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A Series of Missed Opportunities

Douglas Caddy

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A Series of Missed Opportunities

There would have been no Watergate

Soon after Merritt began working in January 1970 as a Confidential Informant for the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Officer Carl Shoffler expanded his CI duties to intelligence gathering. In this capacity Merritt reported to Sergeant Dixon Gildon, who was a senior officer in the MPD Intelligence Division. So when he learned from his highly unlikely source on May 31, 1972, of the planned break-in at the Democratic National Committee scheduled for June 18, he attempted to alert Sgt. Gildon. He telephoned her the next day, on June 1, 1972, and said, “Dixie, I have a matter of national security that I need to talk to you about as soon as possible.” Sgt. Gillon responded, “ I’m rushing to a meeting. I’ll see you later.” Merritt and Gildon had a working arrangement to meet at a set time during the day to exchange intelligence information. But for some reason Gildon failed to show up later that day at their pre-arranged meeting place.

Subsequently, on that same day, June 1, Merritt rendezvoused with Shoffler at the apartment they shared at 2122 P Street, N.W. He told Shoffler what he had learned from his unlikely source about the planned break-in. Shoffler had met the unlikely source on a number of times as the source was a close friend of Merritt and frequently visited the apartment on P Street. Shoffler became excited at what Merritt told him and instructed Merritt to talk to no one about what he had learned. Shoffler specifically told Merritt not to inform Gildon who, for whatever reason, never followed up with Merritt about the urgent phone call that he had made to her.

The next opportunity that arose for Merritt to tell what he knew about the origins of Watergate was in October 1972 when Gildon came to his apartment at 1705 R St., N.W., where he had relocated upon Shoffler’s direction. Merritt had worked closely with Gildon for over two years. She even on one occasion had him as a dinner guest in her spacious home in Maryland where she resided with her husband, a successful contractor, and their daughter and son. Because she was in MPD Intelligence and worked undercover, she always wore street clothes. But on her visit to Merritt in October – one month after Hunt, Liddy, McCord and the four Cuban-Americans had been indicted – Gildon was dressed in her police uniform. Instead of giving him a friendly hug as she normally did, she begged off, saying she had a cold. She then crossed the room and turned off the television. When she did so, Merritt spotted a bulge in her back and realized she was wearing a wire to record their conversation.

Gildon started by bluntly asking Merritt, “Have you ever had sex with Carl Shoffler?” Merritt, aware he was being recorded, merely gave her a non-committal smile. Gildon the said, “Butch, have you run across something that Intelligence should know about, maybe even something that Carl has told you? Are you hiding something and not telling us? Did you tell something to Carl that we don’t know about?” She paused for a second and then declared, “It’s possible that you learned something on your own that is so volatile and sensitive that could destroy the presidency. We know you are good at what you do but we also know that you are not politically astute.”

Merritt merely shrugged his shoulders and did not verbally respond. Gildon continued, “You should know that eyebrows being raised about Carl. Some people think he knows more about the Watergate arrests than he is letting on.” Merritt responded, “If you think so, why doesn’t MPD question him directly?” Gildon replied, “There are difficulties in doing that. He has reached celebrity status. Plus he is very clever.” Merritt asked, “What about giving him a polygraph test then? “ Gildon rejected the idea outright, saying “If it ever came out that we asked him to a take lie-detector test, it would make us look bad.” Gildon’s response triggered Merritt’s memory that Shoffler had once boasted that he had been taught at NSA’s Vint Hill Farm Station on how to beat a polygraph test.

Gildon then cut to the chase. She told Merritt that “you have been involved in too many undercover activities that if disclosed would be very controversial,” clearly referring to the numerous illegal activities that he had engaged in under Shoffler’s direction and that of FBI Agents Bill Tucker and Terry O’Connor, such the theft of documents from the Institute for Policy Studies and sundry break-ins at other organizations. Gildon continued, “I realize now that I made a mistake when I told you that you were being paid for doing these things by White House funds from the Huston Plan.” She had previously informed him that an undisclosed high official in the White House was dispensing the funds for the illegal activities that Merritt had been directed to carry out.

Gildon then asked Merritt to name a sum of money that it would take for him to remain quiet and relocate far from the nation’s capital. Merritt responded emphatically, knowing that his words were being recorded, “I don’t want any money and I’m not leaving Washington.” Gildon recognized by the tone of his voice that the conversation had reached a dead end. She asked Merritt to escort her to her car. When they exited the apartment building, Gildon mentioned she had parked a block away and began walking slowly. Merritt then spotted a photographer at the northeast corner of New Hampshire and R Streets who was taking their picture. He exclaimed to Gildon, “That man is photographing us” to which she replied, “What man? I don’t see anyone.”

Once Gildon had driven away and he had returned to his apartment, Merritt realized that the MPD had attempted to set him up to keep him quiet about the illegal activities funded by the White House under the Huston Plan and that if he had accepted the offer of money, he would have been arrested on the spot. MPD obviously believed that he knew too much. He strongly suspected that had he accepted the money it was quite likely that he would have been quickly transported to some distant location, such as Alaska, and secretly incarcerated there or, more likely, committed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and kept in a state of permanent sedation.

But he also realized that her visit represented a missed chance to tell her about the origins of Watergate. Had he done so, Gildon, an ardent law-and-order Republican, might have whisked him directly to police headquarters where he would have been given protection. If that happened, the Watergate case would have taken a drastic change of direction. But then the thought came to him that because his highly unlikely source of information about the planned break-in was so shocking, the MPD probably would have chosen to cover this up rather than disclose it, even if it meant saving the presidency.

The next opportunity that arose for Merritt to disclose what he knew about the origins of Watergate was when in 1973 he testified before the Senate Watergate Committee in Executive Session. After he was administered the oath to tell the truth, virtually the first question from one of the Senators was, “Are you a homosexual?” Merritt responded, “Yes”, to which there was an audible gasp by the committee members. Another Senator said, “Don’t you recognize that homosexuality is immoral and a sin?” to which Merritt replied, “I was created by God in His Image, the same way everyone in this room was.” Still another Senator virtuously proclaimed that “homosexuals have no credibility.” At that point Merritt realized that what Shoffler had warned him about was true – that if he told what he knew he would be “publicly hung” as a despised homosexual and his knowledge of the origins of Watergate curtly dismissed as lacking credibility.

The next opportunity that arose for Merritt to disclose was when he met with the Watergate Special Prosecution Force in late 1973 when he repeated again what he had told the Senate Watergate Committee about the illegal activities he had engaged in under the direction of Shoffler, MPD and FBI. Prosecutor Archibald Cox was present at two of these meetings. At their second meeting Merritt began to feel that he could trust Cox and those who worked with him. He mentally decided to tell at their next meeting what he knew about the origins in defiance of Shoffler’s prior threats to him. But the very next day Cox was fired in the Saturday Night Massacre and Merritt became afraid to spill what he knew.

The next opportunity was in 1985 when Merritt wrote Chief Judge Carl Moultrie of the District of Columbia Superior Court and asked that he be allowed to testify under oath before a grand jury as to what he knew about the origins of Watergate. He received no response to his letter, so one day he showed up in the courthouse and attempted to enter the room where the grand jury was sitting to ask that he be allowed to testify. The prosecutor in the room promptly ordered armed guards to escort him out of the building.

So many missed opportunities. What

If Sgt. Gildon had not been rushing off to a meeting when Merritt telephoned her and if she had later shown up at their pre-arranged meeting place that same day,

If she and the MPD had not tried to set him up at her meeting with him in his apartment, but instead focused solely on getting him to tell what he knew,

If the Senators on the Senate Watergate Committee had not been so degrading in their insulting remarks about Merritt’s homosexuality and their alluding to the resulting lack of his credibility,

If Cox had not been fired in the Saturday Night Massacre upon orders from the Nixon White House,

If the Chief Judge of the Superior Court had permitted Merritt to testify before the grand jury?

So now it is left to Merritt to tell his story in his book, “Watergate Exposed, A Confidential Informant Tells How the Watergate Burglars Were Setup and Relates Other Dirty Government Tricks, by Robert Merritt as Told to Douglas Caddy, Original Attorney for the Watergate Seven.”

Edited by Douglas Caddy
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