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Interview of Robert Merritt in 1973


Douglas Caddy
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Interview of Robert Merritt in 1973

By Watergate Special Prosecution Force

The following are brief but significant excerpts from the 10-page interview:

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Department of Justice

Watergate Special Prosecution Force

November 20, 1973

Memorandum

To: Files

From: Frank Martin

Subject: Interview of Earl Robert Merritt (AKA Robert Chandler)

Earl Robert Merritt, accompanied by his attorney, David Isbell, was interviewed on three separate occasions. On October 18 and 19, 1973, Merritt was interviewed by Martin and Hecht; on November 1, 1973, Merritt was interviewed by Martin and Akerman. Merritt is a former informer for the Metropolitan Police Department, the FBI, and on one occasion, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division of the Treasury department.

October 18, 1973 Interview

Merritt stated that his first contact leading to his informant work was with Carl Schoffler of the MPD. In the spring of 1970 Merritt met Schoffler but did not know until the fall of 1970 that Schoffler was an undercover policeman. In the fall of 1970, Schoffler introduced Merritt to agents of the ATF, including Bill Seals, Richard Campbell, and Dick Caldan. Merritt was told that Seals was interested in making contacts to set up buys of firearms, explosives, and narcotics. Approximately two or three weeks later in October, Merritt introduced Seals to people he knew in the Washington area as someone interested in getting into organized crime and interested in buying firearms, explosives and narcotics. From October 1970 until April 1971, Merritt worked as an informer on narcotics and street crime cases for the Metropolitan Police Department.

October 19, 1973 Interview

Merritt added to his description of his May Day activities. Merritt stated that he was told that if he were arrested he was not to say who he was working for but to call intelligence offices after he was at the police station.

Merritt stated that his first contact with the Institute for Policy Studies was on July 15, 1971, when he obtained a flyer on Studies of Marxism to be given at IPS. He gave this flyer to Officer Robinson. Later, Robinson and Scrapper asked Merritt if he knew IPS and said that IPS would be his next assignment that he was to take classes there and subsequently, Merritt did take classes there. On September 1, 1971, there was a job opening at IPS and Scrapper told Merritt to apply for the job. Merritt applied for the job but never got it.

Also, in September, Merritt found that he could not get along with Scrapper and he was then assigned to Dixie Gildon of the MPD.

Later in September, Special Agents of the FBI O’Connor and Tucker came to Merritt’s apartment with Officer Schoffler. At this time they were trying to locate the residence of [redacted]. At this time Merritt mentioned his financial problem and O’Connor suggested that he come to work for the FBI. Shortly thereafter, Merritt was informed by Dixie Gildon that he had been terminated due to lack of funds and the next day he received a call from O’Connor asking Merritt to work for the FBI. Merritt’s assignment was to be the Institute for Policy Studies, and he was to continue his work there. Merritt attended meetings such as a Prison Reform meeting given by Philip Hirschkop and other meetings held at the Institute.

November 1, 1973 Interview:

Merritt stated that the following concerning surveillance of IPS. Merritt stated that he believes that there was surveillance going on from the Dupont Plaza Hotel because the police always went into the hotel before going to IPS. Also, Merritt had been told in a conversation with Schoffler and Seals (shortly before May Day) that the 4th floor front corner room of the Dupont Circle Hotel was used for surveillance of IPS. Merritt stated that Tucker told him that a boom and/or sourcer-type microphone was used for surveillance of IPS. Tucker told Merritt this in November 1971 right after the meeting at IPS at which Robert Wall spoke. Tucker wanted to know from Merritt whether Wall told the people at IPS that such devices were being used against them.

Schoffler-[redacted] Incident

Merritt provided the following information concerning the Schoffler-[redacted] incident. Merritt stated that a few days after June 17, 1972, the date of the Watergate arrests, he was contacted by Schoffler and Leper who came to Merritt’s home. Schoffler andLeper asked Merritt if he knew [redacted] and Merritt stated that he did not know him. They then stated that [redacted] was a homosexual with pro-cuban contacts and was involved with Young Americans for Freedom. They then asked Merritt to take the assignment of getting close to [redacted], know him intimately, socially, and to get any names, addresses, and phone numbers of people [redacted] was in contact with. Merritt asked why they wanted him to do this and all they stated was that this was the most important assignment that they had ever given to him and that it came from a high source, and that he would be paid well. They stated that the assignment was not for the MPD, CIA, FBI, or ATF. Merritt stated that he would think about it and let them know. A few days later, Merritt called and told Schoffler that he would not do it. Schoffler was annoyed. Schoffler also denied that the assignment had anything to do with Watergate. Several months later, in the fall of 1972, Merritt was talking with Schoffler and arguing about several things concerning the police and Schoffler told him that the assignment to get close to [redacted] was involved with Watergate.

In June 1973, after the testimony of Schoffler and Leper before the Senate Select Committee, Merritt made an anonymous call to Jim Flug, of Senator Kennedy’s Subcommittee on Administration Practices and Procedures, and told him that he thought Schoffler and Leper were lying to the Select Committee. Flug suggested to Merritt that he call the Senate Select Committee, which he did. Merritt spoke to Wayne Bishop of the Senate Select Committee and began to tell his story concerning Schoffler. At first, Merritt would not identify himself and then later he called Bishop back and identified himself and began to tell his story. As he proceeded, he decided it would be better if he had Bishop contact his lawyer, Mr. Isbell. Shortly after this, Schoffler came to see Merritt. Merritt stated that Schoffler appeared to come on a friendly pretense, but then stated that he understood that Merritt was trying to get involved in Watergate and that if Merritt knew what was good for him, he would stay out of it. Schoffler then reminded Merritt of certain things that had been said to him by Tucker of the FBI at the time Merritt stopped working for the FBI. The conversation with Tucker had taken place in May of 1972, at which time Tucker told Merritt to remember the bad checks he had passed in West Virginia and not to participate in any further demonstrations because “we’d hate to see you get shot accidentally.” Tucker had gone on to tell Merritt that he should remember what happened to someone else who he knew and stated “we’d hate to find you in the Potomac with cement over-shoes.”

Merritt stated that there were several attempts to plant narcotics on him and in his apartment. Merritt stated that at various times he destroyed the narcotics, put them in a police car, and on one occasion, he gave heroin and a syringe that had been planted on him to Dixie Gildon. Merritt stated that there were also attempts to plant informers close to him and that one informer actually moved in with Merritt.

Merritt stated that there were two burglaries of his residence at 1703 R Street, N.W. On July 11, 1973, his apartment was ransacked. That night he received a phone call from [redacted] who stated that [redacted] would meet the next day at his doctor’s office. Merritt stated that there was an appointment slip in his home at the time it was ransacked and this would be the only way that [redacted] would know he had appointment. Merritt did not go to the doctor’s appointment, and instead, Mr. Isbell went and confronted [redacted.] Merritt stated that there was another burglary of this house on August 6, 1973.

Merritt stated that he was followed on several occasions and on June 15, 1973, noted that he was being followed by a car bearing D.C. tag 781-456. Merritt confirmed through Dixie Gildon that this was an FBI car. Merritt stated that on Sunday, October 28, 1973, there was an entry into his house through the back door. On October 31, 1973, Merritt was told by a repairman that the flu in his hot water heater had been stopped up and that poisonous carbon monoxide was accumulating within the house.

Merritt and his attorney, Mr. Isbell, stated that they would provide further documentation on Merritt’s allegations.

[End of interview of Robert Merritt]

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Commentary for the reader on the above interview of Robert Merritt:

1) Carl Schoffler’s correctly spelled last name is Shoffler.

2) Merritt’s attorney, David Isbell, was principal partner in the law firm of Covington and Burling.

3) The name Douglas Caddy, original attorney for the Watergate Seven, should be inserted in the pertinent redacted sections in the “Schoffler-[redacted] incident.”

4) On May 31, 1972, a highly unlikely source told Merritt about the break-in planned for Watergate on June 18, 1972. The next day, June 1, 1972, Merritt attempted to tell MPD Sergeant Dixie Gildon of what he had learned from his source but failed in this attempt. That same day, around 6 P.M., Shoffler returned to the apartment that he shared with Merritt and Merritt told him what he had learned from his source about the planned break-in. Shoffler ordered Merritt not to tell anyone else about this information and then departed their apartment. Later that evening Shoffler returned to the apartment with two men and had Merritt relate in detail to them what he had learned.

Two days later, on June 3, 1972, FBI Agents Bill Tucker and Terry O’Connor appeared at the door of Merritt’s apartment and informed him that they had heard that there had been a meeting in his apartment a few days previously at which he disclosed information about a planned break-in at some location. In the two previous months Merritt had become totally disenchanted with his FBI assignments because these two agents had ordered Merritt not to attend his own mother’s funeral in West Virginia in April 1972, had physically threatened him subsequently and had the FBI discharge him as a Confidential Informant. For this reason Merritt refused to answer their inquiry.

About two weeks later, two days after the Watergate arrests on June 17, 1972, FBI Agents Tucker and O’Connor again appeared at Merritt’s front door and demanded that he inform them of any information he might have about the break-in. On this occasion, as disclosed in the above excerpts from the Watergate Special Prosecution Force interview of Merritt, Agent Tucker told Merritt that “he should remember what happened to someone else who he knew and stated, ‘we’d hate to find you in the Potomac with cement over-shoes.” Merritt interpreted this as an overt threat, especially so in light of the sudden recent disappearance from the face of the earth of someone he knew who had knowledge of the events leading up to the break-in. Merritt was deathly afraid of Agent Tucker but not of Agent O’Connor and had O’Connor appeared alone without Tucker at his door would have told him everything he knew about the origins of Watergate.

5) When Merritt spoke to Wayne Bishop, who was on the staff of the Senate Watergate Committee, and attempted to tell him the full story about the origins of Watergate, Bishop responded by threatening Merritt. This incident took place as Merritt was entering the Senate Building to testify before the Senate Watergate Committee in Executive Session, having been previously served with a subpoena. Bishop warned Merritt that if he attempted to tell what he knew about the origins of Watergate that he would be arrested and charged with perjury and with obstruction of justice. Bishop said that Merritt was a known homosexual and thus “had no credibility.” Bishop told Merritt that he should leave the Senate Building immediately and that Bishop would inform the Committee that Merritt would not be able to testify because he had suddenly been taken ill. Bishop’s overt threats and belligerent attitude instilled fear in Merritt, who felt he was but a single individual against whom were aligned the most powerful forces in the land. It left him with the impression that the Senate Watergate Committee was not interested in finding out what really happened in Watergate.

6) Merritt believes that Shoffler and other Intelligence Agents with whom Shoffler associated were behind the burglaries at his residence at 1703 R St., N.W. and attempts to have him die by stuffing rags in the flu of his hot water heater, so that carbon monoxide would accumulate. He believes some of these Intelligence agents might have worked with Shoffler in devising the wiretap triangulation by which Shoffler setup the Watergate burglars that led to their arrests on June 17, 1972.

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