Nearly 30 years after the
Watergate arrests, an astonishing editorial appeared in the Washington
Post, attacking a Baltimore jury for having the temerity to think for
itself. While the Post did not urge that the guilty
parties should be burned at the stake, it was clear from the newspaper's
tenor that a bonfire would not be entirely out of order.
At issue was the jury's 7-2
decision in a defamation case brought by a woman named Ida "Maxie" Wells.
Instigated by John Dean's attorneys in a related matter, the suit accused
former White House spy G. Gordon Liddy of slandering Wells during the Q-and-A
portion of a speech he'd given at James Madison University. In the
judgment of the jurors, Liddy's revisionist view of the Watergate break-in,
substantially informed by a book that I'd written, was sufficiently plausible
as to deserve the protections given to free speech. The judge agreed
with the jury's decision, dismissing the suit with the assertion that "no
'reasonable jury' could have found in favor of the plaintiff," Maxie Wells.
Aghast at the decision, the
Post thundered that attacking a Baltimore jury for having the temerity
to think for itself. While the
Courts are a capricious venue for arguments about history.  Sometimes, as when a British
court last year resoundingly rejected the Holocaust denial of "historian"
David Irving, litigation can help protect established history from those
who would maliciously rewrite it. But conspiracy theorizing generally
is better addressed in the public arena by rigorous confrontation with
facts. That's true both out of respect for freedom of speech---even
wrong-headed speech---and because historical truth does not always fare
so well in court. A jury in Tennessee in 1999 embraced the looniest
of conspiracy theories concerning the assassination of Martin Luther King
Jr. And this week, in a federal court in Baltimore, the commonly understood
and well-founded history of the Watergate scandal took a hit as well.
The forum was the defamation
case of G. Gordon Liddy... Mr. Liddy has argued that the burglary
was not an attempt to collect political intelligence on President Nixon's
enemies, but an effort masterminded by then-White House counsel John Dean
to steal pictures of prostitutes---including Mr. Dean's then-girlfriend
and current wife---from the desk of a secretary at the Democratic headquarters.
The secretary...is now a community college teacher in Louisiana and was
understandably offended by the implication that she was somehow involved
in a call-girl ring. She sued Mr. Liddy, and the battle has dragged
on for four years.
The jury failed to reach a unanimous
verdict, but it split overwhelmingly in favor of Mr. Liddy; the majority
of jurors felt that Ms. Wells's lawyers had failed to proved his theory
wrong. They found this in spite of the fact that Mr. Liddy relies,
for his theory, on a disbarred attorney with a history of mental illness.
The call-girl theory "is possible," one juror (said)... "It sure makes
me more curious." "We'll never know" what happened, said another.
The danger of such outcomes as
this one is that this sort of thinking spreads. For whether or
not Mr. Liddy's comments legally defamed Ms. Wells, we do know what happened
at Watergate---and it had nothing to do with prostitutes.
Post's alarm at "this sort of thinking" was compounded
more than a year later, when the verdict in Liddy's was overturned on appeal.
A new trial was ordered.
In Wells v. Liddy redux, Wells
sought to bolster her case with the testimony of Sam Dash, chief counsel
of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities in 1973.
 Having led the Senate's
investigation of the Watergate affair, Dash ought to have been an impressive
witness. But under cross-examination from Liddy's very astute attorneys,
John Williams and Kerrie Hook, Dash seemed pompous and strangely unprepared---characteristics
he shared with Wells's own attorney, David Dorsen (himself a former deputy
of Dash's). After listening to the witnesses for both sides, the
jury again returned a verdict in Liddy's behalf. This time, it was
There were no further appeals,
and no more editorials. The Post buried the story on an inside-page
of the Metro section, and turned its attention to other matters.
But the "established history"
of the Watergate affair had suffered a grievous blow. And this,
because one jury after another did what the Post prescribed, but
which the Post itself has never done in 30 years: they
confronted the facts in a rigorous way.
One of the more crucial facts
that the jury was asked to consider was a key that one of the arresting
officers, Carl Shoffler, took from Eugenio Martinez, one of the Watergate
burglars. As physical evidence obtained at the scene of the crime,
the key spoke volumes about the purpose of the break-in.
That subject---Why did they
pick the DNC as a target?---has been debated for decades, though one
might not know it by reading the Washington Post. Most accounts
of the affair suppose that the break-ins (there were two successful efforts,
one at the end of May, and another on June 17th) were mounted to obtain
"political intelligence." James McCord, the former CIA officer who
led "the Cubans" into the DNC, told the Senate that DNC Chairman Larry O'Brien
was the target. Accordingly, McCord installed a room-bug in O'Brien's
office. At least, that's what he said.
Howard Hunt and his Cuban cohort
offered an entirely different reason for the break-in. According
to them, they were sent into the DNC to find evidence of illegal campaign
contributions from Fidel Castro.
In reality, neither explanation
is supported by the evidence. If the burglars were looking for financial
data, they certainly chose some strange places to search. DNC Treasurer
Robert Strauss's office was untouched, as were the offices of the DNC's
Comptroller. And as for the bug in Larry O'Brien's office, well, it
was never found---despite repeated and rather desperate searches by the
FBI and the telephone company.
Not that the bug would have
worked, in any case. O'Brien's office was part of an interior suite
at the DNC and, as such, it was shielded from McCord's "listening post"
in the motel across the street. Moreover, and as Liddy himself pointed
out, the subject of the surveillance wasn't even in Washington. Nor
was he expected to return anytime soon. More than a month before the
break-in, the DNC's chairman had moved to Florida, where the Democratic
Convention was to be held.
Not that anyone cared.
In 1973, the burglars' motives weren't of much interest to anyone.
Their trial was over, and the story had moved on. The Watergate Committee
was a political institution. It sought to establish responsibility
for the break-ins, and to deconstruct the cover-up. Accordingly,
the Committee's attention was focused on higher-ups in the Nixon White
House and, in particular, in the Oval Office. Everything else was
just a detail.
Things might have been different,
of course, had Maxie Wells been more candid in her executive session testimony
before the Watergate committee. Instead, she neglected to mention
that the FBI had questioned her about the key to her desk, and the circumstances
under which the key had been found. According to Howard Liebengood,
who served as the committee's minority counsel, the Committee's investigation
might have taken a dramatic turn if he had he learned of the key's existence,
and of Wells's interview with the FBI.
But he did not. 
The issue of the burglary's
purpose was even raised in Blind Ambition, the John Dean memoir
ghost-written by the well-regarded historian, Taylor Branch. In
that book, we're told that Dean raised the issue with Charles Colson in
1974, when both of them were doing time in federal prison.
|"'Chuck, why do you figure
Liddy bugged the DNC instead of the Democratic candidates? It doesn't
make much sense. I sat in (Atty. Gen. John) Mitchell's office when
Liddy gave us his show, and he only mentioned Larry O'Brien in passing
as a target...'
"'It looks suspicious to me,'" Dean continues.
"'(I)t's incredible. Millions of dollars have been spent investigating
Watergate. A President has been forced out of office. Dozens
of lives have been ruined. We're sitting in the can. And still
nobody can explain why they bugged the place to begin with.'" 
Though Dean subsequently repudiated his own memoir,  the anecdote makes a good point.
The Watergate affair can only remain a mystery so long as its purpose remains
Fortunately, we know today what
the Senate Watergate Committee did not: that Detective Shoffler wrested
a key from one of the burglars. (According to Shoffler, Eugenio Martinez
was so determined that the key should not be found, he attempted to swallow
it.) As much as a confession, that key is prima facie evidence of
the break-in's purpose. Clearly, the burglars were after the contents
of whatever it was that the key unlocked.
The FBI seems to have understood
this because the Bureau's agents went from office to office after the arrests,
trying the key on every desk until they found the one that it fit.
This was Maxie Wells's desk, and Shoffler, for one, wasn't surprised.
When he took the key from Martinez, Shoffler said, photographic equipment
was clamped to the top of that same desk.
But what was in it?
What did the burglars hope to find?
It was precisely this question
that was so embarrassing to Wells. In her suit against Liddy, she
sought to suppress discussion of the key because, she insisted, it unfairly
implicated her in allegations about a call-girl ring.
A call-girl ring?
Well, yes. Although the
Post prefers to ignore any and all evidence
on the matter, links between call-girls and the DNC---and, therefore, between
call-girls and the Watergate affair---have been rumored or alleged for years.
The connection first surfaced in a book by a Pulitzer prize-winning
New York Times reporter, J. Anthony Lukas. According
to Lukas, secretaries at the DNC used a telephone in the office of Wells's
boss, Spencer Oliver, Jr., to make private calls. They did this because
Oliver's office was often empty---he traveled a lot---and his telephone was
thought to be among the most private in the Democrats' headquarters.  (In fact, Oliver had two
phones, one of which was a private line that did not go through the DNC
"They would say, 'We can talk;
I'm on Spencer Oliver's phone,'" Lukas wrote. Quoting Alfred Baldwin,
who eavesdropped on these conversations at the direction of James McCord,
Lukas reported that "Some of the conversations were 'explicitly intimate.'"
Baldwin was even more specific in a deposition that he later gave.
According to the former FBI agent, many of the telephone conversations involved
dinner arrangements with "sex to follow." And while he never heard
"prices" being discussed, Baldwin testified, he guessed that "eight out
of ten" people would have thought the calls involved prostitution.
But he himself did not.
As a former FBI agent, Baldwin knew that for prostitution to occur, there
has to be a promise of money. But money was never discussed, he said,
or at least not in his hearing. And since McCord told him that he
was eavesdropping on telephone conversations emanating from the DNC, Baldwin
assumed that the women must be amateurs. As incredible as it seems,
it did not occur to him that McCord might have lied to him about the bug's
location. To Baldwin, it was entirely plausible, or at least possible,
that one secretary after another would go to a private telephone to engage
her boyfriend in a conversation that was "extremely personal, intimate,
and potentially embarrassing." 
The more sophisticated Anthony
Lukas was skeptical of the idea. As he reported, "So spicy were some
of the conversations on the phone that they have given rise to unconfirmed
reports that the telephone was being used for some sort of call-girl service
catering to congressmen and other prominent Washingtonians." 
The same rumors were overheard
by others, including the DNC's Robert Strauss. In a 1996 deposition,
Strauss testified that he recalled stories about "some of the state chairmen
(who) would come into (Oliver's) office and use the phone to make dates..."
Strauss added that "in connection with the use of the telephones, some
of the calls...could have been embarrassing to some of the people who made
The DNC's Treasurer was even more
specific in an interview with Fox News correspondent, James Rosen.
As Rosen has testified, Strauss told him that "Democrats in from out of
town for a night would want to be entertained... 'It wasn't any organized
thing, 'but I could have made the call, that lady could have made the
call'---it was a reference to Maxie Wells in the context of the interview---'and
these people were willing to pay for sex.' Those were his exact words."
In an interview with Liddy's
attorneys, DNC secretary Barbara Kennedy Rhoden acknowledged that she,
too, overheard such rumors. Asked if Rhoden had said
"it was likely that Spencer Oliver and Maxie Wells were running a call-girl
operation," Rhoden replied: "I might have said that..." But, she added,
"I have no knowledge that they were." 
That a relationship may have
existed between a call-girl service and the DNC was dissed and dismissed
by Wells and her attorneys, and by Spencer Oliver and his attorneys---just
as it was by the Washington Post. According to them, the only
evidence of such a relationship was the testimony of Phillip Bailley, a
disbarred lawyer with a history of mental illness.
But that wasn't
true. One man who knew a lot about the relationship between call-girls
and the DNC was a private-eye named Lou Russell. A former FBI agent,
Russell had gone on to become chief investigator for the House Committee
on Un-American Activities. That was in the early 1950s. Fired
for soliciting "loans" from witnesses, he had turned into a hard-drinking
private-eye---a noirish tough-guy who knew a lot about electronic eavesdropping.
And even more about whores.
In the months leading up to the Watergate break-ins, Russell was working
for James McCord, and moonlighting for the late Bud Fensterwald, a Washington
lawyer who'd founded the Committee to Investigate Assassinations.
In the evenings, Russell hung out with call-girls at the Columbia Plaza
Apartments, barely a block from the Watergate. And according to Fensterwald
and two of his employees, Russell told them he was tape-recording telephone
conversations between the prostitutes and their clients at the DNC.
The women didn't mind, and the taping was a source of amusement to Russell,
who seems to have regaled anyone who'd listen with anecdotes about the calls.
Not that Democrats were the only
ones to avail themselves of the pleasures to be taken at the Columbia Plaza.
Nixon biographer Anthony Summers quotes a longtime Nixon aide who said
that Nick Ruwe, then Deputy Chief of the Office of Protocol, "was always
using those call girls at the place next to the DNC."  Ron Walker, Nixon's
top advance man, was a second source. According to Walker, he knew
of the brothel next to the DNC because "I had colleagues that used call
girl rings." 
In April, 1972 the seamy side
of Washington was rocked when FBI agents raided the office and home of
the Phil Bailley, a Washington defense attorney whose clientele included
prostitutes. Coded address-books, photographs and sexual paraphernalia
were seized, and what began as a simple violation of the Mann Act, became
a grand jury investigation with ramifications throughout the capital.
Asst. U.S. Atty. John Rudy was
placed in charge of the investigation. Soon, Rudy found himself looking
into the Columbia Plaza call-girl ring and its connections to the DNC---where
a secretary was said to have "arranged for liaisons."
It was at about this time that
Lou Russell appeared in Rudy's office. According to Rudy, Russell
tried to divert his attention from the Columbia Plaza to another operatioon
that serviced lawyers and judges on the other side of town.
But it didn't work. On
June 9th, Bailley was indicted on 22 felony counts, including charges of
blackmail, racketeering, procuring and pandering. That same afternoon,
the Washington Star published a front-page story, headlined "Capitol Hill
Call-Girl Ring." According to the article:
|The FBI here has uncovered
a high-priced call girl ring allegedly headed by a Washington attorney
and staffed by secretaries and office workers from Capitol Hill and involving
at least one White House secretary, sources said today.
article did not go unnoticed on Pennsylvania Avenue. Within an hour
of its publication, Bailley's prosecutor received a telephone call from the
President's counsel John Dean, ordering him to the White House. "He
wanted me to bring 'all' the evidence but, mostly, what I brought were Bailley's
address books," Rudy recalled. "Dean said he wanted to check the names
of the people involved, to see if any of them worked for the President."
It was, after all, a presidential
election year, and the names in Bailley's address-books included the secretaries
and wives of some of Washington's most prominent men---as well as the
names of the johns they serviced.
At first, Dean wanted Rudy to
leave the address-books with him, but Rudy demurred, pointing out that
the books were evidence. As a compromise, Dean's secretary was permitted
to copy the books, while Rudy and Dean discussed the case. When the
secretary returned, Dean went through the copies page by page, circling
names with a Parker pen. 
It wasn't the first time that
Dean had shown an interest in such matters. Months before, he'd
dispatched a White House investigator to New York to look into a call-girl
ring run by a madame named Xaviera Hollander.  Like the Bailley case, the Hollander investigation
was generating headlines. One, in the New York Times,
POSSIBLE BLACKMAIL OF NIXON
The story began:
OFFICIALS CHECKED HERE
At least two high-ranking officials in the Nixon administration are
among the people the Manhattan District Attorney's Office intends to question
about the possibility that they were blackmailed because of their association
with an East Side brothel.
meeting with John Rudy occurred on a Friday. On the following Monday,
Jeb Magruder summoned Liddy to his office, and told him that he had to break
into the DNC a second time. The bugging device that James McCord had
supposedly placed on Larry O'Brien's telephone had yet to work, and a second
bug (apparently the one being monitored by Alfred Baldwin) was generating
little or nothing of political value.
Magruder told Liddy that he
wanted the bug in O'Brien's office repaired, and even more importantly,
he wanted to know if O'Brien was sitting on information that could damage
the Nixon re-election campaign. It wasn't put in so many words,
but that was Liddy's understanding of the brief that he'd been given.
If the purpose of the break-in
was somewhat vague, the provenance of the order was even more so.
Since Magruder was Mitchell's deputy, Liddy assumed that he was conveying
an order from Mitchell. But Mitchell always denied that, and Magruder---himself
convicted of perjury---has given conflicting accounts. At first, young
Jeb claimed that Liddy had acted on his own.  Later, he insisted that the order was Mitchell's.
More recently, he told an interviewer (on tape) that it was none other
than John Dean who ordered the break-in. 
Whatever its purpose, the burglary
took place in the early morning hours of June 17th. McCord and four
of his accomplices had not been inside the DNC for more than a few minutes,
when the police arrested them. Baldwin watched the arrests unfold
from his seventh floor aerie in the motel across the street, while Hunt
and Liddy packed their bags and fled from the Watergate Hotel.
In the weeks that followed,
John Rudy had second thoughts. After the Watergate arrests, his
investigation of a link between the Columbia Plaza call-girl ring and
the DNC might appear to be politically-motivated. Worried about
that perception, he asked his boss, U.S. Atty. Harold Titus, what he should
do. And the advice came back: Chill it (sic).
And so he did.
Bailley was remanded to St.
Elizabeth's Hospital to undergo psychiatric tests. This was an unwelcome
and surprising development, inasmuch as he had been practicing law before
that same court only a few weeks earlier. Eventually, he was certified
sane, and encouraged to plead guilty to a single felony. When he did,
he was bundled off to a federal prison in Connecticut where, ironically,
he served on the Inmates Committee with Howard Hunt and other Watergaters.
The case-file, thick with interviews and evidence, was sealed and, soon
afterwards, it became "lost."
Which was unfortunate because,
a few doors down the hall, others in the U.S. Attorney's office were
putting together a case in which sexual blackmail was said to be the central
motive in the Watergate break-in. Asst. U.S. Atty. Earl Silbert was
convinced that "Hunt was trying to blackmail Spencer (Oliver)."  The same point was
made by Charles Morgan, who represented Wells and Oliver at the burglars'
trial in early 1973. Determined to block any testimony about the
contents of the conversations that Baldwin overheard, Morgan said Silbert
told him over lunch in December, 1972, that "Hunt was trying to blackmail
Spencer, and I'm going to prove it."  Morgan was skeptical. Taking a page (or
at least a metaphor) from John Dean's book, Morgan railed that "Mr. Silbert's
blackmail motive had been woven from whole cloth."  Accordingly, he asked the court to bar any testimony
about the conversations Baldwin overheard.
The court complied.
what of Bailley? When I interviewed him in the early 1980s, he seemed
normal enough: well-dressed, articulate and intelligent, if bitter about
the events that led to his downfall. In particular, he was curious
to know what I knew about Watergate and how it related to him. I
insisted he "go first," and so he did.
Bailley told me that he was
having an affair with a call-girl at the Columbia Plaza Apartments, a
woman who used the alias "Cathy Dieter." She prevailed upon him to
establish a liaison arrangement with the DNC. A hard-partying young
Dem who knew a number of workers at the DNC, Bailley told me that one of
his acquaintances was a secretary in Spencer Oliver's office. With
the her help, he said, the liaison arrangement was established. Here's
how it worked:
According to Bailley, if a visitor
to the DNC wanted companionship for the evening, the secretary would show
him a photograph or photographs that she kept in her desk. If the
man was interested, Bailley continued, he'd be sent into Spencer Oliver's
office to await a telephone call. When the phone rang for the first
time, he was not to answer it. A minute later, it would ring again
and, on this occasion, he was to answer it. The caller would be the
woman (or one of the women) whose picture the visitor had just seen.
Knowing that the woman was a call-girl, the visitor would make whatever arrangements
As I testified in the Wells
v Liddy trial, Bailley told me that the secretary was Maxie Wells.
Ms. Wells denies that, just as she denies keeping pictures of call-girls
in her desk.
But what about "Cathy Dieter"?
Who was she? According to Gordon Liddy, Dieter's real name was Heidi
Rikan. Liddy testified that he learned this from a seemingly authoritative
source: Walter "Buster" Riggin, a sometime pimp and associate of Joe Nesline,
himself an organized crime figure in the Washington area.
Formerly a stripper at a seedy Washington
nightclub called the Blue Mirror, the late Erica "Heidi" Rikan was a friend
of Nesline's and, more to the point, of John Dean and his then-fiancee,
later wife, Maureen. Indeed, Rikan's photograph appears in the memoir
that "Mo" wrote about Watergate. 
While admitting their friendship
with Rikan, the Deans deny that she ran a call-girl ring, or that she used
"Cathy Dieter" as an alias. Beyond Buster Riggin's assertion to
Liddy, evidence on the issue is slim or ambiguous. One writer who
attempted to verify the identification is Anthony Summers. As the
Irish investigative reporter wrote in his massive biography of President
This would appear to confirm assertions that Rikan
was a prostitute. But Summers undercuts the confirmation by reporting
in that same book---strangely, and in a footnote---that he "found no evidence"
of Rikan working as a call-girl. 
|Before her death in 1990,
Rikan said in a conversation with her maid that she had once been a call
girl. Explaining that a call girl was 'a lady that meets men, and
men pay them'---the maid had grown up in the country and knew nothing of
big-city sins---she added, tantalizingly: 'I was a call girl at the White
the litigation with John Dean and Maxie Wells, Liddy took the position that
a secret agenda was at work in the break-ins, and that this agenda was unknown
to him at the time that the break-ins occurred. Here's how the Fourth
Circuit Court of Appeals summarized the issue:
|Liddy stated that the burglars'
objective during the Watergate break-in was to determine whether the Democrats
possessed information embarrassing to John Dean. More specifically,
Liddy asserted that the burglars were seeking a compromising photograph
of Dean's fiance that was located in Wells's desk among several photographs
that were used to offer prostitution services to out-of-town guests. 
and his wife challenged Liddy's account, which was first reported in
Silent Coup---whose authors (among many others) the Deans
sued.  While this
writer does not find John Dean's account of his own role in the affair to
be credible, neither does he think it likely that anyone would break into
the DNC to retrieve a picture of someone's girlfriend, assuming that such
a picture existed and that it was somehow "compromising." What would---what
could---anyone do with such a photograph?
One question leads to another.
If the instigator of the break-in (whether Dean, Magruder or someone else)
was not after pictures in Maxie Wells's desk, what was he after?
The matter is necessarily speculative, but it seems useful to point out
that men who make dates with call-girls seldom use their real names.
Instead, they use handles like "Candyman," or resort to aliases like "George
Washington." (One john at the Columbia Plaza---almost certainly a
Democrat---used "Richard Nixon" as a nom de guerre.)  For that reason, the only
person in a position to know who was dating whom was the person facilitating
the liaisons. Whether that person kept a record of such contacts is
unknown. But the instigator of the break-in may have suspected that
she did. It seems reasonable, then, to suppose that the burglars may
have been looking for a kind of calendar, or log, rather than a handful
of dirty pictures that would be of little use to anyone. 
key to Maxie Wells's desk, therefore, is obviously central to any "rigorous
consideration" of the facts pertaining to Watergate. But it isn't
the only important fact that the Washington Post and other media
have done their best to ignore. A second and equally fundamental one
is this: The only bugging device ever recovered from the headquarters of
the DNC was a broken "toy" that the FBI believed had been planted in order
that it might be found. And it was found, but not until nearly
three months after the Watergate arrests, and not until Alfred Baldwin had
gone public with his testimony about eavesdropping on the DNC.
But what did it all mean?
Did James McCord lie about bugging Larry O'Brien and Spencer Oliver?
And if he did, why did he? And if Alfred Baldwin wasn't listening
to telephone conversations being broadcast by a transmitter inside the
DNC, what was he listening to?
These were the questions on
Earl Silbert's lips as he prepared his case against the burglars in the
Summer of 1972. They were questions of which the public knew nothing.
In secret correspondence with the Justice Department and the FBI, Silbert
railed against the Bureau's inability to locate a listening device inside
the DNC. The Bureau replied, coolly, that while it recognized the
difficulties this presented for Silbert's case, it was a matter of fact.
The DNC was clean.
Because the burglars ultimately
pleaded guilty, obviating a need for a trial at which the evidence would
be presented and contested, the discrepancy never came to the public's
attention. Indeed, Wells's own attorney (who had also represented
Dean) seemed stunned by the information when it came out on cross-examination
in Liddy's trial. If this was true, David Dorsen asked, what did
it mean? Who, then, was bugged?
From the witness-stand, I suggested
that there were only two possibilities: either the bugs were removed from
the DNC prior to the break-in on June 17---or Baldwin was listening to
telephone conversations emanating from a bugging device at another location.
Another location? what location?
The most likely place, I replied,
was the call-girls' apartment in the Columbia Plaza, a block from the
Watergate and in line-of-sight of Baldwin's motel room.
This testimony was so discombobulating
to Wells's attorney that we did not get into the question of McCord's motives.
Why would the veteran CIA agent lie about bugging Oliver and O'Brien?
It is an interesting and important
question, but it was not one that the jury was obliged to answer.
Neither was it asked to decide if Liddy (or I) are correct in our belief
that John Dean ordered the June 17 break-in because, we suspect, he'd learned
of the relationship between the Columbia Plaza call-girl ring and the DNC.
Instead, the jury was asked to decide if these issues, and their corollaries,
are sufficiently plausible that fair-minded people can disagree about them.
So, too, with Wells. Was she involved in facilitating arrangements
between visitors to the DNC and call-girls at the Columbia Plaza, as Phil
Bailley claimed? The evidence persuades me that she was but, once
again, it is a matter of opinion. In ruling for Liddy, the courts
did not decide that the "alternative theory" of Watergate (as articulated
by Hougan and Liddy) is correct. Rather, they seem to be saying that
the received version of the Watergate affair, as promulgated by John Dean
and the Washington Post, is open to question, and that there is
enough evidence in support of the alternative theory that it can (and perhaps
should) be freely discussed.
The real issue, which in the
end may be even more important than the who-shot-who of Watergate, concerns
the arrogance of media such as the Washington Post, which pretend
to an infallibility they do not have. For decades, the Post and
its cousins have refused to tolerate (much less undertake) a re-examination
of the Watergate affair---or any other major story in which they may be
said to have a stake.
Watergate, after all, was journalism's
finest hour. Courageous editors and intrepid young reporters risked
everything in a brave effort to save America from a White House ruled by
Sauron and the hordes of Mordor. To question the received version
of the story is, therefore, a kind of heresy. And so the Post
becomes the Inquisition, labelling its critics "conspiracy theorists" while
warning the public against the "danger" of such thinking. Clearly,
the Post would rather its readers let the newspaper do their thinking
If there wasn't so much blood
on the floor, it would be funny.
1. Civil Case No. JFM-97-946, "Memorandum"
by District Judge J. Frederick Motz, March 19, 2001, U.S. District Court
for the District of Maryland. Click here to return.
2. The editorial appeared in the Post
on Feb. 4, 2001. Click here to return.
3. Headed by Sen. Sam Ervin, the committee
was informally known as "the Watergate committee." Click
here to return.
4. The Watergate Committee lacked direct
access to the FBI's investigative files, and so knew nothing about such topics
as the key to Maxie Wells's desk or the Bureau's inability to find any bugging
devices inside the DNC. The exception to this was the single day that
Sam Dash was permitted to look at the files. Years after the hearings
had ended, the FBI's Watergate file was made public by this author.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, I was able to obtain the release of
more than 30,000 pages of investigative files, memoranda and air-tels that
Senator Ervin's committee had never seen. Click here to
5. John Dean, Blind Ambition, Simon
& Schuster (1976), pp. 388-91. Click here to return.
6. Blind Ambition was written in 1975,
while Gordon Liddy was in prison, refusing to talk about Watergate.
When Liddy published his own memoir, and when other books began to appear,
Dean's inconsistencies and "errors" became as glaring as they were numerous.
Accordingly, Dean dismissed the book he had once embraced with pride, claiming
that he hadn't actually read it before it was published, while insisting
that much of the book was "made up out of whole cloth by Taylor Branch."
A Pulitzer Prize-winner, Branch calls the allegation a lie. Click here to return.
7. J. Anthony Lukas, Nightmare, Viking
(1976), p. 201. Click here to return.
8. Nomination of Earl J. Silbert to be
United States Attorney, Hearings before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary,
93d Cong., 2d sess., Part I, April-May, 1974, p. 52. Click
here to return.
9. Lukas, Nightmare, p. 201. Click here to return.
10. Testimony of Rosen in the first Wells
v. Liddy trial. Click here to return.
11. Testimony of Barbara Kennedy Rhoden
in the first Wells v. Liddy trial. Click here to return.
12. Jim Hougan, Secret Agenda: Watergate,
Deep Throat and the CIA (Random House, 1984), p. 118. Click here to return.
13. The Office of Protocol makes arrangements
for White House social events, and for the visits of foreign dignitaries
to the nation's capital. Click here to return.
14. Anthony Summers, The Arrogance of
Power (Viking, 2000), p. 422. Click here to return.
15. Hougan, pp. 172-3. Click here to return.
16. Ibid. Click
here to return.
17. Hollander subsquently wrote a
book with Robin Moore, The Happy Hooker. Click
here to return.
18. John Ehrlichman, Witness to Power,
Simon & Schuster (1982), p. 380. Click here to return.
19. This was said to Len Colodny, co-author
(with Robert Gettlin) of Silent Coup, St. Martin's Press (1991), p.
148. Click here to return.
20. Op cit., Nomination
of Earl J. Silbert to be United States Attorney, p. 52. Click here to return.
21. "A Report to the Special Prosecutor
on Certain Aspects of the Watergate Affair, June 18, 1973 (published in Hearings
before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary [concerning Earl J. Silbert's
nomination to be United States Attorney], 93d Cong., 2d sess., Part I, April-May,
1974, pp. 42, 53). Click here to return.
22. Ibid., p. 42. Click here to return.
23. Maureen Dean (with Hays Gorey) Mo: A
Woman's View of Watergate, Simon & Schuster (1975). Click here to return.
24. Summers, p. 422. Click here to return.
25. Summers, p. 530. Click here to return.
26. Ida Maxwell Wells v. G. Gordon Liddy,
No. 98-1962, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, decided July 28,
1999. Click here to return.
27. Dean brought suit against Liddy, St.
Martin's Press, Len Colodney, Robert Gettlin, myself and more than 100 others,
charging a conspiracy to defame him and his wife. In particular, the
Deans accused the defendants of malice for suggesting that he was "guilty
of criminal conduct in planning, aiding, abetting and directing the Watergate
break-ins, and gave perjured testimony...with catastrophic consequences to
alleged innocent persons, was a traitor to his nation as was Benedict Arnold,
and that all...historical writings by John Dean...have been and are a self
serving, ongoing historical fraud." After years of legal wrangling,
the case was settled out of court among the Deans, the authors and their
publisher. Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed. Both
sides claimed victory. (This writer was dismissed from the case soon
after it was filed.) For his part, Liddy refused to back down, wishing
to take the case to court so that he could get Dean on the witness-stand.
In that, Liddy was unsuccessful. The case against him was dismissed.
Click here to return.
28. A copy of a trick-book from one of the
call-girl operations at the Columbia Plaza was given to this writer by Detective
Shoffler. Click here to return.
29. According to Bailley, the photographs
in question were in no way obscene, but were, instead, discrete pictures
of attractive women---no more and no less. Click here