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Saturday, May 05, 2012

Watergate, the CIA...and Mitt Romney?

The Watergate burglary happened 40 years ago -- yet, all of sudden, everyone seems to want to talk about that scandal. The most substantive retrospective piece out right now is Jefferson Morley's Salon article on the CIA's role, which you can find here.

Did the CIA engineer Watergate? Did ousted CIA head Richard Helms out-trick the Trickster?

This has been the predominant theory of left-wing paranoids ever since they learned that Watergate burglars Hunt and McCord were Company men and that the CIA had bugged the White House. That's why Nixon couldn't just burn the tapes: He couldn't hide anything because the CIA already had everything.

As Morley notes:
The question of what Helms knew about Watergate still matters because, amazingly enough, after 40 years later, we still don’t know who ordered the burglary or why. As Shafer told the Poynter discussion, “I’ve read all the books, listened to all the lectures, and even eaten dinner in the Watergate and I don’t know why Nixon’s people broke into the DNC twice and bugged it.”
One popular theory held that the Nixon crew was worried that the Democrats had gained access to damning information about a Nixon-Hughes bribe. An earlier bribe, to Nixon's brother, had nearly destroyed Richard Nixon's career. (In that period, Hughes bribed everyone on both sides of the aisle.)

In 1975, Playboy published the first of a two-part article detailing the "Hughes" theory. Oddly, part two never appeared. Political junkies kept buying the magazine month after month hoping to see either the Ultimate Watergate Revelation or, at the very least, a return appearance by Janet Lupo.

Left-wing conspiracy buffs have long believed that Watergate's missing center -- the Big Secret that bound Helms and Nixon together, even though they could never discuss the matter directly -- was the Kennedy assassination. You probably already know the story about Nixon's cryptic message to Helms about "the whole Bay of Pigs thing" -- words which sent Helms into an uncharacteristic rage. Bob Haldeman, Nixon's aide, interpreted this remark as a coded reference to the great unpleasantness in Dealey Plaza.

Sensitives may also detect the specter of JFK as they mull over John Ehrlichman's "dirty linen" remark, which Morley quotes. As the article notes, Nixon even once let slip a direct reference to the "Who shot John?" question. Here's his actual voice.

Morely discusses one important Watergate side-story which most people have forgotten. At one point, Helms gave Nixon some cables about the assassination of General Diem of Vietnam. These cables were handed to Hunt, the CIA man now working for Nixon's CREEP.
A veteran undercover officer and dirty tricks specialist who loathed President Kennedy, Hunt doctored the cables to create the impression that JFK was complicit in the assassination of Diem, a pro-American despot.  The forged documents were then shown to a Life magazine writer in the hopes of creating problems for Ted Kennedy’s expected presidential candidacy. Life magazine turned down the story, perhaps because the animus behind the story was so transparent.
Always keep that sequence of events in mind whenever you assess any new and "scandalous" revelations about JFK. People lied about Kennedy. They still do -- not just because they detested him personally (those few who retain a personal animus are now elderly) but because they detest liberalism; they detest everything JFK stood for.

Anyone interested in learning about this continuing smear campaign should read a remarkable two-part series titled "The Posthumous Assassination of JFK," available here and here.

Morley does not offer much discussion of the Watergate theories that have aroused the most interest among left-leaning spy-watchers. First and foremost: Did James McCord intentionally blow the burglary in order to destroy Nixon?

His behavior was pretty damned suspicious. As most of you probably know, the burglars held a locked door open with a piece of tape. When McCord found that tape removed, he replaced it with a second piece of tape -- even though the removal of the first tape (by a security guard) should have signaled that it was time to abort the operation.

Hell, we would not even have a Watergate scandal if McCord had not piped up about it.
McCord's allegations that the White House knew of the burglary and attempt to cover it up were crucial in causing investigators to push further.
Awfully chatty, McCord was, for a CIA guy. Yet even though he could have made a lot of money writing about his role in Watergate, he refused offers from major publishers.

Instead, he wrote a strange, undersized book for a small firm. That work, titled A Piece of Tape, received very little distribution and quickly became very hard to find. (I read it in a university library; I've never seen a copy in a used bookstore.) Simultaneously dull and bizarre, it is the most opaque, frustrating, and downright absurd text to come out of the scandal. McCord would have been more revelatory if he had delivered two hundred pages of "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy" to the publisher. Nevertheless, I would argue that his refusal to say anything worthwhile says a great deal.

The second major Watergate theory is best posed in the form of a question: Who is Bob Woodward, and who were his sources? (Note the plural. Incidentally, this post is not going to go into Silent Coup's absurd "Dean did it" hypothesis, which we have demolished in earlier posts.)

Jim Hougan's Secret Agenda revealed that Woodward had been a briefer with high-level connections. Some feel that he was working for the intelligence community when he was more-or-less forcibly inserted into a Washington Post staff position. He got that job even though he lacked writing ability or a journalistic background.

Everyone now accepts that Deep Throat, Woodward's "official" secret source, was Mark Felt of the FBI. But before a very aged Felt outed himself, the smart money was on a CIA source. Hougan explored that theory in his book Secret Agenda:
Throat belongs in a category different from that of GSA employees and disaffected CIA officers who have protested cost-overruns and underestimates of enemy troop strengths. The whistle that he blew was heard 'round the world, and a grateful nation has offered to bestow its accolades upon him even as publishers dangle the lure of seven-figure advances for his story. Clearly, Deep Throat's anonymity has nothing to do with job security. It may be, therefore, that Throat remains anonymous because if he was identified our perception of him and of the Post's Watergate reportage would change. 
In an appendix to his book, Hougan reprinted a document which revealed that Woodward had, in fact, been meeting with CIA guy Robert Bennett. The following words come from a 1972 memo to the CIA's Deputy Director for Plans:
Mr Bennett said also that he has been feeding stories to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post with the understanding that there be no attribution to Bennett.
Even after Felt came forward, Hougan argued that Woodward's real source was Bennett. (The problems with Woodward's account of his meetings with Deep Throat are discussed here and here.)

This suggestion makes sense to me. No-one has ever explained how Felt knew the things he allegedly knew. A CIA source, on the other hand, would have had access to material gleaned from the hidden mics that Butterfield had placed in the White House.

This humble blog was the first to publish Hougan's response to the Felt identification. Allow me to quote a few excerpts:
For the record, it seems to me that if anyone proposes to identify Deep Throat, or to identify the lead singer in the choir of sources subsumed by the identity of Throat, they must meet a very basic criterion. That is, they must demonstarate, at a minimum, that their candidate met repeatedly and secretly with Bob Woodward. (Throat is obviously Woodward's creation. I don't think Bernstein would know him from a bale of hay.)

The only person who meets that criterion, to my knowledge, is Robert Bennett. Now one of the most powerful men in the U.S. Senate, Bennett was President of the Robert R. Mullen Company in 1972-3. This was the CIA front for which Howard Hunt worked. (It was also the Washington representative of the Howard Hughes organization.) As I reported in *Secret Agenda*, Bennett's CIA case officer, Martin Lukoskie, drafted a memo to his boss, Eric Eisenstadt, reporting on his monthly debriefing of Bennett after the Watergate arrests. According to Eisenstadt, Bennett told him that he, Bennett, had "made a backdoor entry to the Washington Post through Edward Bennett Williams' office," and that he, Bennett, was feeding stories to Bob Woodward, who was "suitably grateful." (Williams was the Post's attorney, and attorney, also, for the Democratic National Committee.)

Woodward's gratefulness was manifest in the way he kept the CIA, in general, and the Robert R. Mullen Company, in particular, out of his stories. (I obtained the Lukoskie memo under the Freedom of Information Act. Eric Eisenstadt's reaction to that memo, which I also obtained under FOIA, was considered so secret that it was delivered by hand to then-CIA Director Richard Helms.
Hougan later wrote a more complete response which (in my view) gets as close as anyone has ever gotten to the true motive for Watergate.

In the 1970s, it was difficult -- perhaps impossible -- for most people to understand that Nixon had enemies on his right. Nixon himself could not get his mind around that concept; he blamed all of his problems on the anti-war crowd. Liberals were, for the most part, just as clueless. More conservative than Nixon...? The idea was absurd: That guy was so uptight he probably wore a dark suit and tie as a baby in his crib.

But anti-Nixon ultra-conservatives did exist. And they had power.

We now know that there was a faction within the military and intelligence community which was united by a distrust of Nixon's policy of detente with the USSR. We might call this group "the Angleton faction," since they gravitated toward James Jesus Angleton's mad theory that the Sino-Soviet split was a sham.

The people within this group had a lot of other bizarre notions, as well. Hougan:
McCord put forward a conspiracy theory suggesting that the Rockefeller family was lunging for complete control over the government's critical national security functions, using the Council on Foreign Relations and Henry Kissinger as its surrogates.

Felt, McCord and a boatload of liberals weren't the only ones to demonize the Nixon White House. A similar point of view was held by a number of high-ranking Naval officers, including Adm. Elmo Zumwalt. Indeed, as Zumwalt later explained, he left the Administration because “its own officials and experts reflected Henry Kissinger’s world view: that the dynamics of history are on the side of the Soviet Union; that before long the USSR will be the only superpower on earth and…that the duty of policy-makers, therefore, is at all costs to conceal from the people their probable fate…”1

Whether Admiral Moorer agreed with Zumwalt’s assessment or not is uncertain. But he was spying on the White House. And this is where gets a bit incestuous, because in the months before Woodward began his try-oout at for the Post, he was a young Naval officer assigned to Admiral Moorer’s staff. In that capacity, he presided over the CNO’s code-room, and served as both a briefer and a courier to the White House.
I have for some time been of the firm opinion that Bennett was Throat. This was so because it seemed to me that, as a bare minimum, someone’s candidacy for Throat should be backed up by evidence that the candidate met secretly with Woodward and fed him stories about Watergate.

Bennett fit the bill. No one else did.

The Bennett I refer to was, of course, the owner of the Robert R. Mullen Company. This was a CIA front with offices in Washington and abroad. Among Bennett’s employees at the time of the Watergate break-in was E. Howard Hunt. Politically hyper-active during the Nixon Administration, Bennett was also the Washington representative of the Howard Hughes organization (which was negotiating with the CIA over plans to recover a sunken Soviet submarine from the Pacific Ocean’s floor). It was Bennett who suggested that Hunt might want to interview ITT lobbyist Dita Beard concerning newspaper leaks to Jack Anderson, and it was Bennett who volunteered his nephew to work as infiltrator at the DNC.

Today, Bennett is today one of the richest men in the U.S. Senate, and a Mormon elder. That he was also a key source of Bob Woodward’s during the Watergate affair is memorialized in a memorandum written by Martin J. Lukoskie, his CIA case-officer in 1972. According to Lukoskie, Bennett dissuaded reporters from the Washington Post from pursuing a “Seven Days in May scenario” that would have implicated the CIA in a Watergate conspiracy.
Watergate eventually produced a shift in this country's political mindset -- a shift to the right. The ultra-conservatives, formerly shunned and shadowy, have taken over our national dialogue. Today, the only real debate left is the debate between the varying flavors of ultra-conservatism.

In that light, you may want to check out Mitt Romney's spot for Bob Bennett's bid for re-election to the Senate. Just count the number of times Romney uses the word "conservative." It's pretty hilarious.

(There's something downright Nixonian about Romney's willingness to pander and his obvious discomfort in his own skin.)

There are some indications that the connections between Romney and Bennett run deep. When we enter this new and untested field of research, we have to acknowledge that our sourcing may not be as credible or considered as we might prefer. Consider what follows to be a collection of leads to explore, not a collection of facts to believe: 
After the reported death of Howard Hughes, Summa started liquidating its holdings. Frank William Gay, alleged Bush/CIA front man and Mormon Mafia Don, also ran Summa Corporation as its CEO. Gay's son, Robert was the founder of Mitt Romney's Bain Capital.

Robert Bennett and Frank "Bill" Gay liquidated everything but the casino operations and real-estate holdings. For the unitiated, casinos are important to Intelligence Community as a major front for "money-laundering". Drug money cash can be converted to covert weapons used to overthrow the enemies of the "Crown". The casino "games" can also be used to pay bribes to those that go along with the agenda.
See also here. Caveat lector.
JFK once mused that a Seven Days in May scenario, a military coup, could happen with a young President tripping up on foreign policy a la Bay of Pigs. Nixon, as you describe, had no idea his Seven Days were coming at him like a speeding locomotive. Al Haig, a military man and Kissinger aide, soon got more access to the First Stiff than Henry -- H used his influence to pretty much help toss Dick under the bus. Hougan does a great job (and where has he been these three decades) decoding the anti-Nixon right wing, deconstructing Woodward's own intelligence background and introducing the reader to the long-forgotten General Paul Gaynor, E Howard Hunt's boss at the CIA's Office of Security and link to the Haig/Moorer/Zumwalt kooky/treasonous cabal. Excellent post.
I see a Huffpost article on Salvadoran death squads and Bain start up financing. The article also mentions Harry Strachan. Is Harry a relative of Gordon Strachan, who I believe was CIA much like Alexander Butterfield..
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