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Questions About Secret Agenda


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Secret Agenda inspired my recent book Dirty Tricks: Nixon, Watergate and the CIA, which contains a lot of new information on areas first covered by Jim Hougan 35 years ago. 

Some of these are included in my new piece for the Washington Post today on what Watergate whistleblowers like Alfred Baldwin and Rob Roy Ratliff tell us about the Trump impeachment hearings: The real threat to Trump from the impeachment hearings

The article draws on my book and includes links to Baldwin's testimony and interviews; and Ratliff's unredacted affidavit concerning secret envelopes passed from Howard Hunt to the CIA before Watergate, which I've just published on my website: https://nixondirtytricks.com/rob-roy-ratliff

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Thanks, Jim. I read Postgate, the new book by Mark Felt's lawyer John O'Connor but found nothing new in it. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have just finished reading 'Secret Agenda' which I agree is excellent. My main takeaway from the book was the parallels with the actual actions of the 'Plumbers' and the plausibly alleged actions of JFK's assassins. I have attempted to list the parallels I see. 

1. A number of the same actors. 

2. A patsy or at least a cover (Nixon)

3. The use of exiled Cubans. 

4. Deception of the CIA on the FBI. 

5. Mysterious deaths of vitally important witnesses.

 

I watched the Front line interview with E Howard Hunt and he near as dammit admits he was working for the CIA by bleating about the remuneration he was owed and stating it was part of a spooks unwritten entitlement to have his family supported. 

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I echo Jim's views on Secret Agenda. It's the cornerstone of Watergate books, in my view. But yes, what Haig's Coup (Ray Locker) does is brilliant, as well. There are so many revelations and patches to the story. Locker fills more and more in each chapter. Regarding Deep Throat, I would be surprised if Al Haig was not one of the major (if not the major) source for Woodward, at least. Colodny & Gettlin nail down the Woodward-Haig relationship in Silent Coup (Adm. Thomas Moorer, Melvin Laird, and Jerry Friedheim confirm), but Haig's Coup nails it down tightly.

Like Jim, I would also highly suggest In Nixon's Web. The real genesis of this alternative thought on Watergate, to a degree, was Nightmare by J. Anthony Lukas (1976), but Hougan is still the cornerstone.

I would also suggest James Rosen's The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate. For those who have an issue with Rosen's conservative leanings, Hougan is no conservative and he has very recently said great things about Rosen's work. When someone asked Hougan what he thought of Rosen's bio on Mitchell, Hougan responded, "Rosen is a meticulous investigative reporter. His biography of John Mitchell is one of the best, most insightful and deeply researched books about the Watergate affair."

There are more books I would recommend for those who want to take a deep dive into Watergate. Phil Stanford's Watergate and the White House Call Girl is an amazing little work on the Heidi Rikan affair, the Deans, and Jeb Magruder. I cannot suggest this enough. And if you want to know about the first few hours and days, Doug Caddy has some great insights (one which he has turned into a nice article for the January issue of garrison). And while Shane O' Sullivan differs a lot on the revisionist version of Watergate - a version of which most of the above authors, for the most part, agree - Dirty Tricks is valuable. If you're someone who likes to question what she/he believes, it has tremendous value. I am in full agreement with the Hougan/Colodny/Locker/Stanford train of thought, but Shane's book did a nice job of making me step back and question it all, which I like. I've always liked that Shane asks me to consider things I might not have before, but he's not heavy-handed about it. If I were making a list of Watergate books you should own, his is on it. I also like Geoff Shepard's work on Watergate, but it's almost entirely legal and deals with the proceedings and congressional investigations.

I didn't read Max Holland on Watergate, because I just couldn't do it. My opinion of his work is... well, I just didn't read it. I'll stop there. Who else would I avoid? Lamar Waldron and Stanley Kutler. John Dean, of course, but as a principal, I'd say all of his statements are worthy of knowing or logging. I would say its safe to throw out Woodward & Bernstein, but you need a base by which to build the revision. So, I guess it's the base. That said, one of the above authors once told me that he's convinced that Bernstein did the Rolling Stone piece in part as a warning to Woodward. The thinking was that Woodward was starting to pull out of harbor alone, and Bernstein basically wrote it as a "Look, I'm not mentioning you, but don't forget that I know you VERY well." While I recognize that Bernstein's piece is important, it's woefully lacking, inasmuch as it doesn't mention the Washington Post as the leading paper that is spooked up. Maybe that was also due to Woodward.  

Edited by S.T. Patrick
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For those interested, I have done these Watergate-based episodes:

Episode 124 Ray Locker      Ray Locker on Haig’s Coup and Watergate (Part 2)

Episode 123 Ray Locker      Ray Locker on Haig’s Coup and Watergate (Part 1)

Episode 108 Geoff Shepard    Reassessing Watergate with Geoff Shepard (Part Two)

Episode 102 Geoff Shepard    Reassessing Watergate with Geoff Shepard

Episode 084 Douglas Caddy   Douglas Caddy – Eyewitness to Watergate

Episode 053 Len Colodny        Colodny vs Woodward on Nixon vs Trump

Episode 037  Ray Locker         Nixon’s Gamble

Episode 036  Phil Stanford     Watergate and the White House Call Girl

Episode 029 Saint John Hunt    E. Howard Hunt, Watergate, & the JFK Assassination

Episode 003   Len Colodny     The Silent Coup of Richard Nixon

Thanks!

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Great title William.

BTW, I don't think so highly of Rosen's book.  He cannot contain his political bias.

Anyone who thinks Bobby Kennedy asked Mitchell to run his brother's campaign in 1964 (?) needs to have his head examined.  Also, to make John Mitchell a hero of the civil rights movement is a bit loony.  Nixon and Mitchell began the polarization strategy to take the south away from the Democrats by exploiting the racial issue.  Everyone knows that except James Rosen.

Geoff Shephard was a member of Nixon's defense team.  He actually tries to say Cox was a Kennedy plant who was trying to make Teddy president?

These two guys are political shills in large part.  Just as, to a lesser degree, Colodny was.  Colodny was in almost daily phone contact with Mitchell.  And the point of all three of these books is somehow to shift the blame for Watergate from Mitchell to Dean.  

What I liked so much about Hougan's book is that it did not have any political bias and was not a political salvage job.  Nixon was a large part of the cover up.  But he did not understand what the original crime (s) were really all about. 

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I respect your views on Rosen and Shepard. I think you're 100% correct about Hougan.

I understand the criticisms, though I don't think being a part of Nixon's defense team negates all of the legal criticisms of the committees and judges. One day, a Trump team member will write a legal work criticizing Mueller's team. Will it be biased? Yes, by both ideology and experience. But that won't mean that it's wrong in its criticisms. I also thought Shepard's thesis on Ted Kennedy was a massive reach. It seemed like one of those things where you start with the thesis and then find the evidence that proves it (and only that evidence, disregarding all other evidence that disproves it). However, The Real Watergate Scandal, his second book, is, I believe, a fair legal criticism.

I disagree about Len Colodny. He has never struck me as a political shill, even slightly. Yes, he spoke to Mitchell a lot. He also spoke to Ehrlichman at length. But I think if you asked Len and Bob Gettlin, they would tell you that they would have been happy and eager to speak to Dean, Haig, and Nixon every day during their process. But they had no control over who answered the phone. The transcript of their interview with Woodward shows a very hostile Woodward. Therefore, that was the last conversation they had with him. They tried diligently to get everyone on the record. Some talked a lot, some talked once or twice, some not at all. If you have someone as high in the administration as Mitchell talking, I think the "good researcher" thing to do is to keep talking. The more you get on record, the better.

I do think that the more one believes the Rikan/Call Girl Ring story, the more one usually believes Dean (John re: Mo) is directly involved in the actual break-ins, or at least the second one. To dismiss the Rikan ring is also to try to exonerate Dean. So, there probably is a link there in whether someone goes further down the Mitchell road or the Dean road.

But, as always, Jim, I read your comments and will think about them. I always respect what you have to say. 

 

     

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Jim Hougan, whom I knew slightly when we were both reporters on rival papers 

in Madison, wouldn't meet with me when I visited Washington in 1988 and asked him for an interview for my

Poppy Bush/CIA research (among other things, Bush was chairman of the Republican

National Committee during Watergate and helped push Nixon out the door). Hougan seemed willing at first when we talked on the phone

but then got cold feet. He told me writing about the Kennedy assassination is "career suicide."  The Nation in my first Bush article censored my

attempt to link Bush's CIA connections to Watergate; I go into that in INTO THE NIGHTMARE. But I still admire SECRET AGENDA.

Edited by Joseph McBride
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Thanks ST.  You do know that Gettlin took his name off of Silent Coup?

I always thought that Bailey was not a good witness.  But I do think you can make the case that Dean ordered the second break in.  But the point is that in Silent Coup all the machinations of how the burglars got caught are more or less ignored. 

Joe, interesting that Hougan said the JFK case was career suicide,  in many ways that is correct.

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Thanks for your kind words about my book, S.T. I also admire Jim Hougan for his lack of political bias and agree with Jim that the Rosen and Shepard books are too politically biased and constructed to exonerate Mitchell and Nixon respectively. They're both skilled researchers but a lot of the good research James Rosen did on the call girl theory didn't make it into his Mitchell biography and appears for the first time in my book. 

Exhibit A is his 1995 interview of Alfred Baldwin, in which Baldwin emphatically dismisses the call girl theory and reveals McCord told him he was in Dallas on the day of the JFK assassination. As Baldwin was the only person to hear the 200 telephone calls intercepted on Spencer Oliver's phone, I found his denial in this interview and a court deposition the following year persuasive. Baldwin discussed the content of the calls with Earl Silbert and the FBI in July 1972 but they didn't include a call girl ring, more likely DNC secretaries gossiping about their sex lives. You can read the lengthy report of Baldwin's FBI interview and his detailed statements to DNC attorney Alan Galbraith and the LA Times on my website: https://nixondirtytricks.com/alfred-baldwin

Many of the 200 calls were sexual in nature because Oliver wasn't in his office half the time. It had a refrigerator and kitchenette, so secretaries ate lunch there and used his phone. Maxie Wells dated five guys during this period and gossiped about them on Oliver's phone with Marty Sampson, who worked in the Young Democrats office on the first floor. After the bug was found, Wells admitted to Oliver their risqué conversations were probably the "extremely personal, intimate and potentially embarrassing" calls Baldwin had told Earl Silbert about. Oliver's office also had a WATS line, so Wells and others could make long distance calls to boyfriends at night. On top of this, Oliver was attending marriage counselling and the first call Baldwin heard was the Olivers talking about their marital difficulties. I'd love to find a plausible explanation for the key but I don't think the call girl theory fits.

There is no evidence of John Dean directing any of the burglars to target Maxie Wells' desk. Dean claimed he met Hunt only once (with Charles Colson) before Watergate, Liddy knew nothing about the key and the other burglars had no contact with Dean. So I disagree with S.T.'s statement that "to dismiss the Rikan ring is also to try to exonerate Dean." I'm deeply skeptical of Dean but the call girl theory, as it stands, is tantalising but unproven. 

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It is career suicide if you try to tell the truth about the assassination while working for the MSM,

but not (necessarily) if you write independent books and articles. As we who write seriously

about the case know, one of the sickest jokes is the CIA slander of assassination researchers

as motivated by money. That is repeated a lot by those who attack "conspiracy theorists," but

as we know, with rare exceptions the big bucks go to those who write pro-Warren Commission

books. The rest of us do it as a labor of love and invest our own money and time.

Edited by Joseph McBride
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4 hours ago, Joseph McBride said:

It is career suicide if you try to tell the truth about the assassination while working for the MSM,

but not (necessarily) if you write independent books and articles. As we who write seriously

about the case know, one of the sickest jokes is the CIA slander of assassination researchers

as motivated by money. That is repeated a lot by those who attack "conspiracy theorists," but

as we know, with rare exceptions the big bucks go to those who write pro-Warren Commission

books. The rest of us do it as a labor of love and invest our own money and time.

   Any thoughts about the managerial "mechanism" of this MSM blacklisting of JFKA truth (and 9/11 truth) and ongoing MSM promotion of the Warren Commission Report?

   Who in hell is coordinating and implementing this massive 56 year-old systemic disinformation campaign in the U.S.?  (I was brooding about this subject while studying the selection of JFKA (fake) "history" books at the book store in Dealey Plaza last week.)

   The censorship, certainly, seems real, but it also seems almost incredible that something this pervasive could occur, for decades, in the mass media of a nominally "free," democratic society.

   Is it merely an epi-phenomenon of shared ignorance, delusion, and/or confirmation bias on the part of journalists, editors and publishers, or is it something more sinister and deliberately "conspiratorial" on the part of American media moguls?

   If there really is a multi-decade conspiracy of silence of this magnitude in our corporate MSM, something's gotta give.

  

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7 hours ago, James DiEugenio said:

Thanks ST.  You do know that Gettlin took his name off of Silent Coup?

It was my understanding that he did so not because he didn't believe in it but because of the Dean lawsuit. He tired of the whole thing. I've talked to him since. I didn't ask him that directly, but that was the story I got, and that was what he more or less explained. He did say he was very happy with the work they did. 

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