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  1. jimhougan.com/wordpress/?tag=Kennedy-Assassination Posts Tagged ‘Kennedy assassination’ Nixon In the Jungle Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 “Did Richard Nixon—then Citizen Nixon—jump-start the Vietnam War on a secret mission to Saigon in 1964? The following piece suggests that he may have. The following story originally appeared in the anthology, Nixon: An Oliver Stone Film, edited by Eric Hamburg (Hyperion, New York, 1995).” Richard M. Nixon 37th President of the United States It is one of the most mysterious incidents in the Vietnam War, and I can’t get it out of my mind. It was the spring of 1964, and the former Vice President of the United States, who was also the next President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, was standing in a jungle clearing northwest of Saigon, negotiating with a man who, to all appearances, was a Vietcong lieutenant. Wearing battle fatigues “with no identification,” Nixon was flanked by military bodyguards whose mission was so secret that, when they returned to Saigon, their clothing was burned. [“Secret Nixon Vietnam Trip Reported,” New York Times, Feb. 17, 1985.] At the time, Nixon had been out of public office (though not out of politics) for more than three years. After losing the Presidential election in 1960 and the California gubernatorial race in 1962, he’d gone into private practice as an attorney with the Mudge, Rose law firm, subsiding into what amounted to an enforced retirement from the world’s stage. It’s all the more surprising, then, to find this political castoff on a secret mission in the Orient – only a few months after the Kennedy and Diem assassinations. Not that Nixon was a stranger to intrigue. On the contrary, his political career might easily be graphed as a parabola of Cold War conspiracies. As a Red-baiting congressman in the forties, he’d made the most of a lovely “photo opportunity” by uncovering stolen State Department secrets – in a Maryland pumpkin field. In the fifties, while Vice President, he’d run a stable of spooks – actually run them – in an off-the-books operation to destroy the Greek shipping tycoon, Aristotle Onassis. [Jim Hougan, Spooks (New York: Morrow, 1978), pp. 286-306. Onassis was targeted because of an agreement he’d reached with the Saudi government, monopolizing the export of oil from Saudi Arabia] In that operation, Nixon acted as a case officer to Robert Maheu (himself a linkman between the CIA and the Mafia) [Hougan, Spooks, pp. 286-300, and Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele, Empire (New York: Norton, 1979), pp. 282-285.] and a former Washington Post reporter named John Gerrity. Gerrity later recalled that “Nixon more or less invented the Mission Impossible speech, and he gave it to us right there, in the White House. You know the spiel, the one that begins, ‘Your assignment, gentlemen, should you choose to accept it. . . .” [Hougan’s interview with Gerrity.] Years afterward, when the Eisenhower Administration was drawing to a close, then Vice President Nixon served as the de facto focal point officer for the Administration’s plans to overthrow Fidel Castro. In that role, he was in regular contact with the CIA and with some of the darker precincts of the Pentagon. It’s fair to say, then, that Richard M. Nixon knew what he was doing when it came to covert operations – but what was he doing in the jungle in 1964? The story surfaced, briefly, some 20 years later, when the New York Times reported that Nixon, “while on a private trip to Vietnam in 1964, met secretly with the Vietcong and ransomed five American prisoners of war for bars of gold. : . .” [“Secret Nixon Vietnam Trip Reported,” p. 3.] In reporting this, the Times relied upon a report published in the catalog of a Massachusetts autograph dealer. The dealer was selling a handwritten note that Nixon had given to one of his bodyguards. The note read, “To Hollis Kimmons with appreciation for his protection for my helicopter ride in Vietnam, from Richard Nixon.” The value of the note was increased by the circumstances that generated it, circumstances that Sergeant Kimmons described in the catalog: When Nixon arrived at Ton Son Nhut Airport in Saigon, Sergeant Kimmons was assigned to security detail and was accompanying Nixon on all excursions away from the 145th Aviation Battalion where Nixon was staying. On the second day, Nixon dressed in Army fatigues with no identification and climbed aboard a helicopter with Sergeant Kimmons and a crew of four. [Fatigues typically have the owner’s last name sewn on a plaquet on the breast.] Base Ops sign at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, 1967. They proceeded to Phuoc Binh, a village northwest of Saigon, where they met with Father Wa, a go-between that arranged the exchange of the gold for U. S. prisoners. The following day, Nixon and his party departed for An Loc, a village south of Phuoc Binh, where in a clearing somewhere in this area Nixon met with a Vietcong lieutenant who established a price for the return of five U.S. prisoners. A location for the exchange was arranged and the crew departed for Saigon. Later the same day, the crew, this time without Nixon because of the extreme danger, departed for Phumi Kriek, a village across the border in Cambodia. A box loaded with gold bars so heavy it took three men to lift it on the helicopter accompanied the crew. At the exchange point, five U.S. servicemen were rustled out of the jungle accompanied by several armed soldiers. The box of gold was unloaded and checked by the Vietcong lieutenant and the exchange was made without incident. The crew and rescued prisoners immediately departed for Saigon, and they were sent to the hospital upon their arrival. Sergeant Kimmons’s mission was secret, and there were no written orders for his duty during this period. His clothes were destroyed as well as the film in his camera, and he signed an agreement not to reveal this incident for 20 years. Nixon’s note to him was hurriedly written at the conclusion of his assignment to guard Nixon on the following day. [The Times article quotes from a catalog printed by Templeton, Massachusetts, autograph dealer Paul C. Richards.] That Nixon traveled to Vietnam in 1964 is a matter of fact. He departed the United States in late March on a round-the-world trip that took him, first, to Beirut, and then to Karachi, Calcutta, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Saigon. There, he dined with the American Ambassador, Henry Cabot Lodge, who had been his running mate in the 1960 Presidential race. In the days that followed, Nixon helicoptered into the countryside, [New York Times, Apr. 3, 1964] and then continued on to Hong Kong, Manila, Taiwan, and Tokyo before returning home. [RN: The Memoirs of Richard M. Nixon (New York, Touchstone, 1990), pp. 256-258, and article sin the following editions of the New York Times, covering his trip: March 23-28, 1964; March 30-31, 1964; April 2-10, 1964; and April 16, 1964.] Nixon later wrote that the purpose of the trip was to meet with Mudge, Rose clients and foreign leaders. Contemporary reports make it obvious, however, that the real purpose of the trip was to drum up international support for what was about to become America’s massive intervention in Vietnam. [Ibid.] There is nothing in the Times’ account to suggest that the exchange of gold on April 3 was in any way relevant to the impending escalation of the war, but the possibility is an intriguing one. The Times’ article is anything but conclusive. On the contrary, it simply parrots the cover story that Sergeant Kimmons had been given, while at the same time neglecting to identify the mission’s middleman, the so-called “Father Wa.” According to the Pentagon, which kept meticulous records of American prisoners of war, the POW release that Sergeant Kimmons described could not have occurred. The few Americans in captivity in 1964 were all accounted for in 1965—and most of them were still in cages. (Even so, we needn’t rely on the Pentagon to give the lie to Nixon’s cover story. Whatever else may be said about Richard Nixon, he was a consummate politician and, if he’d risked his life to rescue American prisoners of war, we’d have heard about it – if not in 1964, then most definitely in 1968.) As for the identity of “Father Wa,” Sergeant Kimmons (and the Times) fell victim to phonetics. Far more than an anonymous interpreter, the Rev. Nguyen Loc Hoa was a legendary figure in Vietnam. A bespectacled Catholic priest whose black cassock was usually cinched with a web ammo belt and a pair of holstered .45s, he was the symbol of militant anti-Communism in the south. [Cecil Currey, Edward Lansdale: The Unquiet American (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988), p.220. ] Twenty years before, he’d fought a successful guerrilla war against the Japanese in China. Soon afterward, and as a colonel in the Chinese Nationalist Army, he’d battled Mao Tse Tung’s Communist insurgency. Driven from China, he and two thousand followers lived for a while in Cambodia before moving to a mangrove swamp in the Mekong Delta—where they set up a village and went to war against the Vietcong. Father Hoa’s story was told in an article that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, a few months after President Kennedy took office. Entitled “The Report the President Wanted Published,” the piece was published under peculiar circumstances. Authored by “An American Officer” whose identity could not be made public “for professional reasons,” [An American Officer, “The Report the President Wanted Published,” Saturday Evening Post, May 20, 1961, p. 31.] the article was in fact written by Gen. Edward Lansdale, an Air Force-CIA officer whose counterinsurgency theories and practice had inspired at least two books (The Ugly American and The Quiet American). [Currey, Edward Lansdale, p. 225.] According to. Lansdale, President Kennedy personally telephoned him to ask that he arrange for publication of what, until then, had been a secret report. The article, and a follow-up piece that came out a year later, were blatant propaganda. [Don Schanche, “Father Hoa’s Little War,” Saturday Evening Post, Feb. 17, 1962. ] In sentimentalizing Father Hoa’s ferocious anti-Communism while demonizing the Vietcong, the articles did much to prepare the American public for the larger war to come. Whatever President Kennedy’s motives may have been in pushing General Lansdale to publish his secret report, Nixon’s visit to the jungle is even more mysterious. Why should a former Vice President of the United States, accompanied by a legendary guerrilla fighter with excellent ties to the CIA, dress up in battle fatigues and adopt a cover story to facilitate a journey into the Vietnamese bush? The answer, obviously, is to make a very secret deal. But if, as we’ve discovered, Nixon was engaged in something other than ransoming prisoners, what was he buying with so much gold-and who were those guys that came out of the jungle near Phumi Kriek? Recently declassified reports of the top-secret Military Assistance Command/Studies and Observations Group (MACSOG) raise the possibility that Nixon’s mission may have had to do with OPLAN 34-A. This was a covert operation to undermine the North Vietnamese by inserting “specially trained” Vietnamese commandos behind enemy lines. [“Once Commandos for U.S., Vietnamese Are Now Barred,” New York Times, Apr. 14, 1995, p.1.] The operation was run by the CIA from 1961 to 1963, and by the Pentagon from 1964 to 1967. We’re told that the activity was paid for with money the CIA had received from the U.S. Navy and then laundered offshore. [Ibid.] Since Nixon’s mission had nothing to do with prisoners of war, it seems likely indeed that the Americans who dashed from the jungle at Phumi Kriek were CIA operatives or paramilitaries. This likelihood, coupled with the large amount of untraceable gold, suggests a mission of surpassing sensitivity – which, in turn, suggests OPLAN 34-A. But what makes the incident at Phumi Kriek seem important, however, is not just the secrecy that surrounded it, or even the large amount of gold that was involved. It is, instead, the presence of Richard Nixon. Why him? What could such an outre politician have possibly brought to a covert operation in Vietnam? The answer, of course, is nothing – except his face. Which is to say, the unmistakable face of American political authority. With Richard Milhouse Nixon present at the negotiations, and with the fabled Father Hoa as his interpreter, the supposed “Vietcong lieutenant” (himself, perhaps, a MACSOG operative) would never have questioned the legitimacy of the mission on which he was being sent. He would have known that, no matter how improbable, the mission was sanctioned by the highest echelons of the American government. But what can that mission have been? With Nixon, Hoa, and Kimmons dead, one can only speculate. But it’s worth noting that four months after the meeting at Phumi Kriek, OPLAN 34-A commando raids were carried out against the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin. Two days later, an American destroyer, the Maddox, was attacked in the Gulf by North Vietnamese patrol boats – which led, almost instantly, to American air raids on North Vietnam and the passage of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, escalating America’s involvement in the war. In his recent mea culpa, [Robert S. McNamara, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (New York: Times Books, 1995), p. 133.] former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara writes that the attack on the Maddox was “so irrational” that “some believed the 34-A operations had played a role in triggering North Vietnam’s actions.” Though McNamara does not say so, his implication is clear: OPLAN 34-A operatives deliberately provoked the North Vietnamese and, in so doing, transformed “a small, out-of-the-way conflict into a full-bore war.” [“Once Commandos for the U.S. . . . ,” p. 1.] If that is what happened, it’s understandable that OPLAN 34-A operations should be so secret that their very existence was omitted from the Pentagon Papers. [This, according to Sedwick Tourison, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst, who called OPLAN 34-A operations “the secret” of the Vietnam War (“Once Commandos for the U.S….,” p. 1). ] What’s less clear is whether or not Richard M. Nixon was directly involved in the secret funding of operations that may well have jump-started the Vietnam War.
  2. Jake Esterline Interview here: “I am one of those who feel it is very wrong to pick too much on Jack Kennedy because it was Nixon who, if we had kicked off as we had hoped for, between November and January of 60-61, it might not have worked, but it would not have been a major disaster.” — Jake Esterline. Serious students of the Bay of Pigs need to read this interview in its entirety.
  3. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/01/watergate-scandal-secret-files-revealed?google_editors_picks=true Watergate scandal: secret files released Previously undisclosed discussions involving John J Sirica, the Watergate judge, are revealed in 850 pages made public Staff and agencies guardian.co.uk, Saturday 1 December 2012 06.05 GMT The US government has released more than 850 pages from the Watergate political scandal, providing new insights on privileged legal conversations and prison evaluations of several of the burglars in the case. A federal judge had decided earlier in November to unseal some material, but other records still remain off limits. The files from the National Archives show that Judge John J Sirica aided the prosecution in pursuing the White House connection to the Democratic headquarters break-in at the Watergate Hotel in 1972. Sirica provided the special prosecutor information from a probation report in which one of the burglars said he was acting under orders from top Nixon administration officials One newly public transcript of an in-chambers meeting between Sirica, who was the US district court judge in charge of the case, and special prosecutor Archibald Cox in July 1973 shows the judge revealed secret probation reports indicating that E Howard Hunt had cited orders from officials high up in the Nixon administration. Several of Hunt's co-defendants had previously denied any White House involvement in court testimony, and Sirica told Cox and other prosecutors that he felt the new information "seemed to me significant". The files provide useful context for historians of the 40-year-old case, revealing behind-the-scenes deliberations by Sirica along with prosecutors and defense lawyers. The documents stem from the prosecution of five defendants arrested during the June 1972 Watergate break-in and two men, Hunt and G Gordon Liddy, who were charged as the burglary team's supervisors. All seven men were convicted. In the conversations between Cox and Sirica the special prosecutor agreed with the judge's concerns that the probation report should be sealed and thanked him for the information. Cox promised that his team would not divulge the new information unless they felt there was a prosecutorial need and returned for a hearing to make it public. "Unless we came back," Cox told Sirica, "we wouldn't reveal it." The former Nixon White House lawyer John Dean, who co-operated with prosecutors and testified against Nixon during an explosive congressional hearing in June 1973, said on Friday after reviewing some of the newly released files that he believed Sirica "was very aggressive for a judge, even more than the White House was aware of at the time. No one in the Nixon White House knew exactly where he was coming from." Dean added that while Sirica's investigative zeal was well-known his dealings with Cox and other prosecutors were "eye-opening". US District Judge Royce Lamberth in November ordered the files unsealed after a request from Luke Nichter, a professor at Texas A&M University-Central Texas. Nichter wrote to Lamberth in 2009 asking for release of the materials. Lamberth held back other sealed materials but agreed to ask the justice department to explain the reasoning for keeping those materials secret. The documents released by the archives reinforce Sirica's reputation as a gruff, no-nonsense jurist. During pretrial hearings in December 1972 Hunt's defence attorney sought to delay the trial after the former CIA man's wife was killed in a plane crash. Sirica refused to put the trial on hold unless there was proof Hunt was suffering from a serious medical condition, according to the transcripts. "If he is just emotionally upset, that, in my opinion, is not a valid excuse," Sirica said. "If he gets tired during the day I will arrange for him to go down and take a rest for two or three hours if he wishes." A doctor who examined Hunt said in a letter to Sirica in early January 1973 that he suffered from ulcers and other gastrointestinal ailments but "has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer". The doctor, Charles E Law Sr, said he was worried that Hunt would weep in court, especially when questioned by prosecutors. Reports from prison psychiatrists and probation officers show that four of Hunt's co-defendants justified their role in the Watergate break-in on national security grounds, saying they were under orders to search for evidence that Cuban government funds supported Democratic party campaigns. Dean said on Friday that Hunt once told him that excuse was a sham used to persuade the others to participate in the burglary.
  4. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/special-report-watergate--the-untold-story-7844900.html Special Report: Watergate - the untold story Forty years ago this weekend, a failed burglary in Washington was the first small step in a giant political scandal that led to the fall of a US President. But, write the reporters whose investigations first exposed it, what came out then was as nothing to what we know now Carl Bernstein , Bob Woodward Wednesday 13 June 2012 As Senator Sam Ervin completed his 20-year Senate career in 1974 and issued his final report as chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee, he posed the question: "What was Watergate?" Countless answers have been offered in the 40 years since 17 June 1972, when a team of burglars wearing business suits and rubber gloves was arrested at 2.30am at the headquarters of the Democratic Party in the Watergate office building. Four days afterward, the Nixon White House offered its answer. "Certain elements may try to stretch this beyond what it was," press secretary Ronald Ziegler scoffed, dismissing the incident as a "third-rate burglary". History proved that it was anything but. Two years later, Richard Nixon would become the first and only US president to resign, his role in the criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice – the Watergate cover-up – definitively established. Another answer has since persisted, often unchallenged: the notion that the cover-up was worse than the crime. This idea minimises the scale and reach of Nixon's criminal actions. Ervin's answer to his own question hints at the magnitude of Watergate: "To destroy, insofar as the presidential election of 1972 was concerned, the integrity of the process by which the president of the United States is nominated and elected." Yet Watergate was far more than that. At its most virulent, Watergate was a brazen and daring assault, led by Nixon himself, against the heart of American democracy: the Constitution, our system of free elections, the rule of law. Today, much more than when we first covered this story, an abundant record provides unambiguous answers and evidence about Watergate and its meaning. This record has expanded continuously over the decades with the transcription of hundreds of hours of Nixon's secret tapes, adding detail and context to the hearings in the Senate and House of Representatives; the trials and guilty pleas of about 40 Nixon aides and associates who went to jail; and the memoirs of Nixon and his deputies. Such documentation makes it possible to trace the President's personal dominance over a massive campaign of political espionage, sabotage and other illegal activities against his real or perceived opponents. In the course of his 5 1/2-year presidency, beginning in 1969, Nixon launched and managed five successive and overlapping wars – against the anti-Vietnam War movement, the news media, the Democrats, the justice system and, finally, against history itself. All reflected a mindset and a pattern of behaviour that were uniquely and pervasively Nixon's: a willingness to disregard the law for political advantage, and a quest for dirt and secrets about his opponents as an organising principle of his presidency. Long before the Watergate break-in, gumshoeing, burglary, wiretapping and political sabotage had become a way of life in the Nixon White House. What was Watergate? It was Nixon's five wars. 1. The war against the anti-war movement Nixon's first war was against the anti-Vietnam War movement. The President considered it subversive and thought it constrained his ability to prosecute the war in South-east Asia on his terms. In 1970, he approved the top-secret Huston Plan, authorising the CIA, the FBI and military intelligence units to intensify electronic surveillance of individuals identified as "domestic security threats". The plan called for intercepting mail and lifting restrictions on "surreptitious entry" – that is, break-ins or "black-bag jobs." Thomas Charles Huston, the White House aide who devised the plan, informed Nixon that it was illegal, but the President approved it. It was not formally rescinded until the FBI director J Edgar Hoover objected – not on principle, but because he considered those types of activities the FBI's turf. Undeterred, Nixon remained fixated on such operations. In a memorandum dated 3 March 1970, presidential aide Patrick Buchanan wrote to Nixon about what he called the "institutionalised power of the left concentrated in the foundations that succour the Democratic Party". Of particular concern was the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank with liberal leanings. On 17 June 1971 – exactly one year before the Watergate break-in – Nixon met in the Oval Office with his chief of staff, H R "Bob" Haldeman, and the national security adviser Henry Kissinger. At issue was a file about former President Lyndon Johnson's handling of the 1968 bombing halt in Vietnam. "You can blackmail Johnson on this stuff, and it might be worth doing," Haldeman said, according to the tape of the meeting. "Yeah," Kissinger said, "but Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together for three years." They wanted the complete story of Johnson's actions. "Huston swears to God there's a file on it at Brookings," Haldeman said. "Bob," Nixon said, "now you remember Huston's plan? Implement it.... I mean, I want it implemented on a thievery basis. God damn it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it." Nixon would not let the matter drop. Thirteen days later, according to another taped discussion with Haldeman and Kissinger, the President said: "Break in and take it out. You understand?" The next morning, Nixon said: "Bob, get on the Brookings thing right away. I've got to get that safe cracked over there." And later that morning, he persisted, "Who's gonna break in the Brookings Institution?" For reasons that have never been made clear, the break-in apparently was not carried out. 2. The war on the news media Nixon's second war was waged ceaselessly against the press, which was reporting more insistently on the faltering Vietnam War and the effectiveness of the anti-war movement. Although Hoover thought he had shut down the Huston Plan, it was in fact implemented by high-level Nixon deputies. A "Plumbers" unit and burglary team were set up under the direction of the White House counsel John Ehrlichman and an assistant, Egil Krogh, and led by the operational chiefs of the future Watergate burglary, ex-CIA operative Howard Hunt and former FBI agent G Gordon Liddy. Hunt was hired as a consultant by Nixon's political aide Charles Colson. An early assignment was to destroy the reputation of Daniel Ellsberg, who had provided the Pentagon Papers, a secret history of the Vietnam War, to the news media in 1971. Publication of the documents in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers had sent Nixon into rants and rages about Ellsberg, the anti-war movement, the press, Jews, the American left and liberals in Congress – all of whom he conflated. Though Ellsberg was already under indictment and charged with espionage, the team headed by Hunt and Liddy broke into the office of his psychiatrist, seeking information that might smear Ellsberg and undermine his credibility. "You can't drop it," Nixon told Haldeman on 29 June 1971. "You can't let the Jew steal that stuff and get away with it. You understand?" He went on: "People don't trust these Eastern establishment people. He's Harvard. He's a Jew... and he's an arrogant intellectual." Nixon's anti-Semitic rages were well-known to those who worked most closely with him, including some aides who were Jewish. As we reported in our 1976 book, The Final Days, he would tell his deputies, including Kissinger, that "the Jewish cabal is out to get me". In a 3 July 1971 conversation with Haldeman, he said: "The government is full of Jews. Second, most Jews are disloyal. You know what I mean?... generally speaking, you can't trust the bastards." Ellsberg's leak seemed to feed his paranoia. In response to suspected leaks to the press about Vietnam, Kissinger had ordered FBI wiretaps in 1969 on the telephones of 17 journalists and White House aides, without court approval. Many news stories based on the purported leaks questioned progress in the American war effort, further fuelling the anti-war movement. In a tape from the Oval Office on 22 February 1971, Nixon said: "It would be so much easier, wouldn't it, to run this war in a dictatorial way, kill all the reporters and carry on the war." "The press is your enemy," Nixon explained five days later in a meeting with Admiral Thomas H Moorer, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to another tape. "Understand that? Now, never act that way... give them a drink, you know, treat them nice, you just love it, you're trying to be helpful. But don't help the bastards. Ever. Because they're trying to stick the knife right in our groin." 3. The war against the Democrats In Nixon's third war, he took the weapons in place – the Plumbers, wiretapping and burglary – and deployed them against the Democrats challenging his re-election. John N Mitchell, Nixon's campaign manager and confidante, met with Liddy at the Justice Department in early 1972, when Mitchell was Attorney General. Liddy presented a $1m plan for spying and sabotage during the upcoming presidential campaign, code-named "Gemstone". According to the Senate Watergate report and Liddy's 1980 autobiography, he used multicolored charts prepared by the CIA to describe elements of the plan. Operation Diamond would neutralise anti-war protesters with mugging squads and kidnapping teams; Operation Coal would funnel cash to Shirley Chisholm, a black Congresswoman from Brooklyn seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, in an effort to sow racial and gender discord in the party; Operation Opal would use electronic surveillance against various targets, including the headquarters of Democratic presidential candidates Edmund Muskie and George McGovern; Operation Sapphire would station prostitutes on a yacht, wired for sound, off Miami Beach during the Democratic National Convention. Mitchell rejected the plans and told Liddy to burn the charts. At a second meeting, less than three weeks later, Liddy presented a scaled-back, $500,000 version of the plan; Mitchell turned it down again. But soon after, Mitchell approved a $250,000 version, according to Jeb Magruder, the deputy campaign manager. It included intelligence-gathering on the Democrats through wiretaps and burglaries. Under oath, Mitchell later denied approving the plan. He testified that he told Magruder: "We don't need this. I'm tired of hearing it." By his own account, he did not object on the grounds that the plan was illegal. On 10 October 1972, we wrote a story in The Post outlining the extensive sabotage and spying operations of the Nixon campaign and White House, particularly against Muskie, and stating that the Watergate burglary was not an isolated event. The story said that at least 50 operatives had been involved in the espionage and sabotage, many of them under the direction of a young California lawyer named Donald Segretti; several days later, we reported that Segretti had been hired by Dwight Chapin, Nixon's appointments secretary. (The Senate Watergate Committee later found more than 50 saboteurs, including 22 who were paid by Segretti.) Herbert Kalmbach, Nixon's personal attorney, paid Segretti more than $43,000 from leftover campaign funds for these activities. Throughout the operation, Segretti was contacted regularly by Howard Hunt. The Senate investigation later provided more detail about the effectiveness of the covert efforts against Muskie, who in 1971 and early 1972 was considered by the White House to be the Democrat most capable of beating Nixon. The President's campaign had paid Muskie's chauffeur, a campaign volunteer named Elmer Wyatt, $1,000 a month to photograph internal memos, position papers, schedules and strategy documents, and deliver copies to Mitchell and Nixon's campaign staff. Other sabotage directed at Muskie included bogus news releases and allegations of sexual improprieties against other Democratic candidates – produced on counterfeit Muskie stationery. A favoured dirty trick that caused havoc at campaign stops involved sweeping up the shoes that Muskie aides left in hotel hallways to be polished and then depositing them in a dumpster. Haldeman, the White House chief of staff, advised Nixon of the Chapin-Segretti sabotage plan in May 1971, according to one of the President's tapes. In a memo to Haldeman and Mitchell dated 12 April 1972, Buchanan and another Nixon aide wrote: "Our primary objective, to prevent Senator Muskie from sweeping the early primaries, locking up the convention in April, and uniting the Democratic Party behind him for the fall, has been achieved." The tapes also reveal Nixon's obsession with another Democrat: Senator Edward Kennedy. One of Hunt's earliest undertakings for the White House was to dig up dirt on Kennedy's sex life, building on a 1969 auto accident at Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts, that resulted in the death of a young Kennedy aide, Mary Jo Kopechne. Though Kennedy had vowed not to seek the presidency in 1972, he was certain to play a big role in the campaign. "I'd really like to get Kennedy taped," Nixon told Haldeman in April 1971. According to Haldeman's 1994 book, The Haldeman Diaries, the President also wanted to have Kennedy photographed in compromising situations and leak the images to the press. And when Kennedy received Secret Service protection as he campaigned for McGovern, the Democratic presidential nominee, Nixon and Haldeman discussed a novel plan to keep him under surveillance: they would insert a retired Secret Service agent, Robert Newbrand, who had been part of Nixon's protection detail when he was Vice-President, into the team protecting Kennedy. "We just might get lucky and catch this son of a bitch and ruin him for '76," replied the President. "That's going to be fun." On 8 September 1971, Nixon ordered Ehrlichman to direct the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the tax returns of all the likely Democratic presidential candidates, as well as Kennedy. "There's a lot of gold in them thar hills," Nixon said. 4. The war on justice The arrest of the Watergate burglars set in motion Nixon's fourth war, against the American system of justice. It was a war of lies and hush money, a conspiracy that became necessary to conceal the roles of top officials and to hide the President's campaign of illegal espionage and political sabotage, including the covert operations that Mitchell described as "the White House horrors" during the Watergate hearings: the Huston Plan, the Plumbers, the Ellsberg break-in, Liddy's Gemstone plan and the proposed break-in at Brookings. In a 23 June 1972 tape recording, six days after the arrests at the Watergate, Haldeman warned Nixon that "on the investigation, you know, the Democratic break-in thing, we're back in the problem area, because the FBI is not under control... their investigation is now leading into some productive areas, because they've been able to trace the money". Haldeman said Mitchell had come up with a plan for the CIA to claim that national security secrets would be compromised if the FBI did not halt its Watergate investigation. Nixon approved the scheme and ordered Haldeman to call in the CIA director Richard Helms and his deputy Vernon Walters. "Play it tough," the President directed. "That's the way they play it, and that's the way we are going to play it." The contents of the tape were made public on 5 August 1974. Four days later, Nixon resigned. Another tape captured discussions in the Oval Office on 1 August 1972, six weeks after the burglars' arrest and the day on which The Post published our first story showing that Nixon campaign funds had gone into the bank account of one of the burglars. Nixon and Haldeman discussed paying off the burglars and their leaders to keep them from talking to federal investigators. "They have to be paid," Nixon said. "That's all there is to that." On 21 March 1973, in one of the most memorable Watergate exchanges caught on tape, Nixon met with his counsel, John W Dean, who since the break-in had been given the task of co-ordinating the cover-up. "We're being blackmailed" by Hunt and the burglars, Dean reported, and more people "are going to start perjuring themselves". "How much money do you need?" Nixon asked. "I would say these people are going to cost $1m over the next two years," Dean replied. "And you could get it in cash," the President said. "I know where it could be gotten. I mean, it's not easy, but it could be done." Hunt was demanding $120,000 immediately. They discussed executive clemency for him and the burglars. "I am not sure that you will ever be able to deliver on the clemency," Dean said. "It may just be too hot." "You can't do it till after the '74 election, that's for sure," Nixon declared. Haldeman then entered the room and Nixon led the search for ways "to take care of the jackasses who are in jail". They discussed a secret $350,000 stash of cash kept in the White House, the possibility of using priests to help hide payments to the burglars, "washing" the money though Las Vegas or New York bookmakers, and empanelling a new grand jury so everyone could plead the Fifth Amendment or claim memory failure. Finally, they decided to send Mitchell on an emergency fundraising mission. The President praised Dean's efforts: "You handled it just right. You contained it. Now after the election, we've got to have another plan." 5. The war on history Nixon's final war, waged even to this day by some former aides and historical revisionists, aims to play down the significance of Watergate and present it as a blip on the President's record. Nixon lived for 20 years after his resignation and worked tirelessly to minimise the scandal. Though he had accepted a full pardon from President Gerald Ford, Nixon insisted that he had not participated in any crimes. In his 1977 television interviews with British journalist David Frost, he said that he had "let the American people down" but that he had not obstructed justice. "I didn't think of it as a cover-up. I didn't intend a cover-up. Let me say, if I intended the cover-up, believe me, I would have done it." In his 1978 memoir RN, Nixon addressed his role in Watergate: "My actions and omissions, while regrettable and possibly indefensible, were not impeachable." Twelve years later, in his book In the Arena, he decried a dozen "myths" about Watergate and claimed that he was innocent of many of the charges made against him. One myth, he said, was that he ordered the payment of hush money to Hunt and others. Yet, the 21 March 1973 tape shows that he ordered Dean to get the money 12 times. Even now, there are old Nixon hands and defenders who dismiss the importance of Watergate or claim that key questions remain unanswered. This year, Thomas Mallon, director of the creative writing programme at George Washington University, published a novel called Watergate, a sometimes witty and entirely fictional story featuring many of the real players. Frank Gannon, a former Nixon White House aide who now works for the Nixon Foundation, reviewed the book for The Wall Street Journal. "What emerges from Watergate is an acute sense of how much we still don't know about the events of June 17, 1972," Gannon wrote. "Who ordered the break-in?... What was its real purpose? Was it purposely botched? How much was the CIA involved? And how did a politician as tough and canny as Richard Nixon allow himself to be brought down by a 'third rate burglary?' Your guess is as good as mine." Of course, Gannon is correct in noting that there are some unanswered questions – but not the big ones. By focusing on the supposed paucity of details concerning the burglary of 17 June 1972, he would divert us from the larger story. And about that story, there is no need to guess. In the summer of 1974, it was neither the press nor the Democrats who rose up against Nixon, but the President's own Republican Party. On 24 July, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that Nixon would have to turn over the secret tapes demanded by the Watergate special prosecutor. Three of the President's appointees to the court – Chief Justice Warren E Burger, Justice Harry Blackmun and Justice Lewis Powell – joined that opinion. The other Nixon appointee, Justice William Rehnquist, recused himself. Three days later, six Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee joined the Democrats in voting to recommend Nixon's impeachment by a vote of 27-11 for nine acts of obstruction of justice in the Watergate cover-up. By August, Nixon's impending impeachment in the House was a certainty and a group of Republicans led by Senator Barry Goldwater banded together to declare his presidency over. "Too many lies, too many crimes," Goldwater said. On 7 August the group visited Nixon at the White House. How many votes would he have in a Senate trial? the President asked. "I took kind of a nose count today," Goldwater replied, "and I couldn't find more than four very firm votes, and those would be from older Southerners. Some are very worried about what's been going on, and are undecided, and I'm one of them." The next day, Nixon went on national television and announced that he would resign. In his last remarks about Watergate as a senator, 77-year-old Sam Ervin, a revered constitutionalist respected by both parties, posed a final question: "Why was Watergate?" The President and his aides, Ervin said, had "a lust for political power". That lust "blinded them to ethical considerations and legal requirements". Nixon had lost his moral authority as President. His secret tapes will probably be his most lasting legacy. On them, he is heard talking almost endlessly about what would be good for him, his place in history and his grudges, animosities and schemes for revenge. The dog that never seems to bark is any discussion of what is good and necessary for the well-being of the nation. The Watergate that we wrote about in The Washington Post from 1972 to 1974 is not Watergate as we know it today. It was only a glimpse into something far worse. By the time he was forced to resign, Nixon had turned his White House into a criminal enterprise. On the day he left 9 August 1974, Nixon gave an emotional farewell speech. His family stood with him. Near the end of his remarks, he waved his arm, as if to highlight the most important thing he had to say. "Always remember," he said, "others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself." His hatred had brought about his downfall. Nixon apparently grasped this insight, but it was too late. He had already destroyed himself. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward are co-authors of two Watergate books, 'All the President's Men' (1974) and 'The Final Days' (1976). © Washington Post 2012
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