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McCord Letter


James Richards
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Below is a letter James McCord wrote to Judge Sirica before sentencing in the Watergate case. Given that I believe several of the players were also involved with what happened in Dallas in 1963, I thought this interesting.

Among other things, McCord says that Watergate was not a CIA operation. Reading between the lines and maybe I am being overly analytical here, but I get the feeling that McCord is hinting at something deeper than what happened at Watergate.

FWIW.

James

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I think McCord was telling the truth about the burglary not being a CIA operation. But I think the CIA had foreknowledge of it, and used McCord to make sure that the burglars would be caught (through McCord's "incompetence" such as taping a door the wrong way, leaving the tape clearly visible to security) and that Nixon would therefore fall.

That's why, I believe, McCord told Sirica his motives were different from the others. His job was to see they got busted.

He may have wanted to talk to Sirica in private after sentencing to let the judge know he was a CIA agent doing his job for the usual "national security," thus hoping perhaps for early release.

I doubt that he wanted to tell the judge anything he may have known about Dallas.

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I think McCord was telling the truth about the burglary not being a CIA operation. But I think the CIA had foreknowledge of it, and used McCord to make sure that the burglars would be caught (through McCord's "incompetence" such as taping a door the wrong way, leaving the tape clearly visible to security) and that Nixon would therefore fall.

That's why, I believe, McCord told Sirica his motives were different from the others. His job was to see they got busted.

He may have wanted to talk to Sirica in private after sentencing to let the judge know he was a CIA agent doing his job for the usual "national security," thus hoping perhaps for early release.

I doubt that he wanted to tell the judge anything he may have known about Dallas.

DEAR RON , LOL ,yes every thing you say is true, but please let me add that McCord put the tape "wrong" twice. THe security guard removed the tape once- thinking it was some sort of cleaning crew method of not using keys- he came back and found the door taped again open. THANKS SGAAL

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ron, Steve

Thats the old 'the CIA set up Nixon' theory, and it has been THOROUGHLY debunked---Nixon, Mitchell, et.al tried to THROW OFF responsibility for Watergate onto the CIA, but Helms wouldn't play along. McCord and Hunt knew a lot and Nixon knew they knew a lot and much debate rages over what "Every Tree In the Forest Will Fall" (McCords' threat) meant...McCord basically trusted the judge more than the White House and he was a more of a boy scout than the Cubans and Hunt who took the money and stayed silent...McCord was lifer FBI and Hunt was lifer CIA---different culture. Read "A Piece of Tape" by James McCord (Private imprint 1974).

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Ron, Steve

Thats the old 'the CIA set up Nixon' theory, and it has been THOROUGHLY debunked---Nixon, Mitchell, et.al tried to THROW OFF responsibility for Watergate onto the CIA, but Helms wouldn't play along.  McCord and Hunt knew a lot and Nixon knew they knew a lot and much debate rages over what "Every Tree In the Forest Will Fall" (McCords' threat) meant...McCord basically trusted the judge more than the White House and he was a more of a boy scout than the Cubans and Hunt who took the money and stayed silent...McCord was lifer FBI and Hunt was lifer CIA---different culture. Read "A Piece of Tape" by James McCord (Private imprint 1974).

I am surprised to learn that the old 'CIA set up Nixon' notion has been "THOROUGHLY debunked." I've never comsidered it debunked in any way. As Ron wrote:

"I think McCord was telling the truth about the burglary not being a CIA operation. But I think the CIA had foreknowledge of it, and used McCord to make sure that the burglars would be caught (through McCord's "incompetence" such as taping a door the wrong way, leaving the tape clearly visible to security) and that Nixon would therefore fall.

That's why, I believe, McCord told Sirica his motives were different from the others. His job was to see they got busted.

He may have wanted to talk to Sirica in private after sentencing to let the judge know he was a CIA agent doing his job for the usual "national security," thus hoping perhaps for early release.

I doubt that he wanted to tell the judge anything he may have known about Dallas."

We don't "think" the CIA had foreknowledge; we know it. The burglars have admitted to keeping their CIA contacts informed of their activities. McCord placed the tape horizontally twice, and when asked about the issue by another burgler, lied. It is likely that McCord's "motives were different from the others." McCord not only got them busted, but when the case was ready to disappear, he sent the critical letter to Judge Sirica that opened up everything. I don't understand the basis for Shanet's assertion that "McCord was lifer FBI." My understanding is that he was CIA Security Chief.

Tim

Edited by Tim Carroll
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Tim

thats a reasonable response. You are right McCord did Four years with the FBI and then 19 years with the CIA (I had it backwards) but

McCord did a lot of FBI work before he went to the OS, and he was a moralizer.

Nixon Campaign Chairman John Mitchell, Magruder and Liddy cooked up the Watergate burglaryand if the CIA knew about it in advance they did nothing to stop it, BUT

that is different from setting up the President by screwing it up.

It may be possible that they manipulated this, but most people who

have read the Watergate historiography find tons of blame falling on Mitchell, CREEP, Liddy, John Dean and very little to link Langley to it...It's ugly because McCord and Hunt had CIA backgrounds, and the Cubans were Bay of Pigs veterans...it has been debunked, but the possibility exists that CIA was more involved than we know...one reason I and other Watergate historians are eager to absolve the CIA is that that this is the major way Nixon's defenders take the heat off of him---the responsibility must rest somewhere, I think the impeachment was correct, and that NIXON - not the CIA - was the culpable party. The new theory is that the CIA was in on a blackmail/prostitution ring run out of the Democratic National COmmittee and that John Dean wanted the trick book that may or may not have had an entry for his wife, Maureen...lawsuits have raged over this, the book Silent COup makes this case....it is a reasonable approach; but really, the CIA frame of Nixon is not as compelling as the case against his own team, Mitchell, Liddy, et al. Whats weird is all the JFK 11/22/63 figures in the Watergate story, Hunt, Sturgis, Barker, etc....I will scan in and attach the McCord letter to Sirica with my next post.

Shanet

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Tim

It's ugly because McCord and Hunt had CIA backgrounds, and the Cubans were Bay of Pigs veterans...it has been debunked, but the possibility exists that CIA was more involved than we know...one reason I and other Watergate historians are eager to absolve the CIA is that that this is the major way Nixon's defenders take the heat off of him---the responsibility must rest somewhere, I think the impeachment was correct, and that NIXON - not the CIA - was the culpable party.... The new theory is that the CIA was in on a blackmail/prostitution ring run out of the Democratic National Committee and that John Dean wanted the trick book that may or may not have had an entry for his wife, Maureen (hot hot hot!)...lawsuits have raged over this, the book Silent COup makes this case....it is a reasonable approach; but really, the CIA frame of Nixon is not as compelling as the case against his own team, Mitchell, Liddy, et al. Whats weird is all the JFK 11/22/63 figures in the Watergate story, Hunt, Sturgis, Barker, etc....I will scan in and attach the McCord letter to Sirica with my next post.

Shanet

Shanet - the end of your post is the most substantive: Nixon's use of the Dallas operatives was precisely the leverage he used against Helms, and the disclosure of that conversation was the definitive and immediate element in Nixon's loss of political support and resignation. It goes far beyond "weird," as you put it.

On the tenth anniversary of the invasion fiasco, E. Howard Hunt (Eduardo) traveled to the Bay of Pigs Monument in Miami to recruit exile veterans for a new operation. Resurrecting the dream of overthrowing Castro, Eduardo assured them that “the whole thing is not over.” Subsequent events would expose a high level role played by these terrorists when a team of Bay of Pigs veterans was caught burglarizing the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Found among the burglars’ effects was evidence that they were being coordinated by E. Howard Hunt, who had an office in the White House. In addition to political burglary, Hunt had been given the high-level assignment, with Lucien Conein, of proving conclusively that President Kennedy had been complicit in the assassination of South Vietnam’s leader in 1963, Ngo Dinh Diem.

President Nixon subsequently managed to remain in power for more than two years, withstanding remarkable disclosures, until the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that he had to turn over tape recordings of certain Oval Office conversations. Nixon was out of office within two weeks, primarily because of the disclosure of a taped discussion about Hunt that occurred a few days after the break-in. This tape recording has become known in history as the smoking gun conversation.

During that incredible exchange that would topple a presidency, Nixon ordered his Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman, to meet with Richard Helms, the Director of the CIA, and tell him to call off the FBI’s investigation of the bur-glary for national security reasons. Nixon suggested that Hunt’s involvement be used as a lever to make sure the CIA would cooperate. The transcripts of President Nixon’s rantings about Hunt are perhaps the most factually revealing evidence of secret governance in history:

“Hunt . . . will uncover a lot of things. You open that scab there’s a hell of a lot of things. . . . Tell them we just feel that it would be very detrimental to have this thing go any further. This involves these Cu-bans, Hunt, and a lot of hanky-panky that we have nothing to do with ourselves.

When you get the CIA people in say, “Look, the problem is that this will open up the whole Bay of Pigs thing again.” So they should call the FBI in and for the good of the country don’t go any further into this case. Period.

Just say (unintelligible) very bad to have this fellow Hunt, ah, he knows too damned much. . . . If it gets out that this is all involved, the Cuba thing would be a fiasco. It would make the CIA look bad, it’s go-ing to make Hunt look bad, and it’s likely to blow the whole Bay of Pigs which we think would be very unfortunate—both for the CIA, and for the country, at this time, and for American foreign policy. Just tell him to lay off. . . .”

Haldeman recorded Helms’ dramatic reaction to the threat: “Turmoil in the room, Helms gripping the arms of his chair leaning forward and shouting, ‘The Bay of Pigs had nothing to do with this’” Despite this, Helms acquiesced and Haldeman was able to report to the President that “his strategy had worked,” that Helms would be “very happy to be helpful.” But the remarks and Helms’ behavior raised the question in Haldeman’s mind: “What was such dynamite in the Bay of Pigs story?” The more innocuous explanation is that Nixon, as the chief White House official involved with the Eisenhower administration’s Cuba invasion planning, knew of the government’s use of Mafia assassination assets in the efforts against Castro. However, following years of study, analysis and reflection, along with his personal knowledge of the players involved, Haldeman asserted a more astonishing answer to that question: “It seems that in all of those Nixon references to the Bay of Pigs, he was actually referring to the Kennedy assassination.” Given his reaction, it is apparent that Helm’s clearly understood Nixon’s message.

Aside from such an interpretation of the dark secret to which Nixon was alluding, he and the CIA director had a more current mutuality of interests. Helms wanted to suppress the CIA-Hunt relationship because it violated the Agency’s charter regarding domestic spying. Nixon wanted to suppress the White House-Hunt relationship because it would reveal precisely for whom the chief Watergate burglar was working. E. Howard Hunt clearly represented a problem for more than one major Washington power center. Nine months after the smoking gun conversation, when Hunt was about to be sentenced, Nixon was told that Hunt had issued a blackmail demand in lieu of revealing some of the “seamy things” he had done for the President. Nixon’s response was unequivocal: “Well, for Christ’s sakes . . . get it.”

Tim

Edited by Tim Carroll
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Tim,

Good post. I find it interesting how the Cubans involved were very much underplayed. They were passed off as Bay of Pigs veterans still with a cause at heart. The reality is that Eugenio Martinez was a veteran of over 300 dangerous missions into Cuba and was considered a CIA legend. Virgilio Gonzalez was passsed off as a humble locksmith when in fact he had solid history with Felipe Vidal Santiago in Cuba before their defections, was also a veteran of many anti-Castro Cuban missions and had trained in sniper camps. Both of these men were also participants in Operation Tilt (Bayo-Pawley mission). These were serious guys.

Then we can add one of those who got away during Watergate, namely Felipe de Diego who came through Fort Benning in 1963 with Posada Carilles and Felix Rodriguez.

James

Edited by James Richards
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James, Tim

Excellent Posts-Factual and germane.

The Bay of Pigs references and the Number of links between Watergate and

Dallas are critical to understanding late 20th century US political history.

However, I still don't see the burglary as a CIA set up to topple Nixon. I think the White House (Colson) had brought in some very dirty political operatives from the sixties (the assassination and the Watergate burglary were less than ten years apart) and when these people got in trouble Nixon used Dallas (euphimism Bayof Pigs) to pressure Helms. Still not much to show that Langley caused the arrests to get rid of Nixon....great factual evidence from both posts...the Watergate burglary team was mere deeply involved in CIA Bay of Pigs than I knew.

Shanet

(((((((((the Cubans involved were very much underplayed. They were passed off as Bay of Pigs veterans still with a cause at heart. The reality is that Eugenio Martinez was a veteran of over 300 dangerous missions into Cuba and was considered a CIA legend. Virgilio Gonzalez was passsed off as a humble locksmith when in fact he had solid history with Felipe Vidal Santiago in Cuba before their defections, was also a veteran of many anti-Castro Cuban missions and had trained in sniper camps. \one of those who got away during Watergate, namely Felipe de Diego who came through Fort Benning in 1963 with Posada Carilles and Felix Rodriguez.

James)))))

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  • 13 years later...

Here is the letter that is missing from this post...

 

James W. McCord, Jr.
7 Winder Court
Rockville , Maryland 20850

TO: JUDGE SIRICA March 19, 1973

Certain questions have been posed to me from your honor through the probation officer, dealing with details of the case, motivations, intent and mitigating circumstances.

In endeavoring to respond to these questions, I am whipsawed in a variety of legalities. First, I may be called before a Senate Committee investigating this matter. Secondly, I may be involved in a civil suit, and thirdly there may be a new trial at some future date. Fourthly, the probation officer may be called before the Senate Committee to present testimony regarding what may otherwise be a privileged communication between defendant and Judge, as I understand it; if I answered certain questions to the probation officer, it is possible such answers could become a matter of record in the Senate and there-fore available for use in the other proceedings just described. My answers would, it would seem to me, to violate my fifth amendment rights, and possibly my 6th amendment right to counsel and possibly other rights.

On the other hand, to fail to answer your questions may appear to be non-cooperation, and I can therefore expect a much more severe sentence.

There are further considerations which are not to be lightly taken. Several members of my family have expressed fear for my life if I disclose knowledge of the facts in this matter, either publicly or to any government representative. Whereas I do not share their concerns to the same degree, nevertheless, I do believe that retaliatory measures will be taken against me, my family, and my friends should I disclose such facts. Such retaliation could destroy careers, income, and reputations of persons who are innocent of any guilt whatever.

Be that as it may, in the interests of justice, and in the interests of restoring faith in the criminal justice system, which faith has been severely damaged in this case, I will state the following to you at this time which I hope may be of help to you in meting out justice in this case:

 

  1. There was political pressure applied to the defendants to plead guilty and remain silent.
  2. Perjury occurred during the trial in matters highly material to the very structure, orientation, and impact of the government’s case, and to the motivation and intent of the defendants.
  3. Others involved in the Watergate operation were not identified during the trial, when they could have been by those testifying.
  4. The Watergate operation was not a CIA operation. The Cubans may have been misled by others into believing that it was a CIA operation. I know for a fact that it was not.
  5. Some statements were unfortunately made by a witness which left the Court with the impression that he was stating untruths, or withholding facts of his knowledge, when in fact only honest errors of memory were involved.
  6. My motivations were different than those of the others involved, but were not limited to, or simply those offered in my defense during the trial. This is no fault of my attorneys, but of the circumstances under which we had to prepare my defense.

Following sentence, I would appreciate the opportunity to talk with you privately in chambers. Since I cannot feel confident in talking with an FBI agent, in testifying before a Grand Jury whose U.S. Attorneys work for the Department of Justice, or in talking with other government representatives, such a discussion with you would be of assistance to me.

I have not discussed the above with my attorneys as a matter of protection for them.

I give this statement freely and voluntarily, fully realizing that I may be prosecuted for giving a false statement to a Judicial Official, if the statements herein are knowingly untrue. The statements are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.

[signed]
James W. McCord, Jr.

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