communist-led youth agitators and antiwar groups (see June 5, 1970). The plan would also authorize the surreptitious reading of private mail, lift restrictions against surreptitious entries or break-ins to gather information, plant informants on college campuses, and create a new, White House-based “Interagency Group on Domestic Intelligence and Internal Security.” Huston’s Top Secret memo warns that parts of the plan are “clearly illegal.” Nixon approves the plan, but rejects one element—that he personally authorize any break-ins. Nixon orders that all information and operations to be undertaken under the new plan be channeled through his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, with Nixon deliberately being left out of the loop. The first operations to be undertaken are using the Internal Revenue Service to harass left-wing think tanks and charitable organizations such as the Brookings Institution and the Ford Foundation. Huston writes that “[m]aking sensitive political inquiries at the IRS is about as safe a procedure as trusting a whore,” since the administration has no “reliable political friends at IRS.” He adds, “We won’t be in control of the government and in a position of effective leverage until such time as we have complete and total control of the top three slots of the IRS.” Huston suggests breaking into the Brookings Institute to find “the classified material which they have stashed over there,” adding: “There are a number of ways we could handle this. There are risks in all of them, of course; but there are also risks in allowing a government-in-exile to grow increasingly arrogant and powerful as each day goes by.” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 235-236] In 2007, author James Reston Jr. will call the Huston plan “arguably the most anti-democratic document in American history… a blueprint to undermine the fundamental right of dissent and free speech in America.” [Reston, 2007, pp. 102]

President Nixon gives antiwar demonstrators a chance to physically protest the Vietnam War during a campaign rally in Michigan, hoping for favorable press coverage that would denigrate the protesters. According to notes taken by chief of staff H. R. Haldeman, when the demonstrators “tried to storm the door” of the auditorium “after we were in,” they “really hit the motorcade on the way out.” The notes also say: “We wanted some confrontation and there were no hecklers in the hall, so we stalled departure a little so they could zero in outside, and they sure did. Before getting in car, P [Nixon] stood up and gave the ‘V’ sign, which made them mad. They threw rocks, flags, candles, etc, as we drove out, after a terrifying flying wedge of cops opened up the road. Rock hit my car, driver hit brakes, car stalled, car behind hit us, rather scary as rocks were flying, etc, but we all caught up and got out. Bus windows smashed, etc. Made a huge incident and we worked hard to crank it up, should make a really major story and might be effective.” The local police chief says only “an act of God” allows Nixon to escape; the Secret Service goes into an assassination alert. Nixon is so excited and pleased by the events that he nearly burns down his house in San Clemente, California, trying to light a fire in the fireplace. Laughing, Nixon refuses to leave the house, saying he likes the smell of smoke, and retells the story of the rally over and over to his aides. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 270-271]

Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan, one of the most conservative members of the Nixon administration, is appalled at the president’s priorities for the upcoming year, which features increased human resource spending, education and health care reform, wage guarantees, and plans to withdraw US troops from Vietnam. Buchanan writes: “Neither liberal nor conservative, neither fish nor fowl, the Nixon administration… is a hybrid, whose zigging and zagging has succeeded in winning the enthusiasm and loyalty of neither the left nor the right, but the suspicion and distrust of both…. Truly, the liberals went swimming and President Nixon stole their clothes—but in the process we left our old conservative suit lying by the swimming hole for someone to pick up… . Conservatives are the n_ggers of the Nixon administration.” Nixon responds by scrawling in the margin of Buchanan’s memo, “You overlook RN’s consistent hard line on foreign policy.” What Buchanan either fails to grasp or ignores, according to historian Richard Reeves, is that Nixon feels he has enough support among hardline Republican conservatives like Buchanan; he now wants to win the loyalty of conservative Democrats and mainstream Republicans, and drive the Democratic Party ever farther to the left. Reeves will also note: “He also had a secret: he did not much care whether or not this new agenda passed. The idea was to make it look and sound good enough to keep Congress and the press busy so that he could concentrate on his own driving dreams: the realignment of American politics and of world power structures.” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 294-295]

Nixon aide Charles Colson and Colson’s aide George Bell begin working on an “enemies list,” people and organizations the White House believes are inimical to President Nixon and his agenda (see June 27, 1973). The initial list includes a group of reporters who may have written favorably about Nixon and his actions in the past, but who cannot be trusted to continue, and a second group of reporters who are considered “definitely hostile.” A second list, from White House aide Tom Charles Huston, is staggeringly long, and includes, in historian Richard Reeves’s words, “most every man or woman who had ever said a discouraging word about Nixon.” A third list is made up of “enemy” organizations, including several left-of-center think tanks and foundations, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the AFL-CIO.March 20, 1971: Nixon Campaign Decides to Bug Democrats

Frederick LaRue.Frederick LaRue. Two White House aides, Frederick LaRue and G. Gordon Liddy, attend a meeting of the Nixon presidential campaign, the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP), where it is agreed that the organization will spend $250,000 to conduct an “intelligence gathering” operation against the Democratic Party for the upcoming elections.  The members decide, among other things, to plant electronic surveillance devices in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters (see April-June 1972). LaRue is a veteran of the 1968 Nixon campaign (see November 5, 1968), as is Liddy, a former FBI agent.  LaRue decides to pay the proposed “Special Investigations Unit,” later informally called the “Plumbers” (see Late June-July 1971), large amounts of “hush money” to keep them quiet. He tasks former New York City policeman Tony Ulasewicz with arranging the payments. LaRue later informs another Nixon aide, Hugh Sloan, that LaRue is prepared to commit perjury if necessary to protect the operation. A 1973 New York Times article will call LaRue “an elusive, anonymous, secret operator at the highest levels of the shattered Nixon power structure.”  The FBI will later determine that this decision took place between March 20 and 30, 1972, not 1971 (see March 20-30, 1972). In this case, the FBI timeline is almost certainly in error, since the “Plumbers” break-in of the offices of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist came well before this date (see September 9, 1971).

President Nixon tries to come up with ways to use the recently leaked “Pentagon Papers” (see June 13, 1971) to his own advantage. If the papers contain anything about former president John F. Kennedy’s supposed role in the 1963 assassination of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem, “I want that out,” he tells aide Charles Colson. “I said that [Diem] was murdered.… I know what those b_stards were up to.” Did former President Lyndon B. Johnson stop the US bombings of Vietnamese targets just before the 1968 elections to try to prevent Nixon from being elected? “You can blackmail Johnson on this stuff and it might be worth doing,” chief of staff H. R. Haldeman suggests (see June 17, 1972).

Donald Segretti.Donald Segretti. Three attorneys—one the assistant attorney general of Tennessee, Alex Shipley—are asked to work as so-called “agent provocateur” for the Campaign to Re-elect the President (CREEP), an organization working to re-elect President Nixon (see October 10, 1972). The three tell their story to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein in late September 1972, and Bernstein’s colleague Bob Woodward learns more from his FBI source, “Deep Throat,” days later (see October 7, 1972 and October 9, 1972). They all say they were asked to work to undermine the primary campaigns of Democratic presidential candidates by the same man, Donald Segretti, a former Treasury Department lawyer who lives in California. Segretti will later be identified as a CREEP official. Segretti, the attorneys will say, promises them “big jobs” in Washington after Nixon’s re-election (see November 7, 1972). All three says they rejected Segretti’s offers (see June 27-October 23, 1971). Segretti himself will deny the allegations, calling them “ridiculous.”
Part of a Larger Pattern? – Bernstein and Woodward connect the Segretti story to other Nixon campaign “dirty tricks” they are already aware of, including efforts by Watergate burglar James McCord (see June 19, 1972) to “investigate” reporter Jack Anderson, attempts by Watergate surveillance man Alfred Baldwin (see June 17, 1972) to infiltrate Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt’s successful attempts to electronically “bug” Democratic campaign headquarters (see May 27-28, 1972) and his investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Edward Kennedy (see June 19, 1972), and McCord’s rental of an office next to the offices of Democratic presidential candidate Edmund Muskie. To the reporters, the Segretti story opens up speculation that the Nixon campaign had undertaken political espionage efforts long before the Watergate burglary. In their book All the President’s Men, Bernstein and Woodward write, “Watergate could have been scheduled before the president’s re-election chances looked so good and perhaps someone had neglected to pull the plug.” Bernstein has heard of CIA operations such as this mounted against foreign governments, called “black operations,” but sometimes more colloquially called “mindf_cking.” [Bernstein and Woodward, 1974, pp. 114-115]
Segretti a ‘Small Fish in a Big Pond’ – An FBI official investigating CREEP’s illegal activities will call Segretti “a small fish in a big pond,” and will say that at least 50 undercover Nixon operatives have worked around the country to disrupt and spy on Democratic campaigns. The political intelligence and sabotage operation is called the “offensive security” program both by White House and CREEP officials. FBI investigators will find that many of the acts of political espionage and sabotage conducted by Segretti and his colleagues are traced to this “offensive security” program, which was conceived and directed in the White House and by senior CREEP officials, and funded by the secret “slush fund” directed by CREEP finance manager Maurice Stans (see September 29, 1972). FBI officials will refuse to directly discuss Segretti’s actions, saying that he is part of the Watergate investigation (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972), but one FBI official angrily calls Segretti’s actions “indescribable.”

White House Connections Confirmed – In mid-October 1972, the Washington Post will identify Dwight Chapin, President Nixon’s appointments secretary, as the person who hired Segretti and received reports of his campaign activities. Segretti’s other contact is Hunt. Segretti also received at least $35,000 in pay for his activities by Nixon’s personal lawyer, Herbert Kalmbach. [Washington Post, 1/31/1973]

Donald Segretti.Donald Segretti. One of the Nixon campaign’s “agents provocateur,” California lawyer Donald Segretti, attempts to recruit three former colleagues to work with him in disrupting and interfering with Democratic campaign events. Segretti met the three, Alex Shipley, Roger Lee Nixt, and Kenneth Griffiths, while all three served as captains in the Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps during the Vietnam War. Shipley, now an assistant attorney general in Tennessee, later recalls (see October 7, 1972) that according to Segretti, “Money would be no problem, but the people we would be working for wanted results for the cash that would be spent.” Segretti tells the three that they will need false identification papers and fake names, asks Shipley to recruit five more people for the job, and says their primary task will be to disrupt the campaign schedules of Democratic candidates and obtain information from their campaign organizations. Shipley will recall that Segretti tells him not to reveal the names of the five operatives he recruits, not even to Segretti; in return, Segretti can never tell Shipley where the money to fund the operations is coming from. According to Shipley: “I said, ‘How in hell are we going to be taken care of if no one knows what we’re doing?’ and Segretti said: ‘Nixon knows that something is being done. It’s a typical deal.’ Segretti said, ‘Don’t-tell-me-anything-and-I-won’t-know.’”
Working for Nixon, Pretending to Work for Democrats – Segretti gives Shipley an example of what he might do as a campaign operative: “He [Segretti] said: ‘For instance, we’ll go to a [Democratic presidential candidate Edward] Kennedy rally and find an ardent Kennedy worker. Then you say that you’re a Kennedy man too but you’re working behind the scenes; you get them to help you. You send them to work for [Democratic presidential candidate Edmund] Muskie, stuffing envelopes or whatever, and you get them to pass you the information. They’ll think that they are helping Kennedy against Muskie. But actually you’re using the information for something else.’ It was very strange.… I said, ‘Well, who will we be working for?’ He said, ‘Nixon’ and I was really taken aback, because all the actions he had talked about would have taken place in the Democratic primaries. He said the main purpose was that the Democrats have an ability to get back together after a knockdown, drag-out campaign. What we want to do is wreak enough havoc so they can’t.”
Turned Down – Shipley, Nixt and Griffiths all turn Segretti down; a fourth ex-JAG lawyer, Peter Dixon, will later confirm that he, too, turned down Segretti, but before Segretti could reveal any details to him. Shipley is so concerned that he asks a friend who worked for Senator Albert Gore (D-TN) what to do, and the friend advises him to “string [Segretti] along to see what he’s up to.” At a subsequent meeting, Segretti tells Shipley that he is recruiting lawyers because he doesn’t want to break any laws, and says that the emphasis of the operations is to “have fun” as opposed to committing blatant criminal acts. [Washington Post, 10/10/1972] Some of the “fun” activities include waving signs at rallies such as “If you like Hitler, you’ll love Wallace. Vote Muskie!” Perhaps the most well-known trick is the airplane hired to fly over the Democratic National Convention in Miami (see July 13, 1972) trailing the banner, “Peace Pot Promiscuity—Vote McGovern.” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 531] Segretti’s last attempt to recruit Shipley is October 23, 1971.
Segretti Always ‘Well-Financed’ and at Centers of Campaign Activity – Shipley will recall that “the one important thing that struck me was that he seemed to be well-financed. He was always flying across the country. When he came to Washington in June he said he had an appointment at the Treasury Department and that the Treasury Department was picking up the tab on this—his plane and hotel bill.” Segretti later tells Shipley that “it wasn’t the Treasury Department that had paid the bill, it was the Nixon people. [Segretti] said, ‘Don’t ask me any names.’” According to travel documents, Segretti flies to, among other places, Miami; Houston; Manchester, New Hampshire; Knoxville; Los Angeles; New York City; Washington; Salt Lake City; Chicago; Portland, Oregon; Albuquerque; Tucson; San Francisco; and several other California cities. FBI investigations will find that the most concentrated areas of Nixon campaign undercover activity are in Illinois, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, California, Texas, Florida, and Washington, DC. [Washington Post, 10/10/1972]

As another assignment for the newly formed “Plumbers” (see Late June-July 1971), President Nixon orders chief of staff H. R. Haldeman to have the Brookings Institute burglarized (see June 17, 1972). The Brookings Institute is a Washington think tank which Nixon believes has copies of the Pentagon Papers. As secretly recorded, Nixon tells Haldeman: “I want the break-in. Hell, they do that” [presumably referring to the Democrats]. “They have a lot of material. I want—the way I want that handled, Bob, is get it over. I want Brooking. Just break in. Break in and take it out. You understand.” Haldeman replies: “Yeah. But you have to get somebody to do it.” Nixon says: “Well, you—that’s what I’m just telling you. Now don’t discuss it here. You’re to break into the place, rifle the files, and bring them out.” Haldeman is untroubled by the order: “I don’t have any problem with breaking in.” Nixon is direct in his orders for the burglary: “Just go in and take them. Go in around 8 or 9 o’clock. That’s right. You go in and inspect and clean it out.… We’re up against an enemy, a conspiracy. They’re using any means. We are going to use any means. Is that clear?” The next day, Nixon repeats: “Get it done. I want it done. I want the Brookings Institute’s safe cleaned out.” [PBS, 1/2/1997; Reeves, 2001, pp. 339; Werth, 2006, pp. 84-87]
“Talk to Hunt” – When asked who will do it, Nixon replies: “That’s what I’m talking about. Don’t discuss it here. You talk to Hunt.” Nixon is referring to E. Howard Hunt, a recently retired CIA officer currently performing secret operations for Nixon’s aide Charles Colson. Haldeman says approvingly that CIA director Richard Helms “says he’s ruthless, quiet, careful. He’s kind of a tiger.… He spent 20 years in the CIA overthrowing governments.” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 339]
“Black-Bag” Team Assembled – Ehrlichman’s deputies Egil “Bud” Krogh and David Young, whom he has put in charge of the operation, soon report that they’ve assembled a “black-bag” team and have recommended a “covert operation” to burglarize an office at the Institute. (Krogh sums up Nixon’s thinking quite eloquently: “Anyone who opposes us, we’ll destroy. As a matter of fact, anyone who doesn’t support us, we’ll destroy.”) Ehrlichman approves the project, noting it must not be “traceable.” The same team of burglars who rifle the office will later be used to break into the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972). [Herda, 1994; Fremon, 1998; Werth, 2006, pp. 84-87] The Brookings Institution burglary never takes place. [PBS, 1/2/1997] Ehrlichman will later claim that the Institution was never burglarized because he “shot it down” (see Late December-Early January 1997). [Herda, 1994]
Newspaper Editor Targeted for Burglary – Another project, which also apparently never takes place, involves stealing documents from the safe of the editor of the Las Vegas Sun, Hank Greenspun. “Plumbers” burglar James McCord will later explain that Greenspun is a target because of his relationship with eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes and former Hughes associate Robert Maheu, and that Maheu has damaging information on a Democratic presidential candidate, Edmund Muskie, that the Nixon aides want. However, author Carl Oglesby will later claim that the material refers to Nixon and not to Muskie. [Spartacus Schoolnet, 8/2007; Spartacus Schoolnet, 8/2007] In 2001, historian Richard Reeves writes that the files contain information about Nixon and Democratic National Committee chairman Lawrence O’Brien. Nixon’s close friend and political financier Charles “Bebe” Rebozo had just gotten $50,000 in campaign cash from Hughes, and O’Brien is earning $13,000 a month lobbying for one of Hughes’s corporations. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 431]
Call Girl Operation Turned Down – Another “Plumber,” G. Gordon Liddy, suggests using a coterie of Washington, DC call girls to infiltrate the Democratic campaign organization and bring out information, a suggestion that is not seriously considered. [Spartacus Schoolnet, 8/2007]
Inappropriate Conversation? – During the discussion, White House counsel John Dean interrupts to say, “Excuse me for saying this, but I don’t think this kind of conversation should go on in the attorney general’s office.” They are meeting in the office of Attorney General John Mitchell. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 431]

E. Howard Hunt.E. Howard Hunt. Nixon White House aides Charles Colson and John Ehrlichman appoint former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt to the White House staff. Hunt will become a key figure in the “Plumbers” unit that will burglarize and plant surveillance devices in the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee (see April-June 1972). [Spartacus Schoolnet, 8/2007] Hunt is a longtime US intelligence veteran, having started with the CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Special Services (OSS) during World War II. He worked extensively in Central America during the 1950s, helping build the US’s relationship with Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, working to topple the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz of Guatamala, and coordinating US efforts against Cuba’s Fidel Castro. Hunt also writes spy novels. [Spartacus Schoolnet, 8/2007]

Nixon aide John Ehrlichman reports that he has successfully created the special investigations unit ordered by the president (see Late June-July 1971). His first choice to head the unit, speechwriter Pat Buchanan, refused the position. Ehrlichman rejected fellow aide Charles Colson’s own choice, retired CIA agent E. Howard Hunt, who has recently joined the White House staff (see July 7, 1971). Ehrlichman turned to his own protege, Egil “Bud” Krogh, and David Young, a former assistant to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, to head the unit. Young gives the unit its nickname of “Plumbers” after he hangs a sign on his office door reading, “D. YOUNG—PLUMBER.” Their first hire is former FBI agent and county prosecutor G. Gordon Liddy, a reputed “wild man” currently being pushed out of the Treasury Department for his strident opposition to the administration’s gun control policies. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 348-349]

Nixon aide John Ehrlichman passes on the president’s recommendations to the heads of the “Plumbers,” Egil Krogh and David Young (see July 20, 1971), regarding “Pentagon Papers” leaker Daniel Ellsberg (see Late June-July 1971): “Tell Keogh he should do whatever he considers necessary to get to the bottom of this matter—to learn what Ellsberg’s motives and potential further harmful action might be.” Within days, Keogh and Young will give Ehrlichman a memo detailing the results of investigations into Ellsberg and a dozen of Ellsberg’s friends, family members, and colleagues. The memo also says that the CIA’s psychological profile of Ellsberg is “superficial.” Keogh and Young recommend a covert operation be undertaken to examine the medical files held by Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis Fielding (see September 9, 1971). Ehrlichman approves the idea, with the caveat, “If done under your assurance that it is not traceable.” They also suggest that MI5 (British intelligence) wiretaps on Soviet KGB personnel in England in 1952 and 1953, the years when Ellsberg attended Cambridge University, be examined for any mention of Ellsberg. Ehrlichman approves this also. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 352-353]

Jack Caulfield’s White House ID card.Jack Caulfield’s White House ID card. A staff aide to President Nixon, former New York City police detective Jack Caulfield, develops a broad plan for launching an intelligence operation against the Democrats for the 1972 re-election campaign, “Operation Sandwedge.” The original proposal, as Caulfield will later recall, is a 12-page document detailing what would be required to create an “accurate, intelligence-assessment capability” against not just the Democrats but “also to ensure that the then powerful anti-war movement did not destroy Nixon’s public campaign, as had been done to Hubert Humphrey in 1968” (see November 5, 1968). Sandwedge is created in anticipation of the Democrats mounting their own political espionage efforts, which Caulfield and other Nixon aides believe will use a private investigations firm, Intertel, headed by former Justice Department officials loyal to former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Caulfield will later recall, “Intertel represented, in my opinion, the potential for both formidable and sophisticated intelligence opposition tactics in that upcoming election campaign.” Sandwedge is turned down by senior White House aides in favor of the “Special Investigation Unit” (see March 20, 1971 and September 29, 1972) headed by G. Gordon Liddy. Caulfield resigns from the White House shortly thereafter. He will later call the decision not to implement “Sandwedge” a “monumental” error that “rapidly created the catastrophic path leading directly to the Watergate complex—and the president’s eventual resignation.” Caulfield has little faith in Liddy, considering him an amateurish blowhard with no real experience in intelligence or security matters; when White House counsel John Dean asks him for his assessment of Liddy’s ability to run such an operation, he snaps, “John, you g_ddamn well better have him closely supervised” and walks out of Dean’s office. Caulfield later writes, “I, therefore, unequivocally contend that had there been ‘Sandwedge’ there would have been no Liddy, no Hunt, no McCord, no Cubans (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972) and, critically, since I had personally decided to negate, while still on the White House staff, a developing intelligence interest by Dean in the Watergate’s Democratic National Committee offices, seven months prior to the break-in! NO WATERGATE!” [John J. ‘Jack’ Caulfield, 2006; Spartacus Schoolnet, 8/2007]

In a secretly recorded conversation in the Oval Office, President Nixon makes the following comments about Jewish contributors to the Democratic Party: “Please get the names of the Jews. You know, the big Jewish contributors to the Democrats. Could you please investigate some of the [expletive deleted].” The next day, Nixon continues the conversation, asking his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman: “What about the rich Jews? The IRS is full of Jews, Bob.” Haldeman replies, “What we ought to do is get a zealot who dislikes those people.” Nixon concurs: “Go after them like a son of a b_tch.” Nixon also reacts positively to Haldeman’s idea of the Republicans secretly funding a black independent presidential candidate in 1972 to siphon off Democratic votes: “Put that down for discussion—not for discussion, for action.” [PBS, 1/2/1997]

National Archives logo.National Archives logo. Nixon aide John Ehrlichman suggests breaking into the National Archives. The mission: photograph secret documents Ehrlichman believes were deposited by former Kissinger aides Morton Halperin and Leslie Gelb, as well as Cold War policy adviser Paul Nitze. Ehrlichman says the operation can be carried out with the help of Robert Kunzig, the administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA). Kunzig “can send the archivist out of town for a while and we can get in there and we will photograph and he’ll reseal them.” It is unclear whether the mission is actually carried out. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 369-370]

Shirley Chisholm.Shirley Chisholm. President Nixon and his aides discuss several ways to split the Democrats in 1972. One is to secretly pump $5 million of Republican money into the prospective presidential campaign of antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy. Another is to secretly finance an African-American presidential candidate. Some of the names bandied about are civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (D-NY), Cleveland mayor Carl Stokes, and Georgia state legislator Julian Bond. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 370-371] Chisholm will run an unsuccessful campaign for president in 1972, but it is not known whether her campaign receives any money from Republicans as Nixon suggests.

President Nixon’s aides have diligently tried to find evidence linking former President John F. Kennedy to the 1963 assassinations of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu (see June 17, 1971), but have been unsuccessful. “Plumber” E. Howard Hunt (see July 7, 1971) has collected 240 diplomatic cables between Washington, DC, and Saigon from the time period surrounding the assassinations, none of which hint at any US involvement in them. White House aide Charles Colson, therefore, decides to fabricate his own evidence. Using a razor blade, glue, and a photocopier, Colson creates a fake “cable” dated October 29, 1963, sent to the US embassy in Saigon from the Kennedy White House. It reads in part, “At highest level meeting today, decision reluctantly made that neither you nor Harkin [apparently a reference to General Paul Harkins, the commander of US forces in Vietnam at the time] should intervene on behalf of Diem or Nhu in event they seek asylum.” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 371]

James W. McCord, Jr.James W. McCord, Jr. [Source: Spartacus Educational]Former FBI and CIA agent James W. McCord joins the staff of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) as a part-time security consultant. He will become the committee’s full-time security coordinator for CREEP in January 1972, and will perform similar duties for the Republican National Committee. [O.T. Jacobson, 7/5/1974 

G. Gordon LiddyG. Gordon Liddy, a lawyer with the White House, leaves his position to join the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). [O.T. Jacobson, 7/5/1974 

Gemstone file envelope.Gemstone file envelope. “Plumber” G. Gordon Liddy lays out an elaborate $1 million proposal for a plan for political espionage and campaign “dirty tricks” he calls “Operation Gemstone” to Attorney General John Mitchell. Mitchell is preparing to leave his post to head the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP—see March 1, 1972). “Gemstone” is a response to pressure from President Nixon to compile intelligence on Democratic candidates and party officials, particularly Democratic National Committee chairman Lawrence O’Brien. Liddy gives his presentation with one hand bandaged—he had recently charred it in a candle flame to demonstrate the pain he was willing to endure in the name of will and loyalty. Sub-operations such as “Diamond,” “Ruby,” and “Sapphire” engender the following, among other proposed activities:
bullet disrupt antiwar demonstrators before television and press cameras can arrive on the scene, using “men who have worked successfully as street-fighting squads for the CIA” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 429-430] or what White House counsel John Dean, also at the meeting, will later testify to be “mugging squads;” [Time, 7/9/1973]
bullet kidnap, or “surgically relocate,” prominent antiwar and civil rights leaders by “drug[ging” them and taking them “across the border;”
bullet use a pleasure yacht as a floating brothel to entice Democrats and other undesirables into compromising positions, where they can be tape-recorded and photographed with what Liddy calls “the finest call girls in the country… not dumb broads but girls who can be trained and photographed;”
bullet deploy an array of electronic and physical surveillance, including chase planes to intercept messages from airplanes carrying prominent Democrats. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 429-430]
Dean, as he later testifies, is horrified at the ideas. [Time, 7/9/1973] Mitchell seems more amused than anything else at Liddy’s excesses, he merely says that “Gemstone” is “not quite what I had in mind.” He tells Liddy and Liddy’s boss, CREEP deputy director Jeb Stuart Magruder, to come back with a cheaper and more realistic proposal. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 429-430]

Edmund Muskie.Edmund Muskie. Less than two weeks before the New Hampshire presidential primary, the Manchester Union-Leader publishes a letter to the editor alleging that leading Democratic candidate and Maine senator Edmund Muskie approved a racial slur of Americans of French-Canadian descent (an important voting bloc in New Hampshire), and notes: “We have always known that Senator Muskie was a hypocrite. But we never expected to have it so clearly revealed as in this letter sent to us from Florida.” The crudely written letter becomes widely known as the “Canuck letter.” The next day, the paper’s publisher, William Loeb, publishes an attack on Muskie’s wife. An angry Muskie denounces the letter and the editorial, calling Loeb a “gutless coward,” and in the process apparently bursts into tears. The media focuses on Muskie’s tears, and the “weakness” it implies. As a result, Muskie’s standing in the polls begins to slip, and when votes are cast in New Hampshire, Muskie receives only 48% of the vote, far less than predicted. The letter is later found to have been a “dirty trick” of the Nixon campaign committee (see October 10, 1972), with White House communications official Ken Clawson admitting to actually writing the letter (see October 10, 1972). [Washington Post, 10/10/1972; Spartacus Schoolnet, 8/2007]
View from 1987 – In 1987, David Broder, the author of the Washington Post story on the incident, recalls: “In retrospect, though, there were a few problems with the Muskie story. First, it is unclear whether Muskie did cry.… Melting snow from his hatless head filled his eyes, he said, and made him wipe his face… the senator believes that he was damaged more by the press and television coverage of the event than by his own actions… it is now clear that the incident should have been placed in a different context: Muskie was victimized by the classic dirty trick that had been engineered by agents of the distant and detached President Nixon. The Loeb editorial that had brought Muskie out in the snowstorm had been based on a letter forged by a White House staff member intent on destroying Muskie’s credibility. But we didn’t know that and we didn’t work hard enough to find out.… Had those facts been known, I might have described Muskie in different terms: not as a victim of his over-ambitious campaign strategy and his too-human temperament, but as the victim of a fraud, managed by operatives of a frightened and unscrupulous president. That story surely would have had a different impact…. Unwittingly, I did my part in the work of the Nixon operatives in helping destroy the credibility of the Muskie candidacy.”
Media Expectations – Broder will admit that the story falls neatly into a storyline many in the media want to report: “the unraveling of a presidential front-runner’s campaign.” Muskie has shown frequent bouts of anger; according to Broder, many reporters are just waiting for something to trigger Muskie into an outburst that will damage his candidacy. For himself, Muskie will describe his emotional reaction: “I was just g_ddamned mad and choked up over my anger.… [I]t was a bad scene, whatever it was.” [Washington Monthly, 2/1987]

John Mitchell.John Mitchell. Attorney General John Mitchell resigns, and immediately assumes the position of chairman of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). [O.T. Jacobson, 7/5/1974 

According to the FBI’s Watergate investigation, John Mitchell, the director of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP), and his aide Jeb Stuart Magruder discuss the proposal made by G. Gordon Liddy to plant electronic surveillance devices on the phone of the chairman of the Democratic Party, Lawrence O’Brien (see March 20, 1971). Magruder telephones President Nixon’s chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, and Haldeman confirms that Nixon wants the operation carried out. [Spartacus Schoolnet, 8/2007] On March 30, in a meeting held in Key Biscayne, Florida, Mitchell, the former Attorney General (see March 1, 1972), approves the plan and its budget of approximately $250,000. [O.T. Jacobson, 7/5/1974  Other sources list this decision as coming almost a year earlier (see March 20, 1971). In this case, the FBI timeline is almost certainly in error, since the “Plumbers” break-in of the offices of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist came well before this date (see Late June-July 1971 and September 9, 1971).

Related:

Nixon Campaign ‘Dirty Tricks’

Jack Caulfield, Bearer of a Watergate Message

The Alabama Project | lisa’s leaks

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