Image 01

Archive for July 19th, 2011

Rex Mundi: Marc Rich, Fugitive in Paradise

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Since this was written, President Clinton has pardoned Marc Rich and Pinky Green, the Russian economy has taken off, and one of Rich’s own lawyers—Vice President Cheney’s former chief-of-staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby—is himself a defendant in the criminal courts. (This, in connection with the Valerie Plame imbroglio.) What’s to be made of it all? I’m not sure. But other than Richard Nixon, I can think of no other felon, or quasi-felon, who has been pardoned for his crimes without having first been convicted of them.  Perhaps the explanation is that Rich and Green have been helping their countries – the United States and Israel – behind the scenes.  Like Hollywood tycoon Arnan Milchan, who is widely alleged to have long used his businesses to help finance the operations of the Mossad, former 20th Century Fox honcho Rich may well have done the same…if not for the Mossad, then perhaps for the CIA.

Light snow falls through the darkness as a gray Mercedes glides out of the driveway of one of the oldest and most spectacular mansions in Switzerland.

As the car winds its way into the mountains above the lake, windshield wipers brushing at the snow, a man in a black cashmere coat and a dark blue suit sits in a cone of light in the backseat, reading. Not far behind, a chase car flirts with the Mercedes’ rear bumper, surging closer and closer, then falls back. Inside, three Israeli bodyguards scan the road, alert for the possibility of a bounty hunter’s ambush or a terrorist’s kidnapping.

Marc Rich

Marc Rich

The man in the Mercedes is at once honored and infamous. There is a fellowship at Oxford University in his name, and his foundation disburses millions to worthy causes. Despite this, indeed, despite all the good he’s done, he remains a fugitive, wanted by the FBI, Customs, the IRS, U.S. Marshals and Interpol. Should he be caught and convicted, he could face more than 300 years In prison.

It would be helpful, then, to know what he is reading as he leans back in the leather seat, engulfed by darkness, luxury and paranoia. At five A.M. it is too early for the newspapers; they’ll be waiting on his desk when he arrives at the blue glass cube that is his office building. But there are the late-night faxes, certainly, and it may well be that among them is a message from one of his lawyers – the best that money can buy. It could be a note from Leonard Garment, then, or Brad Reynolds or perhaps not.

Perhaps it’s a message from his bustling Moscow office, or a copy of the most recent missive from the secret police of the mineral-rich republic of Kazakhstan. For nearly a year, renegade Kazakh spooks have been quietly distributing diatribes against him to the press, accusing him of a host of crimes in an effort to discredit his company and sabotage his business.

And in Moscow itself, ultranationalist newspapers have published articles alleging that his commodities business is a front for laundering drug money. He denies the allegation, but it has its believers. His companies have an annual turnover of more than $3 billion per year in what was formerly the Soviet Union, so the man in the Mercedes bestrides the disintegrating Russian economy like a sumo wrestler on a pony.

Considering the stakes, it is hardly surprising that business rivals would stoop to slander in an effort to knock him off. Then again, he may be studying the numbers. As in: How many tons of aluminum are stored in his Rotterdam and Singapore warehouses? How many board feet of timber were taken from his forests in Chile last month? How many tons of light crude petroleum are moving across the oceans in his tankers?

A Belgian-born American with Spanish and Israeli citizenship (and a pending application to Switzerland), the man in the Mercedes is Marc Rich, a billionaire over and over again, and one of only a handful of people who might reasonably be called, in novelist Tom Wolfe’s parlance, a “master of the universe.” Unlike Wall Street wheeler-dealers who trade in the abstractions of futures contracts, stocks and bonds, Rich is a player on the periodic table itself, buying and selling strategic quantities of the world’s raw materials – its very elements – as well as more complex compounds (sugar, soybeans, oil, government officials). He is a titan in the business of wholesaling the planet’s natural resources to the highest bidders.

He owns or controls oil wells in Russia, mines in Peru and electrical supplies in England. There are refineries in Romania, office buildings in Spain and smelters in Australia, Iran, Sardinia and West Virginia. He has 40 offices and 1300 employees throughout the world and is simultaneously the uncontested emperor of aluminum, a prince of sugar, a shogun of soy, a mover and shaker of the world’s markets in nickel, lead, zinc, tin, chrome, magnesium, copper and coal.

One could go on. The managing director of a private intelligence network in the U.K., one that has followed Rich for more than a decade on behalf of a secretive Arab client, says bluntly, “Marc owns Peru,” and this isn’t so hard to believe. With an annual turnover in excess of $30 billion, Marc Rich & Co. AG has a larger turnover than the GNPs of many Third World countries-including the two dozen whose economies are said to be entirely within his hands.

Sitting in the back of his Mercedes, it may be that he is reading Izvestia, faxed from the Moscow office. He would agree that the Russian newspaper has behaved responsibly in the past, defending him against the U.S. Justice Department in a front-page editorial. But now, in the new Russia, the newspaper has actually opened its pages to investigative reporters and other idiots. Only recently, Izvestia reported that a $750,000 reward had been offered by the U.S. for Rich’s capture, while suggesting that he was somehow responsible for the export from Russia of 700,000 tons of high-quality fuel oil, purchased for a fraction of its cost. (His profit was estimated to be between $48 million and $400 million.)

There are other allegations, of course, and a blizzard of rumors. It is said by one of his competitors, for example, that Rich has corrupted executives at the Finnish national oil company and that he’s using them to plunder their country’s economy.

Trade unionists in Romania accuse Rich of having banked the fortune that Nicolae Ceausescu stole, and a freelance spook in what was formerly Ollie North’s apparat insists that Rich worked hand-in-glove with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to loot the U.S.S.R. of its gold reserves during the Eighties. The Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Relations has called for an investigation of Rich’s connections to the infamous and now defunct BCCI.

And so it goes. In Amsterdam, the anti-apartheid Shipping Research Bureau accuses Rich of busting UN sanctions against South Africa. In New York, the authoritative Platt’s Oilgram News reports that he made oil shipments into Serbia at the same time the UN was preparing a blockade against that bellicose country. In London, Private Eye suggests the billionaire has been trying to violate similar embargoes imposed by the UN against Iraq.

But what do they know? Can anyone really be all that bad? (Can anyone really be all that rich?)

The rumors fall like snow past the windows of the Mercedes. But Marc Rich isn’t reading rumors. He knows the truth, and if he doesn’t, he can pay to have it found. Perhaps, for instance, he’s reading the report that he commissioned on a question of some delicacy – the report on the provenance of his blonde German girlfriend. Avner Azulay, an Israeli private eye, was hired by Rich to find out (among other things) if the woman’s family was pro-Nazi during the war. The detective’s report brought welcome news.

And so the man in the Mercedes can relax. It’s almost dawn in the Alps, he hasn’t been snatched and his girlfriend is clean. What more could a man want?

What more, indeed?

To understand who Marc Rich is, we need to know how one of the most powerful men in the world came to be a prisoner in paradise and a capitalist in flight.

Let us, then, begin at the beginning: Marc Rich (nee Reich) was born in Antwerp in 1934. He came to the U.S. with his parents eight years later, arriving in 1942. With the war in Europe behind them, the family settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where Rich’s father opened the Petty Gem Shop and earned a modest income. Rich attended public schools (where he seems to have made no impression whatsoever on his classmates), joined the Boy Scouts and went to summer camp in the Ozarks. (One of his tent-mates was writer Calvin Trillin, who remembers Marc as “the quietest kid at Camp Osceola. “)

To have been a Jew in Kansas City in the Forties (and one, moreover, who spoke three languages while still a child) could not have been easy. But he didn’t live there for long. The Petty Gem Shop prospered and became the diversified Rich Merchandising Co., which Rich’s father soon sold at a nice profit. In 1950 the family moved to New York, where the elder Rich entered into a partnership to manufacture burlap bags. With the Korean War shifting into overdrive, this proved to be a brilliant stroke: Military requirements pushed the demand for burlap through the roof, and the family’s fortune was made.

By then, Marc was enrolled at New York University. But as a sophomore, he was lured away from school by an acquaintance of his father’s, who wanted him to apprentice as a commodities trader at Philipp Brothers.

In 1954 Philipp Brothers was the biggest raw-materials trading company in the world, bridging the gap between mining and manufacturing companies on five continents. Established by scrap-metal merchants in Hamburg during the 1890s, the firm had expanded to England and the U.S. in the years before World War One. By World War Two it had become a giant with enormous influence in the Third World.

Rich began to learn the metals-handling business while working in the traffic department at Philipp Brothers. Like many of the other apprentices, he was the son of Jewish refugees. Unlike them, he’d grown up in the Midwest, surrounded by goyim. His father was a millionaire who was well-connected at Philipp Brothers itself. Marc wore suits that the others couldn’t afford, and he came to work in a red MG TD that seemed to instill envy in all who saw it.

Four years after leaving NYU, Rich was given his first assignment abroad. Sent to Havana on the eve of the Cuban revolution, he found himself in a vortex of decadence and corruption. It was a place where almost nothing worked except the bribe, which always worked. Rich got the company’s metal out of Cuba and was sent out into the world to make even more money for Philipp Brothers. He began to travel constantly between New York and La Paz, Cape Town and Santiago, taking time out to get married in 1966. His wife is the almond-eyed Denise Eisenberg, a New Englander who, like her husband, was the child of Jewish refugees who’d made a fortune in America after the war.

Unlike Marc, however, Denise was a rock-and-roller. He lived in a world of boardrooms dominated by patriarchal millionaires; she was a junk-food addict who loved the movies and was as driven to make it as a pop star as her husband would one day be driven to corner the world’s free-aluminum market.

Within a year of marrying, Rich was placed in charge of the Philipp Brothers’ office in Madrid and given a seat on the company’s European management committee. Always an insider, he was now privy to many of the company’s most closely held secrets, overseeing virtually every trade that Philipp Brothers made on the continent. Not content with that, he pulled off an extraordinary feat: in the late Sixties he invented the spot market for oil.

After World War Two, the world market was dominated by the Seven Sisters–companies that controlled the price and production of oil from wellhead to gas pump. By tapping suppliers in countries that had more oil than scruples – Iran was such a place – Rich and his Philipp Brothers’ associate, Pincus “Pinky” Green, were able to buy excess crude and sell it to refineries operating at less than capacity. In this way, the Seven Sisters were bypassed, and a gusher was tapped.

In the spring of 1973, Rich and Green anticipated the huge price increases that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would impose in the autumn. Acting on tips, possibly from sources in Israel, OPEC or the State Department, they learned that the price of oil on the spot market would jump (in fact, it would triple). So they bought $150 million worth of crude that spring, paying $5 a barrel above the spot price to get it.

It was a great deal, but a mixed blessing. The reaction at Philipp Brothers was unmitigated terror. Rich was forced to sell the oil before the embargo took place. In effect, the directors of Philipp Brothers cashed out before the winning hand was played. Belatedly, they realized their mistake and gave Rich and Green a freer rein. The resulting profits were enormous. And so were the bonuses owed to the two traders.

Indeed, the bonuses were so large—as unprecedented in their size as the oil deal had been risky—that the company refused to pay. So Rich and Green bolted, taking with them a half dozen of the firm’s best traders. In 1974, armed with pledges of as much Iranian oil as they could handle, the unlikely pair began trading as Marc Rich & Co. AG.

From the beginning they waged a private war against Philipp Brothers, doing everything in their power to destroy the company. Secretaries and clerks were bribed to provide copies of the opposition’s telexes, which enabled Rich and his cohorts to win contracts by bidding only pennies more than Philipp Brothers for tons of metals and grains. There were even allegations that Rich’s operatives had bugged the company’s headquarters in New York.

By the early Eighties, Phibro-Salomon (Philipp’s name after a merger with Salomon Brothers) was reeling, and Marc Rich and Co. had an annual turnover in excess of $10 billion. And yet, even while operated as a kind of pawnshop for the mineral wealth of the Third World, Marc Rich & Co. remained an enigma. Which was exactly the way Marc Rich wanted it.

To many, Rich’s obsession with secrecy bordered on paranoia, but the reality was that secrecy and profits were intimately linked. To pull off his deals, Rich often had to rely on bribery and sanctions busting. Throughout the Seventies and Eighties, for instance, South Africa was subject to oil embargoes imposed by the United Nations, OPEC and the European Community in response to that country’s apartheid policy. For a commodities trader like Rich, headquartered in neutral Switzerland, the UN embargo was made to order. The Afrikaners were happy to pay more than $8 a barrel over spot, which meant profits of more than $100 million on each contract Rich’s company brokered.

Nor was it particularly difficult to find a supplier. The Soviet Union needed hard currency to buy grain and build submarines, and one way to get it was by ignoring its own trading sanctions against an oil-thirsty country such as South Africa. With the buyer and seller lined up, all that was necessary was to launder the oil through a purposefully convoluted series of corporations chartered in such venues as Monaco, Liechtenstein and the Cayman Islands. Sometimes, when the cargo was delivered, the tanker would be scuttled and the seamen sent home by air. Subsequent investigations would reveal that the missing ship’s owners were headquartered at a Swiss post-office box—on which the monthly fee was overdue.

One such shipment left the Black Sea in September 1988, sailing aboard the Dagli, a Liberian oil tanker flying a Norwegian flag, carrying Soviet oil bought by a Greek firm for delivery to Italy. The muddled itinerary and ownership made tracing the vessel next to impossible. Slipping through the Dardanelles, the ship kept on going as it passed Sicily, and continued on through the the Straits of Gibraltar. Turning left at Tangier, it began communicating in code and covered its name in tarpaulins. The oil was eventually delivered to Cape Town in mid-October. According to Amsterdam’s Shipping Research Bureau, which investigated violations of oil embargoes against South Africa, “the whole masquerade had been set up by the real buyer, Marc Rich, who made use of a company that soon after ceased operating and another company belonging to his empire of which no traces are left at all.”

Experts estimate that Marc Rich supplied at least eight percent of South Africa’s oil needs during the Eighties, arranging for more than 75 secret shipments from the Soviet Union, the Persian Gulf and Brunei. The value of those shipments was in the billions, and so were the profits. But that was only a part of Rich’s payoff. When Phibro-Salomon stopped trading with South Africa in 1985, responding to anti-apartheid activists in the U.S., Rich quickly stepped in to fill the gap, replacing the firm as the exclusive sales agent for one of South Africa’s largest lead mines.

The South African trade put Rich into the sanctions-busting business in a big way. Rich must have convinced himself that political sanctions did not apply to his operations, or, if they did, that clever lawyers could get around them.

It’s not surprising, then, that the 1980 U.S. embargo against Iran was viewed by Rich as an opportunity to make a killing. Laundering Iranian oil through Panamanian fronts and sham transactions, Rich’s company was able to subvert price controls, evade taxes and move hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit profits offshore. Unfortunately for Rich, however, the deals also brought an indictment.

A pair of Texas oilmen, who were themselves under indictment for falsifying the offshore origin of what was purported to be domestic oil, offered up Marc and Pinky in return for light sentences. Rich and his partner were each charged with 51 counts of conspiracy, tax evasion, racketeering and trading with the enemy. Anticipating the indictment, Rich locked the doors to his ten-room apartment on Park Avenue and fled New York in early June 1983. A few days later, he and Denise were ensconced in Switzerland in a mansion overlooking the town of Zug. The indictment came down a few months later.

Although Rich and Green each faced more than 300 years in prison, they knew they’d be safe in the Alps. The extradition treaty between Washington and Bern was so old that it predated the income tax itself. It covered murder, rape and mayhem, but, the Swiss maintained, nothing in it applied to “the modern crimes” for which Rich and Green had been accused. In essence, since neither had strangled anyone, the billionaires were more than welcome to remain in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, and at a cost of more than $10 million, a platoon of brand-name lawyers (Edward Bennett Williams, Michael Tigar, Boris Kostelanetz and others) was deployed to wage a rearguard battle in the States. There, the courts had blocked some $50 million in payments owed to the Marc Rich group by other companies, and the prospect of property seizures seemed likely. There was, in addition, a contempt-of-court fine that amounted to $50,000 a day for Rich’s refusal to surrender subpoenaed documents to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Rich paid the fine by check in twice-weekly installments, complaining from Switzerland that if he surrendered the documents, he would be guilty of business espionage under Swiss law. This view was echoed by the cantonal prosecutor in Zug—though, admittedly, he sat on the boards of more than 30 of Rich’s corporations and so might not have been entirely objective.

Even as the legal battles continued, Rich knew that one could do worse than to be rich in Zug. With its fiscal pheromones of low taxes, bank secrecy and lax incorporation requirements, Zug was a mecca for businesses that operate on the edge.

And Marc Rich was in the middle of it. His mansion overlooking the Zugersee was decorated with Picassos, a Miro and a Braque. He skied at St. Moritz, where he maintained a luxurious chalet, and began to host a New Year’s Eve party for tout l’Europe. Placido Domingo was a guest, as were a constellation of other celebrities. Rich attended charity balls in Geneva and Lucerne, where he gave generously to the fight against fashionable diseases, and he caused a stir at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Taking a page from the extraditables in Colombia, he bought the approval of the little guy in Zug by pouring money into the local sports franchise, dramatically improving the fortunes of the Zug hockey team (now one of Switzerland’s best). Nor were his philanthropies confined to Switzerland. When the Jamaicans began to complain about Rich’s hammerlock on their aluminum industry, the fugitive billionaire responded by underwriting the costs of the country’s bobsled team at the 1988 Olympics.

Denise Rich, meanwhile, was making it big on her own. In 1985, a Sister Sledge rendition of one of her songs, Frankie, topped the British charts for six weeks, selling more than 750,000 copies. Denise followed Frankie’s success with her own album, Sweet Pain of Love, which may or may not have been inspired by her husband’s pursuit of beautiful aristocrats. In any event, the fugitive was now married to a rock star who appeared on European TV.

In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, in a washed-out office with cipher locks on the door and a metal detector at the entrance downstairs, a federal marshal plotted to bust Marc Rich. Indeed, Rich and Pinky Green were the sum of his caseload, and they occupied every hour of his day. The marshal spoke regularly with Rich’s rivals, with would-be bounty hunters, disaffected employees and customs officials and cops in the most remote corners of the world. He knew who Rich slept with, where he had dinner and how much he drank. From time to time he packed a valise and went after the fugitives, but the operations he mounted were never successful.

Learning that Rich was en route by private jet to Helsinki, he arranged for the plane to be met by police. Incredibly, Rich’s flight made a U-turn at 20,000 feet and headed back to Switzerland. A more ingenious plan required the cooperation of the Jeppesen Sanderson company, which has a near monopoly on the sale of aeronautical charts. Knowing that Rich’s widespread business interests required him to fly to some of the world’s most remote places, the marshal asked the company to tip him off whenever Rich’s pilots requested new charts. Jeppesen Sanderson refused to help. And so it went: The marshal couldn’t get the cooperation he needed, and whenever a trap was laid, Rich eluded it. Clearly, Rich had better spies than the U.S. Marshals Service could muster.

A lesser man might have been content to cut his losses and enjoy his millions in the Alps. But not Marc Rich. Although his companies had been indicted on an array of serious charges, and he himself was reduced to the status of fugitive racketeer, Rich still wanted to do business in America. All he needed was someone to front for him until his lawyers could reach a settlement with the Justice Department.

The line between chutzpah and hubris is a thin one, and Rich crossed it when he sent a trader named Bob Tribbett to New York in May 1984, instructing him to arrange a soybean transaction with Romania. It wasn’t a big deal by Rich’s standards, only $24.5 million, but it was obviously important to him because, in the end, it cost him millions and taught him a dangerous lesson: Fugitives are fair game.

To complete the deal Rich proposed, Tribbett hired Robert Whitehead, an investment banker, unaware that Whitehead was hooked up with the FBI and the DEA, for whom he was a contract informant. Whitehead’s office suite, telephones, car and private plane were bugged.

None of this was known to Rich or Tribbett, who had other things on their minds, not the least of which was an unusually sensitive transaction with Iran.

Four years earlier, when the American government left Iran to the Ayatollah Khomeini and the mullahs, U.S. military attaches and advisors sabotaged computerized records and equipment, including anti-aircraft missiles, the guidance systems of which were removed by departing American advisors.

Enter Marc Rich.

According to Whitehead, Rich used his contacts to obtain gas-fired gyroscopes from North Korea, providing them to the Iranians as replacements for the missing guidance systems. Suddenly, at a crucial point in the Iran-Iraq war, Iranian missiles became a factor. It was as if Marc Rich had delivered an entire inventory of missiles to the ayatollah’s forces – long before Irangate. (It would be a year before Iranian, Israeli and U.S. negotiators would meet in Europe for the first time to discuss swapping Hawk missles for U.S. hostages in Lebanon.) What Rich got in return for the gyroscopes is unknown, but putting the ayatollah in his debt could not have hurt his position as one of the world’s largest independent oil brokers.

Meanwhile, even as the gyroscope deal went down with Iran, Whitehead obtained a $24.5 million loan fom the Marine Midland Bank for the soybean transaction. Tribbett says that Whitehead was supposed to receive about $35,000 from the Marc Rich organization for his part in the deal, but Whitehead admits that he took about $5 million instead.

The FBI confirms that figure as the amount that went missing on Whitehead’s watch, though what happened to the money is unclear. Tribbett suggests that Marine Midland used the funds to cover Whitehead’s other debits at the bank. Whitehead’s FBI handler has a different explanation: “To tell you the truth, I think he just pissed it away.”

In any event, Rich found a better way to do business in the U.S. while still on the run. In the fall of 1984, lawyers for Rich and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York arrived at a compromise. Marc Rich & Co. AG, and Clarendon, Ltd. (formerly Marc Rich International) pleaded guilty to dozens of criminal charges, sustaining $171 million in fines (including $21 million for contempt of court in refusing to surrender subpoenaed documents). Rich raised the money by selling a 50 percent interest in 20th Century Fox to oilman Marvin Davis, with whom he had co-owned the studio. From then on, the U.S. government had no further claim on Rich’s companies, though Rich himself remained a wanted man.

Today, Rich’s biggest play is under way in what was formerly the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Brimming with natural resources, “the Wild East” is a political and economic mess. A diverse group of ministries holds sway over a melange of ethnic mafias, born-again capitalists, footloose KGB agents and what used to be called “the masses.” It is a world in which billions of dollars in Soviet gold reserves have been looted by Communist Party apparatchiks, at least three of whom are reported to have cartwheeled to their deaths from the windows of Moscow office buildings.

The once vast reserves of Soviet gold have dwindled toward zero, while more than 1000 tons have been smuggled out of the country to Zurich and Tokyo aboard military cargo planes and Aeroflot flights. Under-the-table transactions by the managers of mines, along with clandestine shipments by factory supervisors, are now so frequent that border republics such as Latvia and Estonia have become major exporters of copper, nickel and aluminum–even though none of these metals is produced in either country. Meanwhile, privatization continues with all the deliberation of a national fire sale.

It is, in other words, just the sort of place in which a man like Rich can make a killing. Who’s to stop him? In 1992 the Russian government considered posing a moratorium on all business dealings with Marc Rich & Co. AG pending “a thorough investigation.” Other allegations surfaced that Rich has been illegally exporting raw materials, bribing government officials and aiding capital flight from the country.

Despite the official pronouncements against him, Rich has seen his operations in the former Soviet Union grow exponentially in the past year. Where ten employees once sufficed, 150 have now been hired, and the company’s regional turnover is in the billions. Rich and his colleagues have stepped into the void left by the shattered Communist infrastructure, taking over many of the functions once carried out by Soviet trading organs.

In this, the man in the Mercedes has been abetted almost as much by his contacts as by the vaults of currency at his command. And of those contacts, none are more colorful or well-connected in intelligence circles than an Orthodox rabbi named Ronald Greenwald.
A Brooklyn boyhood chum of Pinky Green’s, Greenwald is both a rabbi and a commodities dealer. As an agent for Marc Rich in New York, he is also one of those rare spiritual advisors who find it necessary to deny that he’s a CIA agent and/or a front for the Mossad. Affable and wry, the Reb is himself an important player in war-torn Tajikistan, where convoys of aluminum are escorted by private armies in the Reb’s employ.

Meanwhile, there are signs that Greenwald’s persistent lobbying for Rich and Green’s freedom from their pending indictments, in tandem with the efforts of Leonard Garment and former Justice Department official Brad Reynolds, is having an effect. When Representative Bob Wise (D-W. Va.) convened a subcommittee hearing two years ago on Capitol Hill, seeking to learn why the Justice Department has been unable to nab one of the most conspicuous fugitives in the world, representatives from Justice at first refused to appear before the subcommittee and then stonewalled it. Wise was outraged.

“This isn’t your average miscreant who has fled the country for knocking over 15 7-Elevens and is kicking around the dock at Marseilles;’ he said. “This is Marc Rich operating with total impunity out of a tall office building in Switzererland. Why hasn’t this been made a priority?” He noted that Rich is under indictment for trading with the enemy and for “the biggest tax fraud in history.”

Despite the seriousness of the charges, Wise said, there seems to be “a lack of political will” to apprehend Rich and Green. Wise pointed out that the government has yet to publish a reward for their arrests or, for that matter, a wanted poster. Despite the severity of their crimes, Wise noted, neither man is among the 15 most-wanted fugitives currently being sought by the U.S. Marshals Service—though several thugs who have knocked over 7-Elevens are prominent on the list.

Calling the case “strange,” the subcommittee criticized Justice for its “lack of relentlessness” and cited numerous failures in the department’s handling of the case. The worst of these may well have been its failure “to ensure that, at a minimum, the fugitives do not make money from the U.S. government.”

Until recently, Rich and his companies have continued to do business—big business—with the U.S. government, despite Rich’s status as a fugitive. The Commodity Credit Corporation has enabled the elusive billionaire to sell American grain by providing more than $50 million in export subsidies to one of Rich’s companies. As bizarre as this may seem, an even greater irony rests with the U.S.

Mint’s reliance on Marc Rich for the copper, nickel and zinc that it needs to (literally) “make money.” Between 1989 and 1992, the Rich organization sold more than $45 million in metal to the Mint.

Through the efforts of Congressmen Dan Glickman and Bob Wise, Rich is no longer doing business with the CCC or the Mint. But not much else has changed. There is no evidence that the Justice Department has acted on recommendations made by Congress.

On the contrary, the only change known to have taken place is that the hardworking marshal, who knew more about Rich and Green than perhaps anyone else in government, has been taken off the case and reassigned to Tampa.

To anyone attending the Wise hearings, the conclusion was virtually inescapable that Rich and Green are being protected—and not just by the Swiss and the Colombians.

One can speculate about the sources of Rich’s protection in the federal government. He is, after all, in an excellent position to further certain U.S. foreign policy objectives and to satisfy various intelligence requirements in Third World countries. It would hardly be surprising, then, if the State Department, CIA or National Security Council were to enlist the help of a fugitive with Rich’s broad access and enormous means.

It should be remembered, too, that Rich has a complex and intriguing relationship with the Justice Department. When Congressman Wise questioned Justice about its contacts with Rich’s attorneys and other agents, seeking to make a deal on his behalf, the department refused to discuss the matter. Why Justice should stonewall Congress on behalf of a fugitive is uncertain, though few would doubt that the wall was built to conceal the fact that Rich is working with Justice (and quite possibly with other agencies) on what can only be called “special projects.”

In the past year or so, the Justice Department has quietly inserted two sealed envelopes into Rich’s court file. While those envelopes are not to be opened unless Rich is brought before the court, there can be no doubt that the contents of at least one envelope pertain to Rich’s efforts to help the Justice Department nab other fugitives.

One such fugitive is Tom Billman. Accused of stealing more than $100 million from a Washington, D.C.-area S&L, Billman was apprehended in Paris last spring after leading the authorities on an around-the-world chase that lasted more than three years. At the time of his arrest, the globe-trotting embezzler was prominent on the U.S. Marshals’ 15 most-wanted list and living under an assumed name.

Rich’s contribution to Billman’s apprehension was to hire an Israeli private eye, the same Avner Azulay who checked out Rich’s girlfriend, to help track down Billman. With a hefty budget, Azulay paid out more than $200 an hour to private intelligence agencies in London, New York and Washington, instructing them to track Billman’s movements and money in Europe and Asia. The information that Azulay received was then provided to U.S. officials, and the rest (or, at least, Billman) was history. Whether Billman’s arrest was a direct result of Rich’s efforts is unknown. The Justice Department won’t say, and. Rich would under no circumstances want to take credit for helping the U.S. track down its enemies, some of whom are his business partners.

The contents of the second envelope are a mystery, but may have to do with rumors that Rich and Greenwald played a key role in arranging the 1992 expulsion of East German leader Erich Honecker from Moscow to Berlin, where, after an abortive trial, he was permitted (for reasons of health) to leave Germany for residence in Chile.

Asked about Honecker and Billman, Greenwald shrugs. “There are rumors,” he says with a sly smile. And then he shrugs again. “With Marc, there are always rumors.”


“King of the World,” was first published in Playboy in February, 1994.

Nixon In the Jungle

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

“Did Richard Nixon—then Citizen Nixon—jump-start the Vietnam War on a secret mission to Saigon in 1964? The following piece suggests that he may have. The following story originally appeared in the anthology, Nixon: An Oliver Stone Film, edited by Eric Hamburg (Hyperion, New York, 1995).”

Richard M. Nixon 37th President of the United States

It is one of the most mysterious incidents in the Vietnam War, and I can’t get it out of my mind.

It was the spring of 1964, and the former Vice President of the United States, who was also the next President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, was standing in a jungle clearing northwest of Saigon, negotiating with a man who, to all appearances, was a Vietcong lieutenant. Wearing battle fatigues “with no identification,” Nixon was flanked by military bodyguards whose mission was so secret that, when they returned to Saigon, their clothing was burned. [“Secret Nixon Vietnam Trip Reported,” New York Times, Feb. 17, 1985.]

At the time, Nixon had been out of public office (though not out of politics) for more than three years. After losing the Presidential election in 1960 and the California gubernatorial race in 1962, he’d gone into private practice as an attorney with the Mudge, Rose law firm, subsiding into what amounted to an enforced retirement from the world’s stage. It’s all the more surprising, then, to find this political castoff on a secret mission in the Orient – only a few months after the Kennedy and Diem assassinations.

Not that Nixon was a stranger to intrigue. On the contrary, his political career might easily be graphed as a parabola of Cold War conspiracies. As a Red-baiting congressman in the forties, he’d made the most of a lovely “photo opportunity” by uncovering stolen State Department secrets – in a Maryland pumpkin field. In the fifties, while Vice President, he’d run a stable of spooks – actually run them – in an off-the-books operation to destroy the Greek shipping tycoon, Aristotle Onassis. [Jim Hougan, Spooks (New York: Morrow, 1978), pp. 286-306. Onassis was targeted because of an agreement he’d reached with the Saudi government, monopolizing the export of oil from Saudi Arabia] In that operation, Nixon acted as a case officer to Robert Maheu (himself a linkman between the CIA and the Mafia) [Hougan, Spooks, pp. 286-300, and Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele, Empire (New York: Norton, 1979), pp. 282-285.] and a former Washington Post reporter named John Gerrity. Gerrity later recalled that “Nixon more or less invented the Mission Impossible speech, and he gave it to us right there, in the White House. You know the spiel, the one that begins, ‘Your assignment, gentlemen, should you choose to accept it. . . .” [Hougan’s interview with Gerrity.] Years afterward, when the Eisenhower Administration was drawing to a close, then Vice President Nixon served as the de facto focal point officer for the Administration’s plans to overthrow Fidel Castro. In that role, he was in regular contact with the CIA and with some of the darker precincts of the Pentagon.

It’s fair to say, then, that Richard M. Nixon knew what he was doing when it came to covert operations – but what was he doing in the jungle in 1964?

The story surfaced, briefly, some 20 years later, when the New York Times reported that Nixon, “while on a private trip to Vietnam in 1964, met secretly with the Vietcong and ransomed five American prisoners of war for bars of gold. : . .” [“Secret Nixon Vietnam Trip Reported,” p. 3.] In reporting this, the Times relied upon a report published in the catalog of a Massachusetts autograph dealer. The dealer was selling a handwritten note that Nixon had given to one of his bodyguards. The note read, “To Hollis Kimmons with appreciation for his protection for my helicopter ride in Vietnam, from Richard Nixon.”

The value of the note was increased by the circumstances that generated it, circumstances that Sergeant Kimmons described in the catalog:

When Nixon arrived at Ton Son Nhut Airport in Saigon, Sergeant Kimmons was assigned to security detail and was accompanying Nixon on all excursions away from the 145th Aviation Battalion where Nixon was staying. On the second day, Nixon dressed in Army fatigues with no identification and climbed aboard a helicopter with Sergeant Kimmons and a crew of four. [Fatigues typically have the owner’s last name sewn on a plaquet on the breast.]

Base Ops sign at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, 1967.

They proceeded to Phuoc Binh, a village northwest of Saigon, where they met with Father Wa, a go-between that arranged the exchange of the gold for U. S. prisoners. The following day, Nixon and his party departed for An Loc, a village south of Phuoc Binh, where in a clearing somewhere in this area Nixon met with a Vietcong lieutenant who established a price for the return of five U.S. prisoners.

A location for the exchange was arranged and the crew departed for Saigon. Later the same day, the crew, this time without Nixon because of the extreme danger, departed for Phumi Kriek, a village across the border in Cambodia. A box loaded with gold bars so heavy it took three men to lift it on the helicopter accompanied the crew.

At the exchange point, five U.S. servicemen were rustled out of the jungle accompanied by several armed soldiers. The box of gold was unloaded and checked by the Vietcong lieutenant and the exchange was made without incident. The crew and rescued prisoners immediately departed for Saigon, and they were sent to the hospital upon their arrival.

Sergeant Kimmons’s mission was secret, and there were no written orders for his duty during this period. His clothes were destroyed as well as the film in his camera, and he signed an agreement not to reveal this incident for 20 years. Nixon’s note to him was hurriedly written at the conclusion of his assignment to guard Nixon on the following day.  [The Times article quotes from a catalog printed by Templeton, Massachusetts, autograph dealer Paul C. Richards.]

That Nixon traveled to Vietnam in 1964 is a matter of fact. He departed the United States in late March on a round-the-world trip that took him, first, to Beirut, and then to Karachi, Calcutta, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Saigon. There, he dined with the American Ambassador, Henry Cabot Lodge, who had been his running mate in the 1960 Presidential race. In the days that followed, Nixon helicoptered into the countryside, [New York Times, Apr. 3, 1964] and then continued on to Hong Kong, Manila, Taiwan, and Tokyo before returning home. [RN: The Memoirs of Richard M. Nixon (New York, Touchstone, 1990), pp. 256-258, and article sin the following editions of the New York Times, covering his trip: March 23-28, 1964; March 30-31, 1964; April 2-10, 1964; and April 16, 1964.] Nixon later wrote that the purpose of the trip was to meet with Mudge, Rose clients and foreign leaders. Contemporary reports make it obvious, however, that the real purpose of the trip was to drum up international support for what was about to become America’s massive intervention in Vietnam. [Ibid.]

There is nothing in the Times’ account to suggest that the exchange of gold on April 3 was in any way relevant to the impending escalation of the war, but the possibility is an intriguing one. The Times’ article is anything but conclusive. On the contrary, it simply parrots the cover story that Sergeant Kimmons had been given, while at the same time neglecting to identify the mission’s middleman, the so-called “Father Wa.”

According to the Pentagon, which kept meticulous records of American prisoners of war, the POW release that Sergeant Kimmons described could not have occurred. The few Americans in captivity in 1964 were all accounted for in 1965—and most of them were still in cages. (Even so, we needn’t rely on the Pentagon to give the lie to Nixon’s cover story. Whatever else may be said about Richard Nixon, he was a consummate politician and, if he’d risked his life to rescue American prisoners of war, we’d have heard about it – if not in 1964, then most definitely in 1968.) As for the identity of “Father Wa,” Sergeant Kimmons (and the Times) fell victim to phonetics. Far more than an anonymous interpreter, the Rev. Nguyen Loc Hoa was a legendary figure in Vietnam. A bespectacled Catholic priest whose black cassock was usually cinched with a web ammo belt and a pair of holstered .45s, he was the symbol of militant anti-Communism in the south. [Cecil Currey, Edward Lansdale: The Unquiet American (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988), p.220. ] Twenty years before, he’d fought a successful guerrilla war against the Japanese in China. Soon afterward, and as a colonel in the Chinese Nationalist Army, he’d battled Mao Tse Tung’s Communist insurgency. Driven from China, he and two thousand followers lived for a while in Cambodia before moving to a mangrove swamp in the Mekong Delta—where they set up a village and went to war against the Vietcong.

Father Hoa’s story was told in an article that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, a few months after President Kennedy took office. Entitled “The Report the President Wanted Published,” the piece was published under peculiar circumstances. Authored by “An American Officer” whose identity could not be made public “for professional reasons,” [An American Officer, “The Report the President Wanted Published,” Saturday Evening Post, May 20, 1961, p. 31.] the article was in fact written by Gen. Edward Lansdale, an Air Force-CIA officer whose counterinsurgency theories and practice had inspired at least two books (The Ugly American and The Quiet American). [Currey, Edward Lansdale, p. 225.] According to. Lansdale, President Kennedy personally telephoned him to ask that he arrange for publication of what, until then, had been a secret report.

The article, and a follow-up piece that came out a year later, were blatant propaganda. [Don Schanche, “Father Hoa’s Little War,” Saturday Evening Post, Feb. 17, 1962. ] In sentimentalizing Father Hoa’s ferocious anti-Communism while demonizing the Vietcong, the articles did much to prepare the American public for the larger war to come.

Whatever President Kennedy’s motives may have been in pushing General Lansdale to publish his secret report, Nixon’s visit to the jungle is even more mysterious. Why should a former Vice President of the United States, accompanied by a legendary guerrilla fighter with excellent ties to the CIA, dress up in battle fatigues and adopt a cover story to facilitate a journey into the Vietnamese bush? The answer, obviously, is to make a very secret deal. But if, as we’ve discovered, Nixon was engaged in something other than ransoming prisoners, what was he buying with so much gold-and who were those guys that came out of the jungle near Phumi Kriek?

Recently declassified reports of the top-secret Military Assistance Command/Studies and Observations Group (MACSOG) raise the possibility that Nixon’s mission may have had to do with OPLAN 34-A. This was a covert operation to undermine the North Vietnamese by inserting “specially trained” Vietnamese commandos behind enemy lines. [“Once Commandos for U.S., Vietnamese Are Now Barred,” New York Times, Apr. 14, 1995, p.1.] The operation was run by the CIA from 1961 to 1963, and by the Pentagon from 1964 to 1967. We’re told that the activity was paid for with money the CIA had received from the U.S. Navy and then laundered offshore. [Ibid.]

Since Nixon’s mission had nothing to do with prisoners of war, it seems likely indeed that the Americans who dashed from the jungle at Phumi Kriek were CIA operatives or paramilitaries. This likelihood, coupled with the large amount of untraceable gold, suggests a mission of surpassing sensitivity – which, in turn, suggests OPLAN 34-A.

But what makes the incident at Phumi Kriek seem important, however, is not just the secrecy that surrounded it, or even the large amount of gold that was involved. It is, instead, the presence of Richard Nixon. Why him? What could such an outre politician have possibly brought to a covert operation in Vietnam?

The answer, of course, is nothing – except his face. Which is to say, the unmistakable face of American political authority. With Richard Milhouse Nixon present at the negotiations, and with the fabled Father Hoa as his interpreter, the supposed “Vietcong lieutenant” (himself, perhaps, a MACSOG operative) would never have questioned the legitimacy of the mission on which he was being sent. He would have known that, no matter how improbable, the mission was sanctioned by the highest echelons of the American government.

But what can that mission have been?

With Nixon, Hoa, and Kimmons dead, one can only speculate. But it’s worth noting that four months after the meeting at Phumi Kriek, OPLAN 34-A commando raids were carried out against the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin. Two days later, an American destroyer, the Maddox, was attacked in the Gulf by North Vietnamese patrol boats – which led, almost instantly, to American air raids on North Vietnam and the passage of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, escalating America’s involvement in the war.
In his recent mea culpa, [Robert S. McNamara, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (New York: Times Books, 1995), p. 133.] former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara writes that the attack on the Maddox was “so irrational” that “some believed the 34-A operations had played a role in triggering North Vietnam’s actions.” Though McNamara does not say so, his implication is clear: OPLAN 34-A operatives deliberately provoked the North Vietnamese and, in so doing, transformed “a small, out-of-the-way conflict into a full-bore war.” [“Once Commandos for the U.S. . . . ,” p. 1.]

If that is what happened, it’s understandable that OPLAN 34-A operations should be so secret that their very existence was omitted from the Pentagon Papers. [This, according to Sedwick Tourison, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst, who called OPLAN 34-A operations “the secret” of the Vietnam War (“Once Commandos for the U.S….,” p. 1). ] What’s less clear is whether or not Richard M. Nixon was directly involved in the secret funding of operations that may well have jump-started the Vietnam War.


Throat: Mark Felt, Robert Bennett and the Post’s Cointelpro Problem

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

That Deep Throat should turn out to be Mark Felt is not the most welcome news at the Washington Post. The paper would have much preferred a crypto-liberal such as Leonard Garment in the role (assuming that Adam Sandler wasn’t available). Almost anyone, in other words, would have been better than the guy responsible for supervising the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO operations during the 1960s.

Mark Felt

Mark Felt (August 17, 1913 – December 18, 2008). FBI photo.

As anyone who marched in the Sixties knows, these were secret and unconstitutional counterintelligence programs targeting the Left and a handful of white supremacists. As head of the FBI’s Inspection Division, it was Felt’s responsibility to maximize the effectiveness of the program in the field. Lest there be any doubt about this, it should be emphasized that Felt’s brief was not to ensure that anyone’s civil liberties were protected, or even that the law was adhered to, but to make certain that Hoover’s attack on the anti-war movement ran smoothly.

So bestowing the mantle of Deep Throat on the Toscanini of black-bag jobs must have felt like crowning Jenna Jamison “Sweetheart of the Year.” (Yes, she’s done important work, but…no.) Watergate editor Ben Bradlee and his colleagues would no doubt like the public to see this as an irony—one of those wacky things that happen in Washington all the time. But it’s not that. It’s much more.

Historically, Deep Throat has been cast as an American hero, the Nixon Administration official who came forward, however secretively, to blow the whistle on the Administration’s improprieties and crimes. By helping the Post unravel the White House cover-up, Throat and his cub-reporter buddies almost single-handedly destroyed the Wicked Warlock of the West Wing. The rest is history.

And myth.

One of the most lasting consequences of the Watergate affair has been its corrosive effect upon investigative reporting. Through its unquestioning embrace of Deep Throat, Hollywood and the press have romanticized the anonymous source and, in so doing, legitimized him. The results are there to be seen in your daily newspaper: story after story, attributed to no one in particular. “Speaking on condition of anonymity… “ “White House sources denied…” “A Pentagon official said…”

As sources disappear, the news becomes more propagandistic. Ambitious and calculating pols drop innuendos and send up trial-balloons, without ever having to take responsibility for what they’ve said. Or not said. In the playground of anonymous sources, the public is increasingly informed by creative writers like Jason Blair (formerly of the New York Times), Stephen Glass (ex-New Republic), Jack Kelly (gone from USA Today), and, ironically, Woodward’s former protégé at the Post, Janet Cooke. Not surprisingly, the public becomes increasingly skeptical.

The problem with anonymous sources is not just that they might be “composite” characters, or that they might not exist at all, but rather that the source’s motives are beyond scrutiny. So the story is necessarily incomplete.

That said, our view of the Watergate affair may now be changed by the certain knowledge of Throat’s identity. Until recently, his motives could only be inferred. And the inference was that he was a government official so outraged by the Nixon Administration’s hubris and disregard for the law that he risked all to alert the public. A real Good Guy, in other words.

That’s what Hollywood and the Post would have us think, and it is what Mark Felt’s grandchildren believe. But inasmuch as Grandpa was himself convicted of “conspiring to injure and oppress citizens of the United States” by having authorized countless black-bags job and warrantless searches at the Bureau, it seems unlikely that Felt would be traumatized by a break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in the Watergate office building.

If I am right about that, then it’s likely Throat’s concern was as much political as it was civic.

In his June 2, 2005 article in the Post, outing his source, Woodward tells us that Felt regarded the Nixon White House as “corrupt…sinister…(a) cabal.” And, as the Post reporter makes clear, this was a view that Felt held long before to the Watergate break-in. Indeed, Woodward says, “Felt thought the Nixon team were Nazis.”

As it happens, this is exactly what I thought at the time, as did nearly every other liberal that I knew. Strange, then, to learn that this same point of view was shared by Mark Felt, a professional Red-hunter so highly placed in the FBI that only the Director, J. Edgar Hoover, outranked him.

Or maybe it’s not so strange.

A similar view of the Nixon Administration was held by James McCord, the rightwing evangelist and former CIA Security chief who led the break-in team at the Watergate. In a series of bizarre “newsletters” written after he had been arrested, McCord put forward a conspiracy theory suggesting that the Rockefeller family was lunging for control of the government’s critical national security functions, using the Council on Foreign Relations and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger as its means to an end.

At the Pentagon, then-Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, went even further. To Zumwalt, the Nixon Administration was “inimical to the security of the United States.” [Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., On Watch (New York: Quadrangle Books, 1976), p. xiv.] Indeed, as the admiral later explained, he eventually 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…” [Ibid.]

Egad…they’ve sold us out!

But Zumwalt, Felt and McCord were by no means alone in their suspicions of the Nixon White House. Within the Pentagon, a military spy-ring was pillaging Kissinger’s secrets on behalf of Adm. Thomas Moorer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since 1970.

Within the offices of the National Security Council, and on secret missions to China, Kissinger’s briefcases were rifled and his burn-bags ransacked. In all, perhaps a thousand top-secret documents were stolen and transmitted to Moorer’s office (if not elsewhere, as well) by Yeoman Charles Radford, a young Mormon acting on orders of Adm. Robert Welander.

Here, matters become a bit incestuous.

Admiral Welander was an aide to Moorer. But he was also a mentor of Lt. Bob Woodward, whose commander Welander had been aboard the USS Fox. Reportedly, it was at the urging of Welander—who had yet to be implicated in “the Moorer-Radford affair”—that Woodward extended his tour of duty in 1969, going to the Pentagon to serve as Communications Duty Officer to then-Chief of Naval Operations, Tom Moorer.

In that capacity, Woodward presided over the CNO’s code-room, reading every communication that went in and out, while acting, also, as a briefer and a courier. This, he tells us, is how he met Deep Throat, while cooling his heels outside the Situation Room in the White House. It was 1970 and, according to Woodward, Mark Felt was sitting in the chair next to him, cooling his heels.

The Moorer-Radford affair is not usually considered a part of the Watergate story, though it deserves to be. The Nixon Administration learned of the Pentagon spy-ring in late 1971, but the affair itself did not become public until nearly three years later. By then, the Watergate story was almost played out.

While president, Nixon was determined to keep the affair secret, telling Kissinger aide David Young, “If you love your country, you’ll never mention it.” But the Pentagon’s chief investigator, W. Donald Stewart, was more forthcoming. Asked how seriously the affair should be taken, Stewart replied with a rhetorical question: “Did you see that film, ‘Seven Days in May’? That’s what we were dealing with…”

The film is about a military conspiracy to topple the president. A coup d’etat, in other words.

So it is interesting to learn that Mark Felt placed Yeoman Radford under electronic surveillance long after the White House learned of his activities, and even after Radford had been transferred to a dead-end military post 3000 miles from Washington, D.C. This suggests that Felt may have been more concerned with counterintelligence issues than he was with prosecutorial ones. (Radford was never charged with a crime.)

So why did Radford do it?

Jim Hougan’s, ‘Secret Agenda’ is available at Amazon.

According to Radford, whom I interviewed many years ago, his “superiors” believed that Kissinger’s foreign policy was “catastrophic” by design. His own espionage activities, Radford insisted, were intended to defeat a conspiracy conceived by “the Rockefeller family” and orchestrated by the Council on Foreign Relations. The purpose of this supposed conspiracy, according to Radford, was to win the Soviets’ cooperation in guaranteeing the Rockefellers’ “continued domination” over the world’s currencies. In return for this, Nixon and Kissinger were to construct a foreign policy that would ensure Soviet hegemony and a one-world government. [Jim Hougan, Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA (Random House, New York, 1984), p. 75]

From Egad, we move to Yikes! It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Nixon. But not quite.
It wasn’t just Donald Stewart who was worried about a Seven Days in May scenario. The CIA, was spying on the White House, as well. Enter Woodward’s second source: Robert Bennett.

Until Woodward identified Mark Felt as Deep Throat, I was of the firm opinion that the honor belonged to Bennett. This was so because it seemed to me that, at a minimum, for someone to be taken seriously as a candidate for Deep Throat, there should be some evidence that he met secretly with Woodward and fed him stories about Watergate.

Until Woodward outed Felt, the only candidate who fit the bill was Bennett.

In 1972, when Mark Felt was reading transcripts of Yeoman Radford’s conversations, Bennett was the new owner of the Robert R. Mullen Company. This was a CIA front with offices in Washington and abroad. Among Bennett’s employees was the seemingly retired CIA officer, E. Howard Hunt. Politically hyper-active during the Nixon Administration, Bennett was also the Washington representative of the Howard Hughes organization (which was just entering negotiations 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, and it was Bennett who volunteered his own nephew to work as an infiltrator at the DNC. One might go on with Bennett’s contributions to the Watergate affair, but the point is made: Bennett was an extremely well-placed source, if not a co-conspirator.

Today, Senator Bennett is a Mormon elder and one of the richest men in Congress. That he was also a key source of Bob Woodward’s during the Watergate affair is memorialized in a Memorandum to the Record written by Martin J. Lukoskie, Bennett’s CIA case-officer in 1972 . [The memo was first published in the so-called “Nedzi Hearings” of the House Armed Services Committee’s “Inquiry into the Alleged Involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Watergate and Ellsberg Matters,” which began May 11, 1973. See, also, Secret Agenda, pages 329-31.] According to Lukoskie, Bennett “established a ‘backdoor entry’ to the Edward Bennett Williams law firm which is representing the Democratic Party (and the Washington Post )…” Bennett’s job was to “kill off any revelation” about the Mullen Company’s relationship to the CIA. A second part of his brief was to dissuade reporters from pursuing a ‘Seven Days in May’ scenario” that would have implicated the CIA in a conspiracy to “take over the country.”
Sounds like Bennett should to have had a word with Donald Stewart, as well.

The relationship between Bennett and the Post was subsequently clarified by Lukoskie’s CIA boss, Eric Eisenstadt. In a memo to the Deputy Director of Plans, Eisenstadt wrote that Bennett “has been feeding stories to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post with the understanding that there be no attribution to Bennett. Woodward is suitably grateful for the fine stories and by-lines he gets and protects Bennett (and the Mullen Company).” [The memo is dated March 1, 1973.]


It’s enough to make you wonder, though not, apparently, enough to make the press wonder. But this is what the Deep Throat mystery is all about. It’s not just a parlor game to canonize yet another celebrity. Rather, it’s a question of deciding whether or not the Post’s coverage was manipulated by a cabal of spooks who were working to destroy an unpopular president.
This is, of course, a conspiratorial point of view. Most of the press has embraced Mark Felt as the celebrity de jour and, toward that end, the only motive they impute to his behavior is a love of country. And that is what’s likely to be taught in the schools.
More objective observers, however, will point to the fact that FBI Director Hoover died a few weeks before the Watergate break-ins, and will suggest that his second-in-command, Mark Felt, went after the Nixon Administration because he was disappointed at not being named to take Hoover’s place.

That’s possible, of course, but even if Felt didn’t get to be Director, he got the next best thing. That is to say, he got the files. Within hours of Hoover’s death, Felt took charge of Hoover’s Official and Confidential files—including one that was headed “Black-Bag Jobs.” The fate of other files in Hoover’s executive suite, including the Director’s Personal and Confidential files and the so-called “Do Not File” files, remains a mystery. [For details, see Inquiry into The Destruction of Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s Files and FBI Record-keeping, Hearings before the Government Information and Individual Rights Subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Operations, 94th Congress, 1st session, Dec. 1, 1975. ]

Now that we know that Mark Felt is Deep Throat, it would be grand to ask him about the Director’s missing files, his view of Yeoman Radford’s spying, and his reasons for going to the press, rather than to the Justice Department, with his concerns about Watergate. It’s clear, however, that his family has no intention of making the old man available. He is, after all, 91-years-old and not entirely well.

My guess, however, is that if Felt were asked about these issues, he would take a more conspiratorial view of them than most. What makes me think so is Woodward’s account of a meeting he had with Throat, shortly before the Watergate hearings began in the Senate. According to Woodward, Throat Felt told him:

Everyone’s life is in danger…
(E)lectronic surveillance is going on and we had better watch it.
Who’s responsible?
C-I-A… ”[Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, All the President’s Men (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1974), p. 317.]

Now, there’s a story! But curiously, it never appeared in the Post.