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Louis James Russell

John Simkin

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When he was writing his book, Secret Agenda, Jim Hougan attempted to interview James McCord. He negotiated the interview via McCord’s attorney, Rufus King. Hougan was asked to list the topics he wanted to discuss. McCord, speaking via his attorney, said he was unwilling to talk about Lou Russell or Lee R. Pennington. In fact, he was unwilling to speak to any writer working on the Watergate case “who so much as expressed an interest in Lou Russell”.

This is an interesting position to take. McCord could not hurt either of these men. Both men had both died of heart attacks (Russell, July, 1973) and Penninton (October, 1974). Clearly he was not protecting these men, only those who were still alive and in some way linked to these two characters.

What do we know about Lou Russell? Who was linked to him?

Russell was in his youth a professional baseball player. After his retirement he became a private detective. In 1948 Russell met Richard Nixon and became his chief investigator into the Alger Hiss case. Later he became a staff member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA). Russell also met two other men of importance during this period, James W. McCord and Lee R. Pennington, a member of the American Legion.

In 1971 Russell worked for General Security Services (GSS), the private guard service that protected the Watergate offices in Washington. He also did some part-time work for Allied Investigators, a company owned by John Leon. Russell also performed assignments for the lawyer, Bernard Fensterwald. This included investigations into the John F. Kennedy assassination.

According to the author, Jim Hougan (Secret Agenda): "Russell's apartment was a kind of way station for depressed hookers, a safe place with someone who did not mind listening to sad stories. No one objected, then when, Russell chose to idle away his leisure time in the apartments at the Columbia Plaza. He was a friend to many of the girls, a sometime customer, a freelance bouncer and a source of referrals."

In March, 1972, Russell left GSS to join McCord Associates. One of Russell's first tasks was to investigate the journalist Jack Anderson. He also purchased $3,000 in electronic eavesdropping equipment from John Leon of Allied Investigators. Russell's friend, Charles F. Knight, was told that this equipment had been purchased for McCord.

This equipment was used to tape the telephone conversations between politicians based at the Democratic Party National Committee and a small group of prostitutes run by Phillip Mackin Bailley that worked their trade in the Columbia Plaza.

On 16th June, 1972, Russell spent time at his daughter's house in Benedict, Maryland. That evening Russell travelled to Washington and spent between 8.30 until 10.30 p.m. in the Howard Johnson's Motel. This was the motel where those involved in the Watergate burglary were staying. However, Russell later told FBI agents that he did not meet his employer, McCord, at the motel. Russell then said he drove back to his daughters in Maryland.

Soon after midnight Russell told his daughter he had to return to Washington to do "some work for McCord". It was estimated that he arrived back at the Howard Johnson's Motel at around 12.45 a.m. At 1.30 a.m. Russell had a meeting with McCord. It is not clear what role Russell played in the Watergate break-in. Jim Hougan has suggested that he was helping McCord to "sabotage the break-in".

Later that night Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Bernard L. Barker and McCord were arrested while in the Democratic Party headquarters in Watergate.

Russell was interviewed by the FBI soon afterwards. He claimed that during the break-in he was in his rooming house. The FBI agents did not believe him but none of the burglars claimed he had been involved in the conspiracy and he was released.

Bob Woodward discovered that Russell had been working for McCord. He interviewed Russell but decided that he had not taken part in the Watergate break-in. According to Woodward: "He (Russell) was just an old drunk".

Soon afterwards Russell received a phone call from Carmine Bellino, an investigator who worked for Edward Kennedy and the Senate Administrative Practices Committee. It is not known was was said but as a result of this conversation Russell went to stay with Bellino's friend, William Birely on the top floor of the Twin Towers complex in Silver Spring, Maryland. Birely was also a close friend of Lee R. Pennington. Both men had been active members of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Russell now went to work for Security International, a company owned by James McCord and a former CIA officer named William Shea. He also carried out assignments for William Birely. According to Russell's daughter, Jean Hooper, this included several trips Rhode Island and Connecticut. In September, 1972, he did some work for Nick Beltrante at the George McGovern offices.

In April 1973, Russell suffered a heart attack. However, despite being unable to work, McCord continued to pay him as an employee of Security International. Russell did not have a bank account and his old friend, Bernard Fensterwald, paid his cheques into his Committee to Investigate Assassinations.

It was eventually discovered that Russell had indeed been involved in some way with the Watergate break-in. On 9th May, 1973, Sam Ervin asked his investigators to obtain Russell's telephone records, work diaries and bank statements. On 17th May, Deep Throat warned Bob Woodward that "everyone's life is a danger". The following day Russell suffered another heart-attack. This was the first day of James McCord's public testimony before Ervin's Watergate Committee. After a couple of weeks Russell was released from hospital.

Russell died of a massive heart attack on 2nd July, 1973. He was buried the next day.

Russell can be directly linked to Richard Nixon. Others who he appeared to have had a close relationship with him during the period include John Leon, William Shea, Carmine Bellino, and William Birely.

The most interesting of these links is with Bernard Fensterwald. He had used Lou Russell for many years. As Russell never had a bank account he used Fensterwald to cash his cheques from McCord and Shea.

In 1976 Fensterwald wrote a very interesting book about all the major characters involved in the JFK assassination and Watergate. It is a long book (592 pages) and mentions virtually everyone you can think of that played a small role in these events. The one man who does not get a mention is Lou Russell.

You can find what I have on him here:


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Here is a very interesting account of what Lou Russell might have been up to. It also provides information that Russell was murdered. I clearly need to do some more research into Carmine Bellino.

Webster G. Tarpley & Anton Chaitkin, George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography (2005)

One of the major sub-plots of Watergate, and one that will eventually lead us back to the documented public record of George Bush, is the relation of the various activities of the Plumbers to the wiretapping of a group of prostitutes who operated out of a brothel in the Columbia Plaza Apartments, located in the immediate vicinity of the Watergate buildings. Among the customers of the prostitutes there appear to have been a US Senator, an astronaut, A Saudi prince (the Embassy of Saudi Arabia is nearby), US and South Korean intelligence officials, and above all numerous Democratic Party leaders whose presence can be partially explained by the propinquity of the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate. The Columbia Plaza Apartments brothel was under intense CIA surveillance by the Office of Security/Security Research Staff through one of their assets, an aging private detective out of the pages of Damon Runyon who went by the name of Louis James Russell. Russell was, according to Hougan, especially interested in bugging a hot line phone that linked the DNC with the nearby brothel. During the Watergate break-ins, James McCord's recruit to the Plumbers, Alfred C. Baldwin, would appear to have been bugging the telephones of the Columbia Plaza brothel.

Lou Russell, in the period between June 20 and July 2, 1973, was working for a detective agency that was helping George Bush prepare for an upcoming press conference. In this sense, Russell was working for Bush.

Russell is relevant because he seems (although he denied it) to have been the fabled sixth man of the Watergate break-in, the burglar who got away. He may also have been the burglar who tipped off the police, if indeed anyone did. Russell was a harlequin who had been the servant of many masters. Lou Russell had once been the chief investigator for the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He had worked for the FBI. He had been a stringer for Jack Anderson, the columnist. In December, 1971 he had been an employee of General Security Services, the company that provided the guards who protected the Watergate buildings. In March of 1972 Russell had gone to work for James McCord and McCord Associates, whose client was the CREEP. Later, after the scandal had broken, Russell worked for McCord's new and more successful firm, Security Associates. Russell had also worked directly for the CREEP as a night watchman. Russell had also worked for John Leon of Allied Investigators, Inc., a company that later went to work for George Bush and the Republican National Committee. Still later, Russell found a job with the headquarters of the McGovern for President campaign. Russell's lawyer was Bud Fensterwald, and sometimes Russell performed investigative services for Fensterwald and for Fensterwald's Committee to Investigate Assassinations. In September, 1972, well after the scandal had become notorious, Russell seems to have joined with one Nick Beltrante in carrying out electronic countermeasures sweeps of the DNC headquarters, and during one of these he appears to have planted an electronic eavesdropping device in the phone of DNC worker Spencer Oliver which, when it was discovered, re-focussed public attention on the Watergate scandal at the end of the summer of 1972.

Russell was well acquainted with Carmine Bellino, the chief investigator on the staff of Sam Ervin's Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Practices. Bellino was a Kennedy operative who had superintended the seamy side of the JFK White House, including such figures as Judith Exner, the president's alleged paramour. Later, Bellino would become the target of George Bush's most revealing public action during the Watergate period. Bellino's friend William Birely later provided Russell with an apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland, (thus allowing him to leave his room in a rooming house on Q Street in the District), a new car, and sums of money.

Russell had been a heavy drinker, and his social circle was that of the prostitutes, whom he sometimes patronized and sometimes served as a bouncer and goon. His familiarity with the brothel milieu facilitated his service for the Office of Security, which was to oversee the bugging and other surveillance of Columbia Plaza and other locations.

Lou Russell was incontestably one of the most fascinating figures of Watergate. How remarkable, then, that the indefatigable ferrets Woodward and Bernstein devoted so little attention to him, deeming him worthy of mention in neither of their two books. Woodward and met with Russell, but had ostensibly decided that there was "nothing to the story. Woodward claims to have seen nothing in Russell beyond the obvious "old drunk."

The FBI had questioned Russell after the DNC break-ins, probing his whereabouts on June 16-17 with the suspicion that he had indeed been one of the burglars. But this questioning led to nothing. Instead, Russell was contacted by Carmine Bellino, and later by Bellino's broker Birely, who set Russell up in the new apartment (or safe house) already mentioned, where one of the Columbia Plaza prostitutes moved in with him.

By 1973, minority Republican staffers at the Ervin committee began to realize the importance of Russell to a revisionist account of the scandal that might exonerate Nixon to some extent by shifting the burden of guilt elsewhere. On May 9, 1973, the Ervin committee accordingly subpoenaed Russell's telephone, job, and bank records. Two days later Russell replied to the committee that he had no job records or diaries, had no bank account, made long-distance calls only to his daughter, and could do nothing for the committee.

On May 16-17, 1973, Deep Throat warned Woodward that "everybody's life is in danger." On May 18, while the staff of the Ervin committee were pondering their next move vis-avis Russell, Russell suffered a massive heart attack. This was the same day that McCord, advised by his lawyer and Russell's, Fensterwald, began his public testimony to the Ervin committee on the coverup. Russell was taken to Washington Adventist Hospital, where he recovered to some degree and convalesced until June 20. Russell was convinced that he had been the victim of an attempted assassination. He told his daughter after leaving the hospital that he believed that he had been poisoned, that someone had entered his apartment (the Bellino-Birely safe house in Silver Spring) and "switched pills on me."

Leaving the hospital on June 20, Russell was still very weak and pale. But now, although he remained on the payroll of James McCord, he also accepted a retainer from his friend John Leon, who had been engaged by the Republicans to carry out a counter investigation of the Watergate affair. Leon was in contact with Jerris Leonard, a lawyer associated with Nixon, the GOP, the Republican National Committee, and with Chairman George Bush. Leonard was a former assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Nixon administration. Leonard had stepped down as head of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) on March 17, 1973. In June, 1973 Leonard was special counsel to George Bush personally, hired by Bush and not by the RNC. Leonard says today that his job consisted in helping to keep the Republican Party separate from Watergate, deflecting Watergate from the party "so it would not be a party thing." As Hougan tells it, "Leon was convinced that Watergate was a set-up, that prostitution was at the heart of the affair, and that the Watergate arrests had taken place following a tip-off to the police; in other words, the June 17 burglary had been sabotaged from within, Leon believed, and he intended to prove it." Integral to Leon's theory of the affair was Russell's relationship to the Ervin committee's chief investigator, Carmine Bellino, and the circumstances surrounding Russell's relocation to Silver Spring in the immediate aftermath of the Watergate arrests. In an investigative memorandum submitted to GOP lawyer Jerris Leonard, Leon described what he hoped to prove: that Russell, reporting to Bellino, had been a spy for the Democrats within the CRP, and that Russell had tipped off Bellino (and the police) to the June 17 break-in. The man who knew most about this was, of course, Leon's new employee, Lou Russell."

Is it possible that Jerris Leonard communicated the contents of Leon's memorandum to the RNC and to its Chairman George Bush during the days after he received it? It is possible. But for Russell, the game was over: on July 2, 1973, barely two weeks after his release from the hospital, Russell suffered a second heart attack, which killed him. He was buried with quite suspicious haste the following day. The potential witness with perhaps the largest number of personal ties to Watergate protagonists, and the witness who might have re-directed the scandal, not just towards Bellino, but toward the prime movers behind and above McCord and Hunt and Paisley, had perished in a way that recalls the fate of so many knowledgeable Iran-contra figures.

With Russell silenced forever, Leon appears to have turned his attention to targeting Bellino, perhaps with a view to forcing him to submit to depositioning or other questioning in which questions about his relationship to Russell might be asked. Leon, who had been convicted in 1964 of wiretapping in a case involving El Paso Gas Co. and Tennessee Gas Co., had weapons in his own possession that could be used against Bellino. During the time that Russell was still in the hospital, on June 8, Leon had signed an affidavit for Jerris Leonard in which he stated that he had been hired by Democratic operative Bellino during the 1960 presidential campaign to "infiltrate the operations" of Albert B. "Ab" Hermann, a staff member of the Republican National Committee. Leon asserted in the affidavit that although he had not been able to infiltrate Hermann's office, he observed the office with field glasses and employed "an electronic device known as 'the big ear' aimed at Mr. Hermann's window." Leon recounted that he had been assisted by former CIA officer John Frank, Oliver W. Angelone and former Congressional investigator Ed Jones in the anti-Nixon 1960 operations.

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Lou Russell on the left below.

Great. I did not think one existed. Have you gor photographs of Bernard Fensterwald, Lee R. Pennington, Carmine Bellino and John Leon?


The first image is Carmine Bellino.

The second one is Hoover with Lee Pennington (sorry about the poor quality).

Third image is Bernard Fensterwald.

I don't have one of John Leon.


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Namebase entry for Louis James Russell:


Bellett,G. Age of Secrets. 1995 (88, 104-6, 109, 111-2, 122-3, 136)

Donner,F. The Age of Surveillance. 1981 (408)

Groden,R. Livingstone,H. High Treason. 1990 (364)

Harper's Magazine 1980-01 (37-56)

Hougan,J. Secret Agenda. 1984 (xvi, 80, 82, 116-9, 185, 207-9, 236-9, 268, 306-7, 310)

Hougan,J. Spooks. 1979 (266, 281-2)

Lasky,V. It Didn't Start With Watergate. 1978 (292-3)

Oglesby,C. The Yankee and Cowboy War. 1976 (300-1)

Schrecker,E. No Ivory Tower. 1986 (141)

Scott,P.D. Deep Politics. 1993 (236-7)

Summers,A. The Arrogance of Power. 2000 (66, 68, 408-9, 419, 458)

Tarpley,W.G. Chaitkin,A. George Bush. 1992 (252-5)

Washington Post Book World 1984-11-25 (5)

Yakovlev,N. Washington Silhouettes. 1985 (122)

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James, are you sure that is a picture of Lou Russell. The postman has just delivered a copy of Anthony Summers, The Arrogance of Power. The book includes a picture of Russell testifying against Alger Hiss. Do you think it is the same man?

I am looking forward to reading the book. I hope it will include information to support my theories on:

Nixon, Watergate and the JFK Assassination


Operation Sandwedge: Jack Kennedy and George Wallace


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Do we know the actual dates of the images?

Anthony Summers does not give a date but it looks like he is speaking at the House Committee on Un-American Activities. That would probably make it 1948 when he was testifying against Alger Hiss. Unfortunately I have yet to find a birth date for Russell. However, he looks in his late 30s in the picture. That would have put him in his 60s when he died.

Do you have the date for your picture? Do you know the other people with him?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Interesting passage on Lou Russell in Anthony Summers' book, The Arrogance of Power (2000).

A year into the presidency, having requested an appointment with Nixon himself, Russell had visited with Rose Woods at the White House. He wanted a job, and Woods wrote to the White House personnel department on his behalf. A report on Russell was later sent to Attorney General Mitchell, and the former agent lunched with William Birely, a Washington stockbroker who had long been friendly with Nixon and his secretary.

Russell worked on the continuing White House probe of Chappaquiddick and, according to his daughter, was used as a courier to carry large sums of cash. Then, in 1972, he began working for CREEP. His known responsibilities included running staff security checks, researching leftist newspapers, and the latest stage of what had now become a White House preoccupation investigating the columnist Jack Anderson.

This operative with a personal connection to the president, however, had a special qualification. It can hardly be a coincidence that before joining CREEP, Russell had worked for the security service that protected the Watergate building...

Russell had initially been hospitalized on May 18, 1973, shortly after writing to the Senate Watergate Committee to deny having any information that would help the investigation and three hours before James McCord began testifying. Russell was released from the hospital in June, but died on July 2 of what the death certificate described as "acute coronary occlusion." There was no autopsy. Russell's claim that he had been poisoned was made to his daughter shortly before his death. More intriguing than the manner of his death, for this author, is the fact that in the months between the Watergate arrests and his death Russell had far more money than usual. He made two bank deposits during that period, one for $4,750 and a second for $20,895. William Birely, Nixon's stockbroker friend had lent him a pleasant apartment and a car after Watergate and helped him invest his recent financial windfalls. Birely and McCord, who had continued to employ Russell, both attended his funeral.

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  • 2 months later...

John and Ed Forum members:

This is pretty important material, the kind of political intelligence that takes

a generation to digest.

Louis Russell was the "lost" burglar and McCord and Sturgis were acting strangely.

the carmine Bellino democratic party counter agent scenario brings the

national committee chairman George Bush into the picture, and

Lou Russell's heart attack and safe house existence was evidence of a "large program"

What you have published here is consistent with my understanding of the Watergate/DNC/Callgirl/Russell/McCord scenario.

Thanks for the update and synthetic analyses

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