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Deep Throat, The Department of Dirty Tricks, The Downfall of a President and the Role of MI6 in the Watergate Scandal by Giovanni Di Stefano

 

There is no doubt that President Richard Milhous Nixon the 37th President of the United States was an introvert in an extrovert’s job. He kept largely to himself, confided in almost no one and, trusted nobody. In all the years at the White House no one ever saw him without a jacket and tie and no one saw him even with his jacket unbuttoned. Not even in his Private Study.  He could be angry and furious yet even comical. On one occasion, aboard Air force One on a particularly bumpy landing he shouted:

 
‘That’s it. No more landing at airports!’
 
Yet for all the Presidents’ quirks and acute mistrusts, Nixon recorded enormous achievements especially in foreign policy.
 
 
Richard Nixon meets with Mao Zedong in Beijing, February 21, 1972.

He opened diplomatic relations with China, supported entry to the United Nations, and was the first President to visit the once shunned country.
 
He visited Moscow, negotiating the ‘strategic arms limitation treaty’ which led to the ‘anti-ballistic missile treaty’ and was able to ‘talk’ with the Russian Government.
 
 
President Nixon meets Russian President Leonid Brezhnev in Moscow on 31 May, 1972.

So what happened on the 17 June 1972 that would bring an end to the President?

 
The beginning of the end for Richard Nixon was nothing other than a night security guard at the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC called Frank Wills.
 
 
Watergate Hotel

He thought it odd looking at a piece of tape pasted across the latch of the door between the parking garage and, the basement stairwell in the hotel and, office complex. The tape appeared to be holding the door in an unlocked position. At first he thought the cleaning crew put it there while bringing up supplies and just forgot to remove it. So he stripped off the tape, closed the door and continued his rounds.

 
However, when he returned on hour later at approximately 2am the tape had been replaced and the door was once more ajar.
 
Wills thought someone was in the building and wanted the door to remain open so they could come in and out as they pleased. That was enough for Wills and he immediately called the Washington Police.
 
 
Frank Wills

That single telephone call from a night security guard on the 17 June 1972 would set off a far reaching scandal that convulsed the U.S. Government, and kept the country in an uproar for more than two years.

 
It implicated a sitting President and a war-time one at that in serious crimes, and compelled the only resignation of a U.S. President in history. Some of the President’s closest advisors and staff members were convicted and jailed as a result of what the Presidents spokesman had at first dismissed as a ‘third rate burglary.’
 
A pair of reporters from the Washington Post would win them America’s highest award in journalism, as well as, book and film contracts. Their investigation would fall just short of impeachment but cause Nixon’s fail from grace.
 
All of that from just a single phone call!
 
When the police arrived in response to Wills call early that June morning, they surprised five men who had broken into the offices of the Democratic National Committee. They were caught in the act of bugging the telephones. Nixon and the Republican Party had just launched a full scale drive for a second four year term as President, which in November Nixon would win by a landslide but that was before his part in the scandal was known by the electorate.
 
The bugging of the telephones was set up as the Republican Party wanted to listen in on the Democrats plan for the Presidential race.
 
Over the Atlantic all three main political parties regularly bug and intercept each other since 1968 and recently, even MI5 have been responsible for intercepts on the telephone (mobile and fixed) of Nigel Farage and Neil Hamilton of the UKIP. The political party that is in Government regularly will use intrusive surveillance on the main opposing party. It is a reason why the main opposition party leaders and shadow cabinet will always have foreign registered SIM cards for their phones.
 
Back at the Watergate complex and unfortunately for the Republican Party and Nixon, the five burglars were soon linked to a group called ‘Republicans’ campaign to re-elect the President also, amusingly known as ‘creep.’
 
At first, campaign officials wrote them off as a kind of rogue element in the campaign, operating on their own. Their response to the accusers was ‘why would the President be involved in this kind of skullduggery when he was clearly ahead in the opinion polls by 20 points?’ 
 
The White House all looked blank when asked pertinent and probative questions. The President of course knew zilch His spokesman called it ‘a third rate burglary.’  
 
In due course Nixon’s own phone was bugged by the British Security Services and an amusing recording was noted from Nixon to his campaign manager:
 
‘Get a good night’s sleep and don’t bug anybody without asking me.’
 
Since the United States discovered the White House was bugged, they have adopted a policy of reciprocal bugging of European Union Leaders, since a matter that only came to light recently when President Obama acknowledged that Angela Markel’s phone had been subject to interception.
As President Nixon heard disclosure, after incriminating disclosure, he watched events defiantly, stubbornly as investigations got closer and closer. Even the murmurs of ‘impeachment’ started doing the rounds.
 
The first problems arose for President Nixon when the five burglars were arraigned on criminal charges. This was clearly no ordinary case because an expensive well-dressed lawyer was on hand to represent them, even though it was a Sunday morning. Further, when arrested all five were wearing expensive suits and, ties and, were wearing blue surgical gloves. so as to leave no fingerprints. Not the usual burglar. What is more they were carrying $32,000 in $100 bills.
 
Again, by no means ordinary burglars.
 
When asked their occupation, two of them replied ‘anti-communist.’ James McCord, one of the five, answered in a low voice that he was a retired Government employee. Asked what branch of Government he replied in a low, low voice ‘CIA.’ Finally, he confirmed he was the Chief of Security of ‘creep’ and an ex-CIA Officer.
 
 
James McCord

Inside a note book taken from McCord, Officers found the telephone number of E. Howard Hunt, along with the initials ‘WH.’ Hunt had previously worked in a White House (W.H.) Special Investigation Unit. The group, headed by Hunt and G Gordon Liddy was known as ‘the plumbers’ because their task was to stop leaks of information, Nixon’s administration did not want revealed. They also organized a ‘department of dirty tricks’ which targeted Democrats and anti-Vietnam war groups. Their most notorious deed was a break in of the office of Los Angeles Psychiatrist who had treated Daniel Ellsberg the former Pentagon and State departments’ employee who had leaked secret Pentagon papers describing the Governments war plans in Vietnam.

 
 
              E. Howard (left)  G Gordon Liddy (Right)

When the papers were published in the ‘New York Times,’ Ellsberg was charged with espionage, theft and conspiracy. Hunt and Liddy were hoping to prove that Ellsberg was mentally unstable but when they found nothing incriminating in the psychiatrists’ office out of spite they trashed the office.

 
 
Daniel Ellsberg

One of the men present that Sunday morning at the arraignment was a young reporter called Bob Woodward who worked for the Washington Post. When McCord confirmed he was an ex CIA officer the young reporter took interest in the story. Soon he and a colleague, Carl Bernstein, encouraged by Editor Ben Bradlee, began digging deeper and deeper. Finally, after many questions they connected with the ultimate anonymous insider leaking information nicknamed aptly ‘deep throat.’

 
From left to right – Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and  Ben Bradlee

The mystery of who exactly was ‘deep throat’ has attracted the attention of many for so many years.
 
There were many contenders for the title the major suspect being General Alexander Haig who became Nixon’s chief of staff. But it was not him.
 
 
General Alexander Haig

In 2005 ‘deep throat’ was unmasked. It was none other than W. Mark Felt then aged 86 and the number two at the FBI, of course, every piece of paper regarding Watergate passed his office and he was the man in the know, who made the two Washington Post reporters.

 
 
W Mark Felt 2005

Why did he do it? He said, as  Number two at the FBI he should have succeeded J Edgar Hoover but instead the White House nominated L Patrick Gray who was a Lawyer and ill-suited to the role. Felt also believed Nixon used the FBI for political purposes, so he passed on what was confidential information and committing a criminal offence that would bring down a serving President.

 
 
L Patrick Gray

According to Felt though, he never gave information to Bernstein and Woodland. He only told them, according to him, ‘if they were on the right or wrong track. One tip he did give the journalists was to follow the money trail. The reporters took his advice, and found a trail of cheques from a Lawyer affiliated with ‘creep’ to the bank account of one of the burglars.
 
‘Deep throat’ was the major source for the page one article Bernstein and Woodward wrote on 10 October 1972 just before the November election and Watergate, they alleged, was not an isolated event. The Republican Party systematically spied on the Democrats. The story stunned Washington.
 
 
 
What W. Mark Felt failed to tell Bernstein and, Woodward and, not known until now, was that the British SIS-MI6 had recruited him during the Second World War and he was very much a British Agent in an elevated position in Washington. He adopted the same meeting methods with Bernstein and Woodward as with British Agents at the British Embassy in Washington.
 
When Felt wanted to give information to British Agents and wanted a meeting, he would move a pot plant on his apartment balcony or leave a mark on page 20 of a newspaper, left on a hotel bar desk for meetings at 2am in underground car parks.
 
For Britain the Vietnam war was not what was wanted. Nixon had to go, hoping that a new President would stop the war. When the opportunity arose, the SIS-MI6 used their man Felt, to help The Washington Post reporters in the hope ‘something would happen.’
 
Bob Woodward would later write: ‘They lied and then they lied to cover their lies, and then more lies to cover those lies, so that in the end no-one knew the truth, if there was any truth.’
 
No one, however, quite understood the ingenuity of Richard Nixon. Even the British wholly under estimated him.
 
In November the US elections brought Nixon splendid victory in every state save Massachusetts and on 20th January the following year, he was inaugurated for a second term. Nixon was elated and took it as a vindication of the Watergate Scandal thinking it was now ‘just old news.’
 
Judge John J Sirica who went by the nick name of ‘Maxim John’ sentenced each to thirty years in jail, but hinted to each of them he would revisit his sentence if they would come forward to give a full explanation.
 
 
Judge John J Sirica

McCord was the first to crack. In a letter to the Judge he said, he and the others were under ‘political pressure’ to plead guilty and remain silent. Perjury had been committed at trial and the break in was ‘approved by the higher VP’s.’

 
Judge Sirica was a friend of Felt and equally recruited by the SIS-MI6 as ‘one of many in power in key positions in the U.S. to safeguard the interests of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.’
 
If the British Government had failed with number two at the FBI they had a second chance with Italo-American SIRICA.
 
The news of the letter and confession by McCord was not what Nixon wanted to hear.
 
In January state of the Union Speech, Nixon called for a quick end to the scandal:
 
‘One year of Watergate is enough.’ He told the Nation. But even as he spoke the Democrats who controlled the Senate were digging deeper. On the 7 February 1973 the Senate voted 73-0 to establish a select committee to investigate Watergate. A Former Judge from North Carolina- Senator Sam Ervin – was named Chairman. Erwin made it clear that covering up a crime was itself a crime, and he did not give a damn who did the covering up.
 
 
 
Senator Sam Ervin

The next few months would bring out the worst in Nixon. He told Advisors in choice language ‘I don’t give a shit what happens.’ He also said ‘I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment, cover up or anything else.’

 
Nixon called in White House Counsel John Dean who was to advise on the legal aspects of Watergate. What Dean was asked, according to his later testimony, was how much money was needed to maintain the silence of those accused. Some money had already been paid but as the sentence was substantial more would be needed.
 
 

E Howard Hunt


The same day, according to Dean, $75,000 was delivered to the Lawyer for E Howard Hunt. Dean told Nixon he was very concerned about the White House role in all of this. Nixon praised Dean for his work but a week or so later Dean was summonsed to appear before Federal Prosecutors and felt, he would say later, he was going to be the ‘fall guy’ on all of the matter.
 
 
White House Counsel John Dean 

Two weeks later Dean was dismissed. He left the White House but not until he removed documents incriminating the President, put them in a safe deposit box and sent the key to Judge Sirica. On the same day Nixon announced the resignations of his most intimate advisers: – Chief of Staff H R Haldeman; Domestic Policy Adviser John Ehrlichman and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst all German – Americans. Nixon praised them for their work.

 

From left to right – H R Haldeman, John Ehrlichman  and  Richard Kleindienst


On the 17 May 1973 the Senate Watergate Committee began televised hearings which 85% of Americans were glued to watching. Nixon appointed Archibald Cox as special Prosecutor.   The television concentrated mostly on Dean’s blonde wife who was sitting behind her husband as he told the Committee how the President suggested ‘hush money’ could be concealed paid to ‘creep.’

 
 
Archibald Cox

Nixon denied everything. He said it was late in the day when he heard about the burglary and told the FBI not to investigate as National Security was involved. He confirmed he authorized wire-tapping of reporters and certain aides. Nixon said it was a matter of National Security and the White House had to know who was leaking information to the Press.
 
 

Senator Howard Baker


Senator Howard Baker a Republican and Nixon supporter asked:
 
‘What did the President know? And, when did he know it?’
 
Alexander Butterfield a White House Aide who kept the President’s schedule replied:-
 
‘I was hoping you weren’t going to ask that.’
 
He admitted to a stunned committee that there were ‘secret microphones’ in the President’s desk, around the walls, in the private study and at Camp David. They record every word spoken by anyone there which is then transcribed.
 
That evidence was given on a Friday. By Monday the investigation took a disastrous direction.
 
Nixon stonewalled again. He said other Presidents had recorded Oval Office conversations too – it was important to have the precise words. Both, for history’s sake and for the President to review. The crucial meetings during the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962 had all been recorded by the Kennedy Administration. The recordings had to be secret. If participants knew they were being recorded they would not give the President their full and honest opinions. Also it was a matter of executive privilege.
 
When special Prosecutor Cox asked for the tapes that might reveal discussions about the burglary and ‘cover up’ Nixon refused.
 
The following months were a nonstop tug of war between the White House the Senate committee and Special Prosecutor Fox.  Each fought hard to maintain their position. Nixon certainly knew the tapes would contain incriminating evidence. Cox subpoenaed nine tapes that might be deemed relevant. Nixon refused. Judge Sirica ordered him to surrender the tapes. Citing executive privilege Nixon refused and went to the Appellate Court and lost. The tapes had to be surrendered.
 
On the night of 20 October 1973 matters came to a head labelled ‘the Saturday night massacre.’ When Cox continued to press for the tapes, Nixon accused him of disloyalty. He ordered his new Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refused. When Nixon repeated the order Richardson resigned. . Nixon ordered the Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to carry out the dismissal of Cox, he too refused and resigned. It was left for Solicitor General Robert Bork to issue the order of dismissal.
 
 From left to right – Elliot Richardson,  William Ruckelshaus  and Robert Bork

To make matters worse, in the midst of all the Watergate Scandal which may have ended there, the Vice President Spiro Agnew was indicted on corruption charges dating from his tenure as Governor of Maryland. Although not related to Watergate, The Agnew Resignation added to the atmosphere of scandal that now engulfed the White House.
 
 
Spiro Agnew

The new special prosecutor was named as Leon Jaworski, but if Nixon thought he was a pushover he did not bank on the fact that Jaworski was of Polish ancestry and another SIS-MI6 Agent that ‘slept in the U.S.’ Nixon’s own lawyers advised the President to negotiate the position. Jaworski knowing the ultimate task now sought not only the tapes that his predecessor had issued a subpoena but all tapes.

The White House lawyers’ listened to the wanted tapes and testified before a Grand Jury about them. It was disclosed that one crucial tape, covering Oval Office conversations between Nixon and Chief of Staff Haldeman included 18 minutes that were not recorded. The White House explained the 18 minute gap was unintentional erasure. While transcribing the tapes Nixons’ longtime secretary Rosemary Woods had accidentally pressed the foot pedal and kept her foot there for 18 minutes while answering a phone call.
 
 
Leon Jaworski

No one believed it and photos proved she would have had to be a contortionist to press the pedal and reach the phone at the same time.

 
 
Nixons’ longtime secretary Rosemary Woods

The tape stalemate continued. In the meantime, the Grand Jury indicted Haldeman, Ehrlichman, John Mitchell and four other White House Aides for conspiracy to obstruct justice. Part of the indictment was sealed that also named Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator. Meanwhile the House of Representative Judiciary Committee also began to subpoena tapes and was considering possible bills of impeachment against the President.

 
 
  John Ehrlichman (left)  John Mitchell (right)

Just when Nixon looked cornered he yielded a little, turned the White House into a typing pool and produced 1250 pages of transcript which were released to the public. Gone, however, were any incriminating conversations, titbits and more important the constant use of foul language and racial slurs that Nixon was fond of using.
 
But edited transcripts were not enough for Jaworski, who had clear orders from London and also realised his public duty. He wanted physical possession of the tapes and reduced the number of tapes he sought. He told the President to give up the tapes, and if he did Jaworski would keep secret the unindicted co-conspirator portion of the grand jury recommendation.
 
In a televised address the told the American people ‘I am not a crook.’
 
 
 
He refused the offer of Jaworski and Jaworski appealed to the Supreme Court. Nixon’s own lawyers had listened to the tapes and recognized just how damaging they were. The lawyers recommended Nixon resign. The consequence was impeachment. Nixon was outraged. He said he was guilty of nothing, and as soon as he realised the nature of the allegations it was he who ordered an investigation. He was a fighter and fight he would.
 
The Lawyers suggested he hear the tapes himself not as the President but as a Lawyer. The Crucial tape was 23 June 1972. Nixon agreed.
 
In the next weeks he discharged his duties as President and visited the Middle East to further negotiations between Israel and Palestine. He met Leonid Brezhnev to press for the strategic arms limitation treaty.
 
 
Leonid Brezhnev and Richard Nixon

In 1989 Giovanni Di Stefano then with Magical film Studio MGM saw Nixon at this home in California. Nixon told Di Stefano that he told Brezhnev about Watergate to which Brezhnev looked at him with disbelief. ‘But this is normal in Russia’ Brezhnev told Nixon.

 
 
Giovanni Di Stefano

The former President told Di Stefano ‘I brought myself down I impeached myself, by resigning.’

Whilst Nixon was in Moscow the US Supreme Court ruled on Jaworskis’ appeal. The Court ruled 8-0 to uphold the subpoenas.

 
That was the end.
 
The White House was forced to surrender the crucial tapes of 23 June 1972 which were known as the ‘smoking gun tape.’
 
Amid the static, rasps, curses one could clearly hear the Presidents voice. He was giving Haldeman his cover up instructions. He was to have the CIA Director tell the FBI to back off the investigation. ‘Ah, for National Security reasons. It would bring up the whole ‘Bay of Pigs’ thing. Just tell them that. They have to just order it.’
 
The ‘smoking gun tapes’ were published on 5 August 1974 and the House Judiciary committee had passed three articles of impeachment.
 
On the 8 August 1974 in a televised address Nixon announced he was resigning the Presidency at noon the next day.
 
 
Richard Nixon announces his resignation

Why did Jaworski push so hard to have disclosed the tapes of that specific fateful day? Why did the Supreme Court rule 8-0?

 
The British SIS-MI6 already had a recording and handed the tape over to Jaworski, but Jaworski could not say how he had the tape which he filed in a secret brief to the Supreme Court.
 

The Supreme Court ruled in his favour because they had already heard the contents and the fate of the President was decided by the British.

NB: Some images retrieved from Google, will remove at owner’s request.

Originally published 15 June 2014 on previous site

 

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