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William Birley


John Simkin
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One of the most interesting characters in the Watergate Scandal is William Birely. He is only mentioned in a couple of books but I think he is a significant figure and deserves to be investigated. I believe he could still be alive.

William Birely was a Washington stockbroker who became friends with Richard Nixon in 1947. Birely also admitted to being a close friend of Nixon's secretary, Mary Rose Woods. Birely was a supporter of right-wing causes such as the Sons of the American Revolution. It was in this organization that Birley met Lee R. Pennington. Birley also worked with Pennington on the Cross of Languedoc, the official publication of the Huguenot Society of Washington. (Pennington was the the former CIA officer (still on the CIA's payrole during the Watergate Scandal) who helped McCord's wife destroy his Operation Gemstone files. He also collected McCord from prison and drove him to his home).

In 1969 Lou Russell visited Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods. He was looking for a job in the White House. Woods then sent a letter to Attorney General John N. Mitchell about the possibility of finding Russell a job. Woods also arranged for Russell to meet Birely. During this period Russell ran a home for Alcoholics Anonymous.

According to Anthony Summers (Arrogance of Power) "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."

In March, 1972, Russell purchased $3,000 in electronic eavesdropping equipment from John Leon. Russell's friend, Charles F. Knight, was told that this equipment had been purchased for James W. 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.

Lou Russell was interviewed by the FBI soon after the Watergate break-in. 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.

According to Jerris Leonard, John Leon told Carmine Bellino, an investigator who worked for Edward Kennedy and the Senate Administrative Practices Committee, about Russell's problems. Bellino phoned Russell. It is not known was was said but as a result of this conversation but it was followed by Bellino asking Birley, his close friend and longtime stockbroker, if Russell could stay with him on the top floor of the Twin Towers complex in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Birley later explained why he helped Lou Russell. "I pitied him. There was nothing more to it than that. Lou had just picked himself up. He'd stopped drinking. He had great hopes for his work with McCord and then, all of a sudden, he was out of a job. The Watergate business just devastated him." This is not true. McCord continued to employ Russell via another company, Security International, that he owned with former CIA officer, William Shea.

As well as accommodation, Birley supplied Russell with "walking around money". In return Russell performed a number of tasks for Birely while living at the Twin Towers. This including some highly profitable transactions involving bank shares. Russell also traveled to Rhode Island and Connecticut on behalf of Birely.

John Leon later claimed that Russell had been a spy for the Democratic Party within CREEP and that he had tipped off Carmine Bellino and the police about the Watergate break-in. At the time Leon was working on a counter-investigation for the Republican Party. Leon claimed that Watergate was a set up and the operation had been sabotaged from within.

On 2nd July, 1973, Lou Russell died of a heart attack. According to Anthony Summers (Arrogance of Power): "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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