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Strength and weakness of “Family of Secrets”


Douglas Caddy
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Gore Vidal praises Family of Secrets as “one of the most important books of the past ten years.” There can be no doubt but that Russ Baker deserves the gratitude of all thoughtful Americans for having the courage to expose much that is unknown about one of the most powerful (and some would say, evil) families in the world. I cannot commend it highly enough to anyone who wants to learn more about “the Bush dynasty, America’s invisible government, and the hidden history of the last fifty years,” as the thoroughly documented volume is subtitled.

For purposes of this brief review, however, my focus will be on the book’s chapters 10 and 11. These deal with Watergate, the first being titled, “Downing Nixon, Part 1: The Setup,” and the second, “Downing Nixon, Part II, The Execution.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Baker’s declaration “That Nixon could actually have been the victim of Watergate, and not the perpetrator, will not sit well with many, especially those with a professional stake in Nixon’s guilt. Yet three of the most thoroughly reported books on Watergate from the past three decades have come to the same conclusion: that Nixon and/or his top aides were indeed set up. Each of these books takes a completely different approach, focuses on different aspects, and relies on essentially different sets of facts and sources. These are 1984’s Secret Agenda, by former Harper’s magazine Washington editor Jim Hougan; 1991’s Silent coup, by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, and 2008’s The Strong Man, by James Rosen.”

I also concur with Baker’s statement that “Nixon, of course, was no innocent. He played rough with his critics, and he liked intrigue. But the evidence indicates that, despite his documented penchant for dirty deeds, he wasn’t behind Watergate and the Watergate-related dirty deeds that ultimately brought him down.”

Appropriately, Baker quotes Bob Woodward as saying, “The record is so voluminous on Watergate; there is nothing like it…It’s the most investigated event of all time; perhaps even more so than the Kennedy assassination.” Baker accurately observes that nevertheless “But like other epic events, Watergate turns out to be an entirely different story than the one we thought we knew.”

It is this latter statement by Baker that highlights the weakness of the Watergate section. For nowhere in his well researched volume does Baker even mention the two principal persons who brought about the Watergate public scandal: Carl Shoffler, the Washington, D.C. police detective who arrested the burglars on June 17, 1972, and Robert “Butch” Merritt, the Confidential Informant who reported directly to Shoffler beginning in 1970 and who alerted him on June 1, 1972 of the planned break-in at the Democratic National Committee, two weeks prior to the arrests.

Of the two, Merritt is the key person in the event. Had he not learned of the planned break-in from a highly unusual source and had he not relayed this information to Shoffler, there would have been no arrests on June 17, 1972 and no Watergate. Yet Merritt’s name is not mentioned in the books by Colodny/Gettlin, Rosen or Baker. Hougan’s Silent Agenda comes the closest to telling the real story behind the scandal when he describes somewhat the unique Shoffler-Merritt relationship in the appendixes of his work.

In short, only when the new book, Watergate Expose: A Confidential Informant Tells How the Watergate Burglars were Set-Up and Reveals Other Government Dirty Tricks, by Robert Merritt as told to Douglas Caddy, Original Attorney for the Watergate Seven, is published will the epic scandal truly be revealed as “an entirely different story than the one we thought we knew.”

For an abbreviated preview of Watergate Exposed your attention is directed to my posting on the Forum on July 30, 2009 of Merritt’s sworn affidavit regarding the “1972 Conspiracy to Assassinate Douglas Caddy, Original Attorney for the Watergate Seven,” a link to which is below:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=14618

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Guest Tom Scully

Mr. Caddy,

I think there is a better than even chance that your perception of what happened is hampered by your inability to fully "appreciate" the importance put on the rewriting of the history of the Watergate affairs by republicans of the further right persuasion. Two authors you named;

....Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, and 2008’s The Strong Man, by James Rosen.”

....if they are not right wingers, would you consider them to be neutral, "centrists", politically?

In John's case, I attributed his opinion, here, http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.ph...t=0#entry169520 as resulting from his inability, as a non-American, to completely understand the depths those republicans will go to to alter the history.

I believe it is as important, or even more to them as it was to GHW Bush and Reagan to keep up the pretense that Vietnam was a "noble war."

I recall reading a post or two of yours where you stated that you were once comfortable living a largely politically unaware life where you just happened to be squarely situated among politically active folks who were to the right of center right...or words to that effect.

You experienced an epiphany of sorts, and moved to the left of those circles, but you just posted what I assume to mean is the idea that the writing of Colodny and Rosen has influence on your opinion as to whether or not Nixon was a "victim."

I wrote about Colodny in the post I posted a link to, above. Rosen voluntarily works for the republican propaganda outlet, Fox news. I don't see them as credible authors about Watergate events. They have background and motive to distort, and I think they've done that.

If you've studied the Jack Abramoff network and activities to the extent I have, I think you would get an understanding that these republican "operatives" are extremely committed ideologically and have long and strong bonds. Rove and Abramoff came out of the "College Republicans" organization. Rove hired, just after the Florida coup put GW Bush in office in Jan., 2001, Abramoff's personal assistant, Susan Ralston, and installed her in an office, for the next seven years, just three doors down from Bush's west wing office. Just one example, of many.

I'd be happy to discuss any example that Baker, Colodny, or Rosen writes about, that you want to raise.

I think I am someone who is center left, if being center left amounts to having a strong skepticism towards our "one party with two right wings" political system, and of the fact that the press is compromised by the elite of our political system "owning the owners" of the major news media. Upton Sinclair exposed this fact in 1919 to 1921, and experienced it first hand in California during the summer of 1934.

If the most influential authorities behind the idea that Nixon was a victim are Colodny and Rosen, it seems to me that this idea is not as compelling as one would expect. Colodny's premise tends to make John Dean out to be playing the "left wing" part that Oswald was cast in for the Kennedy assassination.

Too pat, IMO...what you would expect to come from the investigative "journalism" offerings of right wing political extemists.

Edited by Tom Scully
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I am careful not to dismiss works suggesting Watergate revisionism simply because they come from sources that might be Republicans. That said, it is nevertheless important to look at all sources critically.

I am currently in the middle of Len Colodny's new book The Forty Years War about the so called Neocons.

What is noticeable in this book is the extent to which Colodny and his co-author side with the right critics of Nixon on topics ranging from the Vietnamization, SALT to China in their perception Nixon and Kissinger as pure diplomatic cave-in to communism. Yes the authors point out that Nixon's was a more pragmatic approach and Nixon and Kissinger had their own reasons for their policy initiatives. Yet too often this pragmatism is juxtaposed only with today's right wing revisionism to the exclusion of any analysis of the pressure Nixon felt from the left, both within the US in terms of the rest of the world's view of US Cold War policy.

I think Colodny does this to bolster his argument that the right wing of the Republicans had many reasons for disappointment in Nixon. I agree with this general argument. This book differs from Silent Coup in its greater focus on the bigger policy differences between Nixon and the Right as opposed to the nuts and latchkey technical focus on the details of Watergate itself and the inner wrenches thrown in clockwork of the Nixon WHite House that was the focus of the earlier book.

But Colodny may be doing his critics a favor that will enable his critics to throw out much good baby with bath-water. He leaves himself open to easy dismissal by too often seeming to make the right wing critique of Nixon seem an objectively true perspective, rather than just one side of the tightrope that Nixon was trying to walk.

Also re: Schoffler, there is some interesting new material about him involving the drug war turf struggles between Customs and the BNDD between 1970 72 that led to the formation of the DEA . At least it was new to me. It is in the new book by Douglas Valentine called the Strength of the Pack which is about the formation of the DEA. Mr. Caddy might be interested in this as it would add to the view that perhaps Schoffler was no random cop.

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It's interesting to see just how early Watergate spin hit the historical presses. Thomas Powers' book on Dick Helms, The Man Who Kept the Secrets (in many respects a worthy book), expends a great deal of prose arguing that Helms didn't set up Nixon using Hunt and the Cubans, in 1978.

Powers discounts Haldeman's tale of the unflappable Helms suddenly flapping like mad at Nixon's message that a Watergate investigation "could open the whole BOP thing." (HRH's The Ends of Power had been published just 11 months earlier.)

Edited by David Andrews
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Guest Tom Scully
I am careful not to dismiss works suggesting Watergate revisionism simply because they come from sources that might be Republicans. That said, it is nevertheless important to look at all sources critically.

I am currently in the middle of Len Colodny's new book The Forty Years War about the so called Neocons.

....Also re: Schoffler, there is some interesting new material about him involving the drug war turf struggles between Customs and the BNDD between 1970 72 that led to the formation of the DEA . At least it was new to me. It is in the new book by Douglas Valentine called the Strength of the Pack which is about the formation of the DEA. Mr. Caddy might be interested in this as it would add to the view that perhaps Schoffler was no random cop.

Nathaniel,

I admit to having a preconceived notion that right wing propagandists, and right wing extremists in general seem to work from a script that is obvious....they've changed the name of the faux opposition to "democrat" party, from the actual democratic party... referring to the "democrat leader", instead of the democratic leader. It seems a small thing, but when you become attune to it, it is easy to spot. They ALL say it that way. I recently listened to a radio interview of Tom Ridge, and he actual slipped and said "democratic", but quickly corrected himself.

Although I have become adept at spotting the political extremism in their rhetoric, printed works, and in the lockstep zeal they exhibit to warp the already warped version fed to us via the news media they by and large, own and control, when it comes to shaping my opinions, I endeavor to keep it real in spite of my skepticism.

And yes, Shoffler seems to have been more than your average, undercover city cop.:

(Why didn't the "oh! so liberal" NY Times editorial management simply have William F. Buckley, Jr. write Carl Shoffler's entire 1996 obituary, instead of just the one National Review bit cited? )

http://www.nytimes.com/1996/07/16/us/carl-...ml?pagewanted=1

Mr. Shoffler was apparently the right officer to handle the Watergate arrests. As National Review put it in a 1992 article: "When Watergate burglar Eugenio Martinez and his team were apprehended, Martinez struggled with arresting officer Carl Shoffler to conceal something on his person. Shoffler wrestled from him a key, which the F.B.I. identified as fitting the desk of Ida Wells," a member of the Democratic National Committee staff....

Mr. Shoffler, a native of Ashland, Pa., attended American University in Washington, spent four years in the Army, including a tour in Vietnam, and then joined the Washington police force in 1969. He became a detective and spent 16 years in the department's intelligence unit before retiring with a pension in 1989. Then he became an investigator for the Fire Department of Prince Georges County, Md. At his death, his title there was chief intelligence investigator....

Win, Volume 10, Issues 1-23‎ - Page 7

Political Science - 1974

Biography of an Informant

Early on the morning of Feb. 26 a call was received at the home of Tim Butz.

The caller stated "you had better leave your friend Merritt alone or you'll find

him dead."

The material contained in Biography of an Informant was based on first hand

conversations with Earl Robert Merritt, Jr. There is no independent source for

verification of many of his claims.

Merritt is currently under subpoena to testify before the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. This is the first of three parts of Biography of an Informant Part two

will appear in WIN next week.

When Earl Robert Merritt, Jr. came to Washington DC in 1968, he left a hard life in Charleston, West Virginia. He made his home in the DuPont circle area of Washington, seeking a peaceful life as a gay man, and changing his name to hide his past In 1967 on a visit to W. Va. he wrote

several bad checks, an act that would greatly change his life.

In June, 1970, Merritt met Carl Schoffler, one of the many people who "hung around" in the DuPont Circle community. Merritt and Schoffler became friends over the summer months, and Merritt trusted

Schoffler enough to confide the knowledge of his bad checks in West Virginia. What Bob Merritt did not know, but what was suspected throughout DuPont Circle, was that Schoffler was an undercover police officer. Merritt was working in a Washington drug store in September, 1970, and had just

left work when Schoffler drove up and offered him a ride home. As they drove to Merritt's apartment, Schoffler asked "How would you like to go to work for me?" Merritt inquired what Schoffler meant and was told "You mesn you don't know? How do you think I get all mt money? I'm a cop."

The revelation that his trusted friend was actually an undercover cop for the DC Police stunned Merritt.

Schoffler began paying visits to Merritfs apartment, trying to pressure Merritt

into accepting the informant's role.

After several weeks of high pressure tactics, Merritt gave in to Schoffler's

request As he viewed it, the only alternative was to go to jail for the bad checks he had written many years past, and Bob Merritt did not want to spend his life in a West Virginia prison.

Merritt's unpaid work for Schoffler consisted of finding leads for Schoffler to

follow through.

Merritt made narcotics buys for Schoffler, but did not participate in any arrests or appear

before any Grand Jury.

His narcotics work was only one month old when, in early October, 1970,

another curve ball into Merritt's life. By the Fall of 1970, Federal

Investigative agencies had begun their planning for the 1971 Mayday

demonstrations. Police from various local and federal agencies were

were infiltrating Mayday, the People's Coalition for Peace and Justice (PCP),

the National Peace Action Coalition (NPAC), the Vietnam Veterans against the War,

and other groups which would be involved in the massive "Spring Offensive" of 1971.

Since many of the Mayday people were organizing themselves into collectives, the Federal Agencies

planning, Merritt then asked Scrapper about his attitudes towards homosexuals and the law.

Scrapper did not like gay people, and Scrapper could only reply that "there are a lot of laws that

oight to be changed" and guaranteed that Merritt "would have all the room he needed" if he

could establish a homosexual relationship with Jack Davis. During the

course of the 45 minute initial meeting with the DC intelligence officers, Merritt was told that he would be paid $50 per week, plus expenses for public transportation, telephone calls, and other incidental items. He was given a set of confidential telephone numbers, including one that was connected to a taping machine should the Intelligence office be closed. He was told to

devote his full time and energy to cultivating information about Mayday, especially the activities of Jack and Rennie Davis.

Scrapper and Robinson asked Merritt to gather some specific information as an

immediate task. He was told to visit the various offices occupied by protest

groups in the building at 1029 Vermont Avenue. Once inside, he was to map out the floor plans of the offices, the names of the people in the offices, and the telephone numbers assigned to the offices.

Merritt was also told to be on the alert for any signs of firearms, bombs, or

incendiary devices in any of the movement offices he visited. The police also asked him to report any "talk or rumors" of harming high government officials, "such as the President."

Merritt was given an identification number, "16", to be used whenever calling

the MPDC/ID offices. He was told to report in at least twice each day.

The meeting over, Scrapper and Robinson drove Merritt to a place near his

apartment and dropped him off. The next day Merritt began his assignment As

As instructed, he visited the offices of PCPJ and the Mayday Tribe.

He found a great amount of activity in both offices

and gathered as much information as he could for his bosses.

Merritt knew that this first task was simply a test to see if he would visit the

offices and follow instructions. Later in the day, he called Scrapper and

Later in the day, he called Scrapper and told him that he thought he could

handle the job. Scrapper emphasized the need to become close to Jack Davis,

Rennie Davis, and Ray Twohig, a radical law student who was helping with the Mayday Legal team.

He was also told to make sure he got a copy of everything that was printed by the two

groups, and to gather the dates, times, and locations of each meeting that was taking place.

Finally, he was told to attend training sessions for demonstration marshals and to determine

who was to carry walkie talkies during the demonstrations and what their codes would be.

Merritt finished the conversation by telling Scrapper that he thought he could handle the assignment Earl Robert Merritt, Jr. had become a political spy.

CONTINUED NEXT WEEK Tim Butz is a coordinator of the Counter-Spy campaign of the

Organizing Committee for a Fifth Estate. John B. Hayes is the pen name of a

of a Washington DC based free lance writer.

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I am careful not to dismiss works suggesting Watergate revisionism simply because they come from sources that might be Republicans. That said, it is nevertheless important to look at all sources critically.

I am currently in the middle of Len Colodny's new book The Forty Years War about the so called Neocons.

What is noticeable in this book is the extent to which Colodny and his co-author side with the right critics of Nixon on topics ranging from the Vietnamization, SALT to China in their perception Nixon and Kissinger as pure diplomatic cave-in to communism. Yes the authors point out that Nixon's was a more pragmatic approach and Nixon and Kissinger had their own reasons for their policy initiatives. Yet too often this pragmatism is juxtaposed only with today's right wing revisionism to the exclusion of any analysis of the pressure Nixon felt from the left, both within the US in terms of the rest of the world's view of US Cold War policy.

I think Colodny does this to bolster his argument that the right wing of the Republicans had many reasons for disappointment in Nixon. I agree with this general argument. This book differs from Silent Coup in its greater focus on the bigger policy differences between Nixon and the Right as opposed to the nuts and latchkey technical focus on the details of Watergate itself and the inner wrenches thrown in clockwork of the Nixon WHite House that was the focus of the earlier book.

But Colodny may be doing his critics a favor that will enable his critics to throw out much good baby with bath-water. He leaves himself open to easy dismissal by too often seeming to make the right wing critique of Nixon seem an objectively true perspective, rather than just one side of the tightrope that Nixon was trying to walk.

Also re: Schoffler, there is some interesting new material about him involving the drug war turf struggles between Customs and the BNDD between 1970 72 that led to the formation of the DEA . At least it was new to me. It is in the new book by Douglas Valentine called the Strength of the Pack which is about the formation of the DEA. Mr. Caddy might be interested in this as it would add to the view that perhaps Schoffler was no random cop.

You are right; Carl Shoffler was no random cop.

As Jim Hougan wrote in his 1984 best-seller, Secret Agenda, “Adding to the suspicions surrounding Shoffler is the fact that he is no ordinary cop. Prior to joining the police department in Washington, he had served for years at the Vint Hill Farm Station in Virginia. This is one of NSA’s most important domestic ‘listening posts.’ Staffed by personnel assigned to the Army Security Agency (ASA), Vint Hill Farm is thought to be responsible for intercepting communications traffic emanating from Washington’s Embassy Row. By itself, this proves nothing, but it is ironic that the police officer responsible for making the most important IOC (Interception of Communications) bust in American history should himself have worked in the same area only a few years earlier.”

As Merritt writes in his forthcoming book, Watergate Exposed, within days of recruiting Merritt in January 1970 as a Confidential Informant, Shoffler confided in Merritt that he had been assigned by Military Intelligence to the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. Shoffler and Merritt became more than just a working team engaged in law enforcement activities. Merritt recounts that on the same day that he recruited him, Shoffler moved into Merritt’s apartment and on the first night there initiated their homosexual relationship that lasted for several years, even though Shoffler was married and had a family living in Pennsylvania.

After Merritt told Shoffler on June 1, 1972, what he had learned from a highly unusual source about the planned break-in at the Democratic National Committee scheduled for June 18, Shoffler the same day brought two men to his and Merritt’s apartment and had Merritt relate what he had learned. One of these two men produced a CIA employee card with his name on it that had holes punched in it. The other man took detailed notes on a notepad and on several occasions had Merritt repeat what he had just related to the three of them.

Soon thereafter Shoffler boasted to Merritt that he was going to bring down the Nixon Presidency.

Several years ago Merritt had occasion to talk to a member of the Shoffler family. The member told Merritt that she was unable to answer any questions regarding Carl Shoffler because shortly after his death in 1996, the U.S. Government had forced all the family members to sign a non-disclosure agreement forbidding them to engage in any public discussion about Carl Shoffler’s activities when he worked for the government.

If Carl Shoffler had been merely an ordinary Washington, D.C. police detective, the U.S. Government would not have demanded that his family members sign the non-disclosure agreement, which is still in effect today.

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Mr. Caddy,

I think there is a better than even chance that your perception of what happened is hampered by your inability to fully "appreciate" the importance put on the rewriting of the history of the Watergate affairs by republicans of the further right persuasion. Two authors you named;

....Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, and 2008’s The Strong Man, by James Rosen.”

....if they are not right wingers, would you consider them to be neutral, "centrists", politically?

In John's case, I attributed his opinion, here, http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.ph...t=0#entry169520 as resulting from his inability, as a non-American, to completely understand the depths those republicans will go to to alter the history.

I believe it is as important, or even more to them as it was to GHW Bush and Reagan to keep up the pretense that Vietnam was a "noble war."

I recall reading a post or two of yours where you stated that you were once comfortable living a largely politically unaware life where you just happened to be squarely situated among politically active folks who were to the right of center right...or words to that effect.

You experienced an epiphany of sorts, and moved to the left of those circles, but you just posted what I assume to mean is the idea that the writing of Colodny and Rosen has influence on your opinion as to whether or not Nixon was a "victim."

I wrote about Colodny in the post I posted a link to, above. Rosen voluntarily works for the republican propaganda outlet, Fox news. I don't see them as credible authors about Watergate events. They have background and motive to distort, and I think they've done that.

If you've studied the Jack Abramoff network and activities to the extent I have, I think you would get an understanding that these republican "operatives" are extremely committed ideologically and have long and strong bonds. Rove and Abramoff came out of the "College Republicans" organization. Rove hired, just after the Florida coup put GW Bush in office in Jan., 2001, Abramoff's personal assistant, Susan Ralston, and installed her in an office, for the next seven years, just three doors down from Bush's west wing office. Just one example, of many.

I'd be happy to discuss any example that Baker, Colodny, or Rosen writes about, that you want to raise.

I think I am someone who is center left, if being center left amounts to having a strong skepticism towards our "one party with two right wings" political system, and of the fact that the press is compromised by the elite of our political system "owning the owners" of the major news media. Upton Sinclair exposed this fact in 1919 to 1921, and experienced it first hand in California during the summer of 1934.

If the most influential authorities behind the idea that Nixon was a victim are Colodny and Rosen, it seems to me that this idea is not as compelling as one would expect. Colodny's premise tends to make John Dean out to be playing the "left wing" part that Oswald was cast in for the Kennedy assassination.

Too pat, IMO...what you would expect to come from the investigative "journalism" offerings of right wing political extemists.

Sir, I know for a fact that your characterization of Len Colodny as a conservative or Republican is way off base. And, obviously, if you had read my book "Family of Secrets" or my work over the years for such publications as The Nation, you would know that I cannot be characterized that way either. Of the four of us who have brought out parts of the new Watergate narrative, including Jim Hougan of "Secret Agenda", who wrote for the liberal Harper's magazine, only Rosen would be identified as a conservative. More importantly, to try and judge the research results of open-minded, serious researchers by slapping an ideological label on them is to do them a disservice.

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