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Posts Tagged ‘Moorer-Radford’

Robert Merritt and the Scandal That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

 



Nearly 40 years after the Watergate arrests, a former police spy has published a book in which he makes extraordinary claims about the FBI’s COINTEL program and, just as sensationally, the supposed dismantling of the Nixon Administration by a Pentagon spy-ring.

Watergate Exposed is the biography of a “Confidential Informant” named Robert Merritt, as told to one of the lawyers for the Watergate burglars.  It is not a very good book, or even a very reliable one.  But it may be a mistake to ignore it.  Among other things, Merritt claims to have tipped off the police in advance of the June 17th Watergate break-in, to have participated with police and Pentagon agents in the drugging, kidnapping and blackmailing of a senior CIA lawyer, while also having a hand in the poisoning of antiwar demonstrators.

***

Robert Merritt

The story begins in the tradition of the bildungsroman, with the young Merritt leaving an unhappy home in West Virginia, only to wash up at a Trailways bus station in the nation’s capital.  A good-looking kid with few, if any, moral inhibitions, it was apparently only a matter of minutes before he concluded a sex-for-hospitality arrangement with an employee at the bus station.  With his domestic situation efficiently sorted, Merritt then went looking for more gainful employment, and soon found it as a post-mortem technician in a local hospital.  His job?  Removing the hearts from the cadavers of children for use in a government study.

The work seems not to have bothered him overly much.  He toiled at it for two years before he found what became his life’s calling.  In January, 1970, while cruising the city’s “artsy” Dupont Circle neighborhood, Merritt attracted the attention of an undercover police detective named Carl Shoffler.

No ordinary cop, Shoffler was a born conspirator, forever setting traps for the wicked.  Affable and very intelligent, he was a veteran of the Army Security Agency and its “listening post” at the Vint Hill Farm station in Northern Virginia.  Working closely with the National Security Agency (NSA), Vint Hill was an antennae farm whose classified mission was to intercept Soviet Bloc radio transmissions – as well as communications among antiwar organizations, radical groups and left-wing think-tanks headquartered in the capital.

To an undercover cop like Shoffler, whose official responsibilities shifted between Vice and Intelligence, Merritt was quite the prize.

Undercover police detective Carl Shoffler.

Here, it should be recalled that the times were virtually radioactive.  Two months before Merritt and Shoffler hooked up, more than half-a-million demonstrators braved tear-gas in the streets of Washington to protest the Vietnam war.  Soon afterwards, college students were gunned down by National Guardsmen on the campus of Kent State University.  The antiwar movement, already white-hot, exploded.  So did the Army Mathematics Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin, where a cabal of students and townies detonated a van-load of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, inadvertently killing a graduate student who was working late that night.  In Washington, the Weather Underground detonated their own bomb – inside the Capitol itself.  Student riots became routine throughout the country, and to many people – Left, Right and Center -  it seemed like the wheels were coming off.

All of which combined to make Robert Merritt something of a find.  A gay street kid with long hair and very little “hold-back,” he could be relied upon to help Shoffler and his colleagues “infiltrate, expose, disrupt and discredit” dissident groups and their leaders.  That was the mandate of secret government undertakings to which Shoffler and his cohort were a party – illegal operations like the COINTEL program and the CIA’s Operation CHAOS.  In Washington, the Institute for Policy Studies was subjected to surveillance, infiltration, and disruption.  So were the Red House Bookstore and underground newspapers like the The Quicksilver Times.  Even the restrooms – especially the restrooms – came under surveillance.  At least the ones at Dupont Circle did.

Some of this was business as usual.  Washington’s gay community had been of special interest to the police and the feds since the Second World War.  For more than 20 years, the Washington Police Department’s Lt. Roy Blick compiled thousands of dossiers on the city’s “perverts.”  Testifying before a Senate subcommittee in 1950, “Blick described parties raided, officials high and low arrested, and ended with a real shocker,” Newsweek reported.  “’There are some 5,000 homosexuals in the District of Columbia,’ he testified, ‘and 3,750 of them work for the government.’”

Of particular interest were people of influence – wayward lawyers and politicians, judges and businessmen – and their families.  Male and female prostitutes and their clients were  also targeted, and the results shared with both the FBI and the Security Research Staff at the CIA.  That the dossiers were sometimes put to political use is undeniable, their compilation justified on the grounds that homosexuals were a national security threat.

 

Shoffler became Blick’s protege during the 1960s – and soon was known within the Department as “Little Blick.”  He seems to have “inherited” many of his namesake’s files when the latter retired and, like Blick, liaised regularly with his FBI and CIA counterparts.

And not just his counterparts.  If we can believe Merritt, Shoffler was also in touch with White House counsel John Dean.

This will give Watergate aficionados pause.  There are those of us who believe that Dean unilaterally ordered the Watergate break-in.  If then, it should turn out that in the weeks and months leading up to the break-in, Dean was meeting with the police officer who would eventually make the Watergate arrests, we will have arrived at an interesting and previously unknown intersectiion in the affair.

That said, it must be noted Merritt’s recollection of the supposed Shoffler-Dean meeting(s) is not in his book.  It’s a story he recounted on a radio program while attempting to publicize that book.  As Merritt tells it, he accompanied Shoffler to a soiree at the Old Stein restaurant in April, 1972.  This was two months before the Watergate break-ins and, according to Merritt, those in attendance included John Dean and a temblor of “military brass.”  Elsewhere, Merritt claims that he first met Dean before an antiwar demonstration in the capital.  He’d met up with Shoffler who was on his way to a meeting with a man the detective would only identify as “J.D.”  An antiwar demonstration was in the offing, and J.D. – whom Merritt later recognized as John Dean -  was seated in a parked car near Dupont Circle.  Merritt says he didn’t give the introduction much thought, until recently.

Why Shoffler would have brought Merritt to a kaffee-klatch of high-ranking military officers is unclear, and seems unlikely.  Still, it is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that Shoffler would have introduced Merritt to Dean if, in fact, Shoffler was liaising with Dean.  And perhaps he was.  Antiwar demonstrations were a part of Dean’s brief at the White House, and he is known to have kept track of them.  It is at least possible, then, that he and Shoffler met from time to time to compare notes.

But revelations like these drive Merritt’s amenuensis, Douglas Caddy, crazy.

Douglas Caddy

Merritt and Caddy were in regular contact for years about the book.  Indeed, the book is Robert Merritt’s story as told to Douglas Caddy, who also added a thoughtful and interesting Prologue and Afterward.  The problem Caddy now has with the book is that some of Merritt’s most significant and/or outrageous claims are nowhere to be found in it.  They only came out when Merritt began to publicize the book, whereupon he did what Confidential Informants almost always do: he became an unstoppable raconteur.  And in so doing, he may well have embellished the tale to make it even more interesting (though this has yet to be demonstrated).

Caddy’s interest in the affair would seem to be transparent.  He worked with Howard Hunt at the Robert R. Mullen Company, a Washington-based PR firm that served, also, as a CIA cover and looked after Howard Hughes’s interests in the capital.

So it was that immediately after the Watergate arrests, Hunt contacted Caddy, urging him to represent the burglars at their arraignment.  Because Caddy’s new clients were mystery-men with fake IDs and refused to answer questions, the curiosity of the U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI and the cops was piqued.

And so the court brought pressure upon Caddy himself.

Subpoena’d to appear before a grand jury, Caddy at first refused to answer questions about how he had come to be involved in the case, invoking the attorney-client privilege.  Judge John Sirica promptly cited the lawyer for contempt.  Confronted with jail-time, Caddy relented, which meant that he was forced to testify as a witness against his own clients.

To Caddy’s way of thinking, this was not necessarily a bad thing.  Sirica’s order was so outrageous that if Caddy’s clients should be convicted, the case would likely be overturned on appeal.  In the event, however, this analysis was mooted when the burglars were persuaded to change their pleas to Guilty, thereby obviating any revelations about the burglary or its purpose.

Merritt’s tale brings Caddy even deeper into the Watergate story.  According to the Confidential Informant, officer Shoffler and his cohort lobbied him – hard -  to seduce the lawyer.

This was an allegation that Merritt had made years earlier, and which I had reported upon – somewhat skeptically – in Secret Agenda.  What made me skeptical was the absence of any evidence that Caddy was gay.  But I was wrong.  Caddy was, in fact, secretly gay and had gone to great lengths to conceal it.

So chalk one up for Merritt.  He is obviously telling the truth about this, and we can only wonder about the lengths to which Shoffler and his associates would go.  And had gone.  That he knew of Caddy’s homosexuality seems remarkable until we recall that Shoffler was known as “Little Blick,” and liaised with what Jack Anderson called “the CIA’s Sex Squad,” as well as basement operations at the FBI and NYPD Intelligence.

Caddy’s name no doubt appeared in one or more the “pervert files” that were available to him.

But the story doesn’t end there.  In Watergate Exposed, Merritt tells us that it wasn’t just Caddy’s seduction that was sought.  Shoffler and his cohort – a casserole of fellow cops, FBI agents and Pentagon spooks – actually wanted him to kill the lawyer, and offered him $10,000 – later raised to $100,000 – to carry out “the assignment.”  Merritt says he refused.  Apparently on…well, ethical grounds.

Let us pause.

Inasmuch as Robert Merritt’s ethical standards can only be described as “chthonic,” I find it incredible that he would turn down so much money – to do anything.  Even so, I am not sure that he’s lying in every direction.  Because what stands out about Merritt almost as much as his corruption is his naivete and immense desire to please.  It was these characteristics that made him so easily manipulated by his police handlers.  And we see it at work here, in the Caddy story, when Merritt attempts to explain the motivations of Shoffler and the Pentagon spooks.  It’s a mixed bag.  They certainly wanted to know how Caddy had come to represent the burglars.  But according to Merritt, there were other reasons, as well.  The spooks were homophobic and were happy to kill Caddy…because he was a fag.  And there were political reasons, also.  Caddy “knew too much about the CIA,” Merritt tells us.  He was “a communist…pro-Cuban and…” – wait for it – “a leader of the Young Americans for Freedom.”

What?  

As improbable story must seem, I am sure that something like it actually occurred.  What makes me think so is a further detail that Merritt provides.  “The exact description of the assignment,” he writes, is that “I was suppose to insert…(a) gelatin-like suppository into his rectum, which would have caused (Caddy’s) death within minutes.”

Yikes!  Death by suppository!  Poetic justice, no doubt, in the eyes of rightwing homophobes and yet…these are supposed to be serious people, the kinds of people who, when committing murder, place greater emphasis on efficiency than wit.  Instead, what we have is what sounds a bit like the macho b.s. that one sometimes hears in locker-rooms and bars with sticky floors.

So the question presents itself: am I overestimating the intelligence of Shoffler and his cohort, or am I underestimating the intelligence of Merritt?

There can be no certainty on this point, but some of Merritt’s other “revelations”

may help us to decide.  For instance, one of his many bombshells is the assertion that he tipped off Shoffler to what turned out to be the the final Watergate break-in.  He did this, we’re told, on June 1, 1972.

That Shoffler may have been tipped off is something I have long suspected.  I wrote about the possibility in Secret Agenda, noting that Shoffler and his buddies were waiting in an unmarked car outside the Watergate office building when the break-in took place.  I was 1:30 in the morning, and Shoffler had been off-duty for hours.  But this was by no means the only reason to suspect that the burglars walked into a trap.  Even if we leave aside the peculiar behavior of the burglary team’s leader, James McCord – about which I have written elsewhere – there is the testimony of Capt. Edmund Chung.

He was Shoffler’s commanding officer at Vint Hill Farm.  And according to Chung, who volunteered his testimony to the Senate, he had occasion to dine with Shoffler after the Watergate arrests.  The burglary was front-page news, and Chung asked Shoffler how he had made the arrests.  The police detective replied that he’d been in contact with Alfred Baldwin prior to the last break-in. (Baldwin was the former FBI agent hired by  McCord to eavesdrop on telephone conversations that McCord claimed were emanating  from the DNC.)

Shoffler’s implication, then, is that it was Baldwin who had tipped him off.  (Baldwin acknowledges having met Shoffler at an antiwar demonstration.)  If the whole story ever came out, Chung says Shoffler told him, “his life wouldn’t be worth a nickel.”

There is no mention of Chung in Merritt’s book, and the men’s stories are by no means of a piece.  While they are in agreement that Shoffler was given advance warning of the June 17 break-in, they differ on the source.  According to Merritt, it was he – and not Alfred Baldwin – who warned Shoffler.  He says he did this on June 1, after being told of the impending break-in by a switchboard operator at the nearby Columbia Plaza Apartments.  “She,” we are told, had learned of the break-in plan while eavesdropping on a telephone conversation between two men.

Merritt’s account of the incident is detailed.  The switchboard operator is said to have been “a drag-queen” named James Reed, a/k/a “Rita.”  The telephone connection apparently consisted of a so-called “reserve line” – one of three on the switchboard – that did not connect to the apartments.  Asked about this, a former supplier of bugging equipment to the FBI suggested that the line in question may have been in use by an eavesdropping operation in the basement or elsewhere in the apartment complex.

The problems with (this part of) Merritt’s tale are several, and fundamental.  For instance, the first successful burglary of the DNC occurred on the night of May 28th, 1972.   A handwritten log, summarizing telephone conversations that Baldwin overheard from his listening-post in the Howard Johnson’s Motel, was edited by McCord and given to Gordon Liddy two days later.  In other words, Liddy received the logs on June 1 – the same day Merritt says he told Shoffler about a break-in that was set for June 18th.

The problem, of course, is that there was no perceived need for a second entry at this time.

It was not until a week later – on Friday, June 9th – that the Committee to Re-Elect the President’s Jeb Magruder pronounced the eavesdropping logs “worthless.”   Coincidentally, this was the same day that a front-page story appeared in the The Washington Star, linking the White House to a “Capitol Hill call-girl ring” with ties to the Nixon White House.  John Dean reacted to the news with alacrity, if not panic.  Grabbing the phone, he summoned the Asst. U.S. Attorney who was handling the case to come to the White House – and ordered him to bring “all the evidence” with him.

The weekend intervened, and it was not until Monday, June 12th, that Dean’s subordinate, Jeb Magruder, told Liddy that there would have to be a second entry to the Watergate.

This sequence of events is a well-established part of the Watergate narrative.  On its face, it would seem to rule out a June 1 plan to re-enter the DNC more than two weeks later.

But maybe not.  When Douglas Caddy is asked about this, he acknowledges the problem and suggests a solution.  Perhaps, he says, Magruder and/or Dean were taking orders from a person or group outside the White House and the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CRP).  Like who?  Like what?  The Pentagon, Caddy suggests.  Or the CIA.

There is no evidence that this is what occurred, though it would tend to explain a second problem that is fundamental to Merritt’s account.

According to Merritt, his source (James “Rita” Reed) told him that the break-in would destroy the Nixon Administration.  Which, in a sense, it did.  But this could not have been foreseen as a consequence of the burglary itself.  The Administration was actually destroyed by a perfect storm that included the relentlessness of the liberal media; the influence of the Kennedy machine upon the Senate Judiciary Committee; the slow-motion hemorrhage of the Administration’s secrets, crimes and improprieties; the destructive duet of James McCord and John Dean; and, not least, the Administration’s clumsy attempts at a cover-up.

Until those events had come to pass, the Watergate incident was little more than a serious embarrassment – one that Nixon appeared to have overcome through his re-election.  To claim, as Merritt does, that Nixon’s downfall was foreseen in early June suggests either supernatural clairvoyance or a conspiracy of Byzantine proportions.

In the event, neither Caddy nor Merritt see this as an obstacle to the latter’s credibility.  On the contrary, they imagine the unfolding of a “Seven Days in May” scenario – in other words, they believe “Watergate” was a coup d’etat.

As evidence of the conspiracy, Merritt offers yet another revelation that is not in his book, but which he recounted (much to Caddy’s chagrin) after the book was published.

According to the police informant, Shoffler and a team of Pentagon spooks drugged and kidnapped the CIA’s special counsel, Mitch Rogovin, in 1975.  Though Nixon had resigned by then, the Church and Pike committees were investigating (respectively) CIA abuses and the Agency’s involvement in the Watergate affair.

According to Merritt, the Pentagon feared that an in-house CIA report (marked “Eyes Only,” “Secret,” and/or “Confidential”) would reveal the existence of a military spying operation targeted at the former Nixon White House.  The purpose of the Pentagon operation, we are told, was to bring down the Administration.

The 400-page CIA report was supposedly entitled Confidential Report on Intelligence of Military Secret Operations on Nixon.  By way of clarification, the report was said to be subtitled Report of Operations of Secret Surveillance and Eavesdropping.  Perhaps to facilitate discussion, the putative report was conveniently referred to by its acronym, C.R.I.M.S.O.N R.O.S.E. (though C.R.I.M.S.O.N R.O.S.S.E. would have been more accurate).

I must confess that I am not sure where to begin with this, as we seem to have arrived at a S.I.L.L.Y. P.L.A.C.E.  The most obvious point to make, I suppose, is that if Merritt is telling the truth, the CIA is in desperate need of a copy editor.  “Secret Surveillance and Eavesdropping”?  Sounds a bit like “wet water,” does it not?   As for the report’s classification, it is the first that I have ever seen to have been designated  “Secret,”  “Confidential” and “Eyes Only” – all at once.

No matter.  Shoffler and his alleged team of Pentagon spies were determined to obtain the supposed report – though it is by no means clear what they intended to do with it.  In the event, we’re told they lured CIA lawyer Mitch Rogovin to the Mayflower Hotel, spiked his drink with knock-out drops, and dragged him to the hotel’s freight elevator – which Merritt claims he was operating.  Carried to a room, the hapless and unconscious attorney was stripped to his wedding ring and placed in embarrassing postures with a whore.

The purpose of the exercise, we’re told, was to persuade Rogovin to retrieve the Crimson Rose report, which had been sequestered in a Secure Room at CIA headquarters in Langley.  There, it was chained to a table in a large binder.  Fearful that the photos might be leaked, Rogovin supposedly retrieved the Crimson Rose report and gave it – with the severed chains till dangling from the binder – to Shoffler and his team of Pentagon spooks.

Seems unlikely, does it not?  Even if Pentagon’s spies were so deranged as to mount an operation as crude and egregious as the one that Merritt describes, what did they hope to do with the report?  Would it not have occurred to them that there might be a copy?  Moreover, what was to be done about Rogovin?  The Secure Rooms that Merritt refers to are guarded by Marines and/or CIA Security staff.  A record is maintained of all who enter and leave them, and closed circuit television cameras record the comings and goings of all visitors.  Leaving aside the question of Rogovin being subject (as all CIA employees are) to regular polygraph testing, surely someone might would have noticed a dangling chain and missing binder in the Secure Room.

With the Crimson Rose story, Robert Merritt descends to opera bouffe.  The Pentagon spy-ring that he has christened “Crimson Rose” is obviously derived from the Moorer-Radford incident, in which a Navy yeoman rifled Henry Kissinger’s briefcase and burn-bags.  The secrets he obtained were dutifully conveyed to Adm. Thomas Moorer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – though it’s unlikely that any of it was news to him.    Washington Post reporter Jack Anderson, a friend and co-religionist of Yeoman Charles Radford, may also (and especially) have been a consumer of the looted materials.

The Moorer-Radford incident is, of course, anything but news.  It is discussed in Secret Agenda and other books and news articles.  The Pentagon and White House investigated the affair, which the Pentagon’s own chief investigator (Donald Stewart) compared to a “Seven Days in May” scenario.  If there was a secret report on the Moorer-Radford affair, it was therefore more likely to be held in a Secure Room at the Pentagon (and/or the White House) than at the CIA.

In this connection, it is at least ironic to note that Yeoman Radford’s espionage was, if anything, trivial compared to the CIA’s own surveillance of the Nixon White House.  It is a fact that all of the photos taken and all of the documents stolen by the Plumbers were diverted to the CIA – with the White House receiving either nothing at all, or adulterated versions of the take.

***

Finally, what may be said about Robert Merritt is that he is, by profession, a lifelong snitch and provocateur who admits to  having “committed so many crimes at the direction of the FBI that had I been indicted, the list of felony counts would have set a world record and, if convicted, I could have received one of the longest sentences in history.”

According to Caddy, Merritt’s activities included “lying to…two comittees of Congress and a Special Prosecutor; participating in the theft of a Top Secret…national security document obtained through kidnapping, blackmailing and extorting the General Counsel of the CIA; (and) distributing candy containing poison to anti-war demonstrators and later claiming over a hundred of these persons died as a result.”

To these sins, we may add that Merritt also admits to having whored for the police and the Feds, by going after liberal political targets such as Sen. William Proximire.

Merritt is, in other words, a “man for all seasons,” albeit a gay one.   His bottom-line is that, like all snitches, he needs a patron or a client – someone who will immunize him from own misdeeds, so long as he returns with whatever is needed (whether what’s needed is there or not).

That said, at this late date, it is doubtful that even Merritt knows what’s true or false about his past.  So desperate does he seem for validation – money or fame, infamy or redemption – he will, I think, “remember” whatever it takes to rescue himself from a clear view of his own life.

William Burroughs called it “the naked lunch,” and Merritt has been dining on it for quite awhile.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to him.  While reserving judgment on Merritt’s bona fides, journalist Phil Stanford notes that some of Merritt’s more interesting  and controversial claims would seem to be corroborated elsewhere.  Even so, to rely on Merritt as a source would be folly.  Best, then, to treat his information as leads and seek verification where it can be found.

As for Douglas Caddy, his contribution to the Merritt story is an important one.  His Prologue, Afterword and letter to FBI Director Mueller contain new revelations about Watergate and the COINTEL program, while raising any number of interesting questions.  For instance, we can only wonder why an experienced spook such as Howard Hunt would have turned to Caddy to represent the burglars at their arraignment.  Both Caddy and Hunt were employed by the Robert R. Mullen Company, which the CIA used as a cover – a cover that the Agency was desperate to protect.  Dragging Caddy into the Watergate affair could only have served to expose that cover (as, indeed, it did).  From a tradecraft point of view, this was madness and we can only wonder about Hunt’s inentions.

From a tradecraft point of view, this was madness – unless Hunt hoped that the CIA would intervene with cries of “National security!” and shut the investigation down.

Caddy is interesting, as well, for having been recruited at this time to build and run a luxury hotel in Nicaragua for the CIA.  The Agency, he was told, hoped that the hotel would attract Sandinista rebels to its gaming tables.  I emphasize “he was told” because the rebels were not exactly what Vegas would consider “a pod of whales.”  What seems more likely is that the putative hotel would have been used as a secret hospice for the CIA- (and Robert R. Mullen-) connected billionaire Howard Hughes.  In the end, the Agency’s offer to make Caddy a hotelier proved to be a non-starter.  The lawyer declined the post, knowing that a mandatory CIA polygraph would “out” him.

If nothing else comes out of Merritt’s tome, the book will have been worth it for those bits alone.

-30-

 

Throat

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 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 the Watergate break-in.

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 prior 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 queer “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 (this was in 1974) 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. 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.]

Hmmnnnn…

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.