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New Watergate book says John Dean ordered break-in


Douglas Caddy
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... "Strong Man" is a massively well-documented biography, packed with new information, that moves the Watergate story forward by leaps and bounds.

... Who ordered the break-in is, of course, an essential question and one, moreover, that has never been satisfactorily answered - until the appearance of Rosen's "Strong Man."

Mr Hougan,

Very interesting to hear that you find Rosen's conclusions on target and well supported. I had ignored his book, under the impression that it was rehash of Silent Coup -- which I'd always seen as COUNTER to your own views.

That is: Secret Agenda's prime thesis (if memory serves) was that the Wgate team, unbeknownst to its masters and (goofy pawn?) Gordon Liddy, was actually a CIA team employed (opportunistically, it seems, perhaps by Helms himself) to assist Nixon to early retirement.

Then along came Silent Coup to protect the Company's honor -- by pointing fingers at the Pentagon (the Radford business) and John Dean instead.

Perhaps memory ISN'T serving me perfectly well here. But let me ask:

1. Have your views changed much on Watergate since you wrote Secret Agenda -- in particular re institutional CIA involvement & manipulation?

2. Do you see important differences between Rosen's book and Silent Coup?

3. Even if John Dean pushed the button on the Wgate break-ins -- what of import follows?

For myself:

-- The Radford business seems important to understanding the Nixon White House's siege mentality: to an extent, the famous Enemies that fed their paranoia were on the Right, pissed off for being cut out of the China and North Vietnam talks and determined to protect turf (to put it kindly).

-- The Wgate team is indeed best thought of as a CIA team. And the particular history of Nixon and Helms -- which Prouty (re Indonesia 1958), Ehrlichman (in his roman a clef The Company) and Haldeman (memoir and posthumous diaries) throw light on -- is relevant.

So I guess I carry around large chunks of Secret Agenda and select bits of Silent Coup.

But I no longer think it very important (nay, possible) to understand how precisely the Wgate burglaries got authorized. To a good extent the money has to talk there, and doesn't that mean Mitchell? Beyond that, winks and nods (and nodding-offs misconstrued as such) go a long way with eager beavers like Liddy.

I guess the "level of organization" at which the Dean question resides doesn't trigger my own (rather robust) paranoia. So maybe the guy was trying to find his wife ...

(Disclosure: I've found a lot of Dean's topical writing at FindLaw valuable over the years. If he's Guilty as Rosen apparently charges, I reckon he's Paid His Debt to Society ...)

I don't think Rosen's book is a "rehash" of anything, though I'm certain he's read everything on the subject - and then gone out to do his own work. Which is why he's been able to move the story forward.

The biggest obstacle to understanding "Watergate" is unquestionably getting past the myth in which the story is embedded. We are told that a couple of hard-working journalists, abetted by their self-effacing secret source and intrepid editors, saved the republic by exposing the misdeeds of a quintessentially evil president. It's a grand story in the David & Goliath tradition, and anyone who would revise it is likely to find himself reviled as a conspiracy-theorist and/or as a "revisionist" (you know, like those guys who deny the reality of the Holocast).

At a minimum, any investigative reporter who would dare to suggest that there is more to the Watergate story than the Post has revealed or, worse, that the Post's coverage was inaccurate, incomplete or (Zooks!) manipulated, will likely be dismissed as an apologist for Nixon (Mitchell, Ehrlichman, etc.).

Which is upsetting.

But make no mistake about it: the stakes are huge, as are the equities of people like Woodward and Bernstein, Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham, John Dean and the Democratic Party - not to mention the many reporters, pols and lawyers who have built successful careers on the basis of some slim connection to the story. Watergate is an industry.

(There I go again...but I think you had some questions about a book I'd written.)

"Have (my) views changed much on Watergate since (I) wrote Secret Agenda?" Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that the Watergate mythos has begun to fray over the years. John Dean's role in the affair has become much clearer. For this, we may thank the authors of Silent Coup and The Strong Man - as well as Dean himself. The litigation that he's initiated or encouraged, first against Len Colodney and then against Gordon Liddy, has been the political equivalent of an own-goal - for which he should be thanked.

In addition to the wealth of new information generated in the aftermath of my own book, I have come to understand that the affair was even more complex than I realized when I was writing Secret Agenda. It now seems to me that John Dean's manipulation of Gordon Liddy and his client, Richard Nixon, not to mention the Ervin Committee's staff had a profound effect on the way in which the affair unwound in the courts and the Congress, and on the world stage. This was not apparent to me when I wrote Secret Agenda, or if it was apparent, it did not interest me. It should have.

That said, I would add that my views of Watergate have not changed - not, at least, in the sense that I would retract anything that I have written about the affair. The book is correct in all details, and in its central thrust: Watergate was a set-up. The CIA and the Pentagon were spying on the White House (through Howard Hunt and Adm. Thomas Moorer's minions) - and James McCord sabotaged the break-in. He did this - apparently in an effort to protect an extremely important CIA operation involving DNC Chairman Larry O'Brien - with the help of a man named Lou Russell, a former FBI agent who was also, and in particular, the former chief investigator of the House Committee on Un-American Activities ("HUAC").

The point being that Secret Agenda ought to have recognized the fact that there were several agendas at work - not one. To understand Watergate, we need to consider not only the CIA's "agenda," but John Dean's, as well. And we need, also, to recognize that the intelligence community is not a monolith. The Pentagon had its agenda, as the Moorer-Radford affair proved, but so also did the CIA's counterintelligence staff, particularly where it intersected with the interests of the Security Research Staff (under Gen. Paul Gaynor) and the private-sector American Security Council. These are people who see themselves as an Elect, charged with the sacred mission of saving the Republic not only from its foreign enemies, but from its own citizenry and elected officials. I would suggest that the agenda of the Security Research Staff, with which James McCord was intimately connected, was far more radical than any "institutional agenda" that the CIA may have had.

Your second question: "Do (I) see important differences between Rosen's book and Silent Coup?" Well, yeah. "The Strong Man" benefits massively from the litigation that Dean and his attorneys instigated against Colodney, Gettlin and Liddy. Depositions and other evidence in those cases did much to focus and bolster Rosen's argument(s). It seems to me, as well, that Rosen's book is unusually well-written. And, of course, it's a biography - which Silent Coup is not. But as for any substantive differences between the two books, with respect to the actual meaning of Watergate, I don't know of any. There may be some.

Your third question: "Even if John Dean pushed the button on the Wgate break-ins -- what of import follows?" Well, our perception of Watergate would certainly be different if it were shown that the affair was initiated by a minion in the White House, acting without authority, rather than by a government official acting with the presumed, if tacit, approval of the President and/or his immediate subordinates. So, too, "if John Dean pushed the button on the Wgate break-ins," a great injustice has been done to a string of people, including Dean's client (Nixon) and his boss, Mitchell (who was left to take a very hard fall).

In your post, you make the point that "The Radford business seems important..." Indeed, it is/was. One of the best things about Secret Agenda is that it was the first book to relate the Moorer-Radford affair to Watergate - this, because while the Moorer-Radford affair preceded Watergate, it was not made public until after Watergate unfolded.

You write that "The Wgate team is indeed best thought of as a CIA team." Actually, it was more of a conglomerate than a team. Hunt and McCord had an agenda that was very different than Liddy's. Hunt and McCord were carrying water for one of the darkest corners of the CIA, while Liddy was simply "following orders" - orders that he mistakenly thought had come from John Mitchell.

Regards,

Hougan

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  • 5 months later...
Jeez...

Doug Valentine is a friend of mine. So is James Rosen. And, like Valentine, who authored the brilliant "Strength of the Wolf," Rosen has written one of the best works of investigative journalism to have been published in the past ten years.

That he works for Fox is irrelevant, except in the sense that it makes it easy for liberals to dismiss his book without having read it or considered his arguments. Sadly, Doug's criticism of the book is really no more than an ad hominem attack.

In fact, "Strong Man" is a massively well-documented biography, packed with new information, that moves the Watergate story forward by leaps and bounds. While the book has been attacked by the likes of John Dean, I know of no factual errors in its pages - and its thesis is in no way refuted by Dean's name-calling (or Doug's).

My own interest in the matter is well-known. "Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA" was the first book to discuss the Columbia Plaza call-girl operation and its links to the DNC, and to suggest that the break-in itself had been sabotaged by James McCord. Who ordered the break-in is, of course, an essential question and one, moreover, that has never been satisfactorily answered - until the appearance of Rosen's "Strong Man."

That said, let me suggest that until we're able to put aside our political biases and think outside the Fox News/Post News box, we will never understand what Watergate was really all about (and, trust me, it was about a lot more than DNC Chairman Larry O'Brien's strategy for winning New Hampshire).

Jim Hougan

Earlier this week James Rosen telephoned Robert Merritt, with whom I am collaborating on a new book tentatively titled “Watergate Exposed.”

Apparently, Mr. Rosen had read the topic about our book I posted on the Forum April 6 and had some questions that he wanted to pose to Mr. Merritt. In the course of their conversation as reported to me by Mr. Merritt, Mr. Rosen expressed dismay at a harsh comment that I had written on the Forum about his Watergate book published last year. When Mr. Merritt mentioned this I was disturbed because I could not remember what I had written. So I went back to the Forum and found that I wrote last May 19 that that Mr Rosen's allegation that John Dean ordered the Watergate break-in was not "historically accurate."

Frankly, I am dismayed to discover that I had so carelessly and irresponsibly written such a comment about Mr. Rosen’s book based, not on my reading of the book (which I had not), but on a news article about the book. I have since remembered that at the time I was upset Mr. Rosen had fingered John Dean as the mastermind behind the break-in. I have long believed that Dean has been made the scapegoat by some because of his early and decisive testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee. It has always appeared to me that Dean had no choice but to so testify as he was about to be made the fall-guy for what had occurred.

In any event I owe Mr. Rosen an apology. He had put in 17 years of research into Watergate and had written a book that contained much new information and here I was in the Forum criticizing his work when I had not even read it. This was totally irresponsible on my part and I hope that I never again dash off such a comment about an author's book without first doing my own basic research.

Yesterday I ordered Mr. Rosen’s book from Barnes and Noble and expect delivery within the next few days. I look forward to reading the fruit of Mr. Rosen’s in-depth research and will post my review of his book in the Forum in the near future.

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Jeez...

Doug Valentine is a friend of mine. So is James Rosen. And, like Valentine, who authored the brilliant "Strength of the Wolf," Rosen has written one of the best works of investigative journalism to have been published in the past ten years.

That he works for Fox is irrelevant, except in the sense that it makes it easy for liberals to dismiss his book without having read it or considered his arguments. Sadly, Doug's criticism of the book is really no more than an ad hominem attack.

In fact, "Strong Man" is a massively well-documented biography, packed with new information, that moves the Watergate story forward by leaps and bounds. While the book has been attacked by the likes of John Dean, I know of no factual errors in its pages - and its thesis is in no way refuted by Dean's name-calling (or Doug's).

My own interest in the matter is well-known. "Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA" was the first book to discuss the Columbia Plaza call-girl operation and its links to the DNC, and to suggest that the break-in itself had been sabotaged by James McCord. Who ordered the break-in is, of course, an essential question and one, moreover, that has never been satisfactorily answered - until the appearance of Rosen's "Strong Man."

That said, let me suggest that until we're able to put aside our political biases and think outside the Fox News/Post News box, we will never understand what Watergate was really all about (and, trust me, it was about a lot more than DNC Chairman Larry O'Brien's strategy for winning New Hampshire).

Jim Hougan

Earlier this week James Rosen telephoned Robert Merritt, with whom I am collaborating on a new book tentatively titled “Watergate Exposed.”

Apparently, Mr. Rosen had read the topic about our book I posted on the Forum April 6 and had some questions that he wanted to pose to Mr. Merritt. In the course of their conversation as reported to me by Mr. Merritt, Mr. Rosen expressed dismay at a harsh comment that I had written on the Forum about his Watergate book published last year. When Mr. Merritt mentioned this I was disturbed because I could not remember what I had written. So I went back to the Forum and found that I wrote last May 19 that that Mr Rosen's allegation that John Dean ordered the Watergate break-in was not "historically accurate."

Frankly, I am dismayed to discover that I had so carelessly and irresponsibly written such a comment about Mr. Rosen’s book based, not on my reading of the book (which I had not), but on a news article about the book. I have since remembered that at the time I was upset Mr. Rosen had fingered John Dean as the mastermind behind the break-in. I have long believed that Dean has been made the scapegoat by some because of his early and decisive testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee. It has always appeared to me that Dean had no choice but to so testify as he was about to be made the fall-guy for what had occurred.

In any event I owe Mr. Rosen an apology. He had put in 17 years of research into Watergate and had written a book that contained much new information and here I was in the Forum criticizing his work when I had not even read it. This was totally irresponsible on my part and I hope that I never again dash off such a comment about an author's book without first doing my own basic research.

Yesterday I ordered Mr. Rosen’s book from Barnes and Noble and expect delivery within the next few days. I look forward to reading the fruit of Mr. Rosen’s in-depth research and will post my review of his book in the Forum in the near future.

++++++++++++++++

THIS LINK OF NOTE

http://hnn.us/articles/76266.html thanks sg

Edited by Steven Gaal
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  • 4 weeks later...
... "Strong Man" is a massively well-documented biography, packed with new information, that moves the Watergate story forward by leaps and bounds.

... Who ordered the break-in is, of course, an essential question and one, moreover, that has never been satisfactorily answered - until the appearance of Rosen's "Strong Man."

Mr Hougan,

Very interesting to hear that you find Rosen's conclusions on target and well supported. I had ignored his book, under the impression that it was rehash of Silent Coup -- which I'd always seen as COUNTER to your own views.

That is: Secret Agenda's prime thesis (if memory serves) was that the Wgate team, unbeknownst to its masters and (goofy pawn?) Gordon Liddy, was actually a CIA team employed (opportunistically, it seems, perhaps by Helms himself) to assist Nixon to early retirement.

Then along came Silent Coup to protect the Company's honor -- by pointing fingers at the Pentagon (the Radford business) and John Dean instead.

Perhaps memory ISN'T serving me perfectly well here. But let me ask:

1. Have your views changed much on Watergate since you wrote Secret Agenda -- in particular re institutional CIA involvement & manipulation?

2. Do you see important differences between Rosen's book and Silent Coup?

3. Even if John Dean pushed the button on the Wgate break-ins -- what of import follows?

For myself:

-- The Radford business seems important to understanding the Nixon White House's siege mentality: to an extent, the famous Enemies that fed their paranoia were on the Right, pissed off for being cut out of the China and North Vietnam talks and determined to protect turf (to put it kindly).

-- The Wgate team is indeed best thought of as a CIA team. And the particular history of Nixon and Helms -- which Prouty (re Indonesia 1958), Ehrlichman (in his roman a clef The Company) and Haldeman (memoir and posthumous diaries) throw light on -- is relevant.

So I guess I carry around large chunks of Secret Agenda and select bits of Silent Coup.

But I no longer think it very important (nay, possible) to understand how precisely the Wgate burglaries got authorized. To a good extent the money has to talk there, and doesn't that mean Mitchell? Beyond that, winks and nods (and nodding-offs misconstrued as such) go a long way with eager beavers like Liddy.

I guess the "level of organization" at which the Dean question resides doesn't trigger my own (rather robust) paranoia. So maybe the guy was trying to find his wife ...

(Disclosure: I've found a lot of Dean's topical writing at FindLaw valuable over the years. If he's Guilty as Rosen apparently charges, I reckon he's Paid His Debt to Society ...)

I don't think Rosen's book is a "rehash" of anything, though I'm certain he's read everything on the subject - and then gone out to do his own work. Which is why he's been able to move the story forward.

The biggest obstacle to understanding "Watergate" is unquestionably getting past the myth in which the story is embedded. We are told that a couple of hard-working journalists, abetted by their self-effacing secret source and intrepid editors, saved the republic by exposing the misdeeds of a quintessentially evil president. It's a grand story in the David & Goliath tradition, and anyone who would revise it is likely to find himself reviled as a conspiracy-theorist and/or as a "revisionist" (you know, like those guys who deny the reality of the Holocast).

At a minimum, any investigative reporter who would dare to suggest that there is more to the Watergate story than the Post has revealed or, worse, that the Post's coverage was inaccurate, incomplete or (Zooks!) manipulated, will likely be dismissed as an apologist for Nixon (Mitchell, Ehrlichman, etc.).

Which is upsetting.

But make no mistake about it: the stakes are huge, as are the equities of people like Woodward and Bernstein, Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham, John Dean and the Democratic Party - not to mention the many reporters, pols and lawyers who have built successful careers on the basis of some slim connection to the story. Watergate is an industry.

(There I go again...but I think you had some questions about a book I'd written.)

"Have (my) views changed much on Watergate since (I) wrote Secret Agenda?" Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that the Watergate mythos has begun to fray over the years. John Dean's role in the affair has become much clearer. For this, we may thank the authors of Silent Coup and The Strong Man - as well as Dean himself. The litigation that he's initiated or encouraged, first against Len Colodney and then against Gordon Liddy, has been the political equivalent of an own-goal - for which he should be thanked.

In addition to the wealth of new information generated in the aftermath of my own book, I have come to understand that the affair was even more complex than I realized when I was writing Secret Agenda. It now seems to me that John Dean's manipulation of Gordon Liddy and his client, Richard Nixon, not to mention the Ervin Committee's staff had a profound effect on the way in which the affair unwound in the courts and the Congress, and on the world stage. This was not apparent to me when I wrote Secret Agenda, or if it was apparent, it did not interest me. It should have.

That said, I would add that my views of Watergate have not changed - not, at least, in the sense that I would retract anything that I have written about the affair. The book is correct in all details, and in its central thrust: Watergate was a set-up. The CIA and the Pentagon were spying on the White House (through Howard Hunt and Adm. Thomas Moorer's minions) - and James McCord sabotaged the break-in. He did this - apparently in an effort to protect an extremely important CIA operation involving DNC Chairman Larry O'Brien - with the help of a man named Lou Russell, a former FBI agent who was also, and in particular, the former chief investigator of the House Committee on Un-American Activities ("HUAC").

The point being that Secret Agenda ought to have recognized the fact that there were several agendas at work - not one. To understand Watergate, we need to consider not only the CIA's "agenda," but John Dean's, as well. And we need, also, to recognize that the intelligence community is not a monolith. The Pentagon had its agenda, as the Moorer-Radford affair proved, but so also did the CIA's counterintelligence staff, particularly where it intersected with the interests of the Security Research Staff (under Gen. Paul Gaynor) and the private-sector American Security Council. These are people who see themselves as an Elect, charged with the sacred mission of saving the Republic not only from its foreign enemies, but from its own citizenry and elected officials. I would suggest that the agenda of the Security Research Staff, with which James McCord was intimately connected, was far more radical than any "institutional agenda" that the CIA may have had.

Your second question: "Do (I) see important differences between Rosen's book and Silent Coup?" Well, yeah. "The Strong Man" benefits massively from the litigation that Dean and his attorneys instigated against Colodney, Gettlin and Liddy. Depositions and other evidence in those cases did much to focus and bolster Rosen's argument(s). It seems to me, as well, that Rosen's book is unusually well-written. And, of course, it's a biography - which Silent Coup is not. But as for any substantive differences between the two books, with respect to the actual meaning of Watergate, I don't know of any. There may be some.

Your third question: "Even if John Dean pushed the button on the Wgate break-ins -- what of import follows?" Well, our perception of Watergate would certainly be different if it were shown that the affair was initiated by a minion in the White House, acting without authority, rather than by a government official acting with the presumed, if tacit, approval of the President and/or his immediate subordinates. So, too, "if John Dean pushed the button on the Wgate break-ins," a great injustice has been done to a string of people, including Dean's client (Nixon) and his boss, Mitchell (who was left to take a very hard fall).

In your post, you make the point that "The Radford business seems important..." Indeed, it is/was. One of the best things about Secret Agenda is that it was the first book to relate the Moorer-Radford affair to Watergate - this, because while the Moorer-Radford affair preceded Watergate, it was not made public until after Watergate unfolded.

You write that "The Wgate team is indeed best thought of as a CIA team." Actually, it was more of a conglomerate than a team. Hunt and McCord had an agenda that was very different than Liddy's. Hunt and McCord were carrying water for one of the darkest corners of the CIA, while Liddy was simply "following orders" - orders that he mistakenly thought had come from John Mitchell.

Regards,

Hougan

Could you please offer some details of the CIA operation involving Larry O'Brien and its relation to the break-in that you believe was a sabotage?

Thanks.

Chris

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