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Why did the Senate Watergate Committee order

Douglas Caddy

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Robert Merritt, whose book Watergate Exposed will be released this week by TrineDay Publisher, recently told me of his experience before the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973.

He testified three times before the Committee in executive session. As he entered the Senate building to testify the first time, he was warned by Wayne Bishop, a Democrat staff member, that he would face incarceration if he told what he knew. In the days immediately preceding his testimony Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Detective Carl Shoffler and MPD Sergeant Dixie Gildon threatened that he would face severe consequences if he told everything he knew. Shoffler alone was afraid that Merritt would disclose that he had informed Shoffler two weeks in advance of the Watergate burglars’ plan to break into the Democratic National Committee on June 18, 1972. Both Shoffler and Gildon were concerned that Merritt would fully disclose the roles of the MPD and FBI in the hundreds of COINTEL crimes Merritt had engaged in at the direction of these law enforcement agencies in the years preceding Shoffler’s arrest of the burglars at Watergate on June 17, 1972 and for a subsequent period of time.

The first few minutes of his testimony on the first day were taken up by questions from the Senators as to whether it was true that he was a homosexual. Merritt readily admitted that this was true. Several senators expressed condemnation of him, saying he was an immoral person.

At that point Senator Howard Baker made a motion, which was adopted by the Committee, that the transcriber of testimony be ordered to leave the room. Once he had left Merritt told much of what he knew but none of his testimony was taken down in transcription form. Furthermore, Merritt’s attorney, David Isbell of Covington & Burling, was forbidden to be in the room while Merritt testified.

Merritt says that eventually he was given a copy of the printed hearings that included his “testimony.” He says that his “testimony” as reported in the printed hearings consisted of about eight sentences, the final one being that “He is an admitted homosexual.” His portion of the printed hearings took up about one-fifth of a single page even though he testified for three days, each time for approximately two hours.

By ordering the transcriber to leave the room, the Senate Watergate Committee made certain that Merritt’s verbatim testimony of what he knew would never see the light of day.

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