Bob Woodward: top-secret Naval Intelligence Agent

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Bob Woodward: top-secret Naval Intelligence Agent

Postby Hugh Manatee Wins » Fri Jun 13, 2008 3:15 pm

Back in 1991-
Bob Woodward's high-level Naval Intelligence career which included briefing the Joint Chiefs of Staff and working in the White House with General Alexander Haig just before being hired as a "cub reporter" at the CIA-Washington Post...
-was exposed in Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin's book, 'Silent Coup: The Removal of a President.'

So erase the image of an idealistic Robert Redford saving us from an evil secret government in the propaganda movie, 'All the President's Men.'
At Yale one of Woodward's teachers described him as a "crypto-fascist."

In 'Silent Coup' the authors expose the myth of Watergate as really covering up a Pentagon-CIA coup against Nixon using the cover of a 'liberal watchdog press,' a myth that served as a whipping boy for re-militarizing the US after Vietnam and continues to hide Operation Mockingbird, the widespread mainstream media network used by military-intelligence to run the country using psychological operations.

'Silent Coup' is available online-

Silent Coup:
The removal of a president
by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin
New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991

These are page scans so I can't copy/paste the 22-page text.

Here is the 22-page chapter on Bob Woodward's military-intelligence career-
Chapter 5: The Woodward-Haig connection


















CIA runs mainstream media since WWII:
news rooms, movies/TV, publishing
Disney is CIA for kidz!
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Re: Bob Woodward: top-secret Naval Intelligence Agent

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Thu Jul 25, 2013 10:13 am


Bob Woodward

By Lisa Pease

Robert Upshur Woodward rose from obscure reporter working for the Washington Post to become one of the most famous journalists of recent times for his role, with that of Carl Bernstein, in "breaking" the Watergate story. Together, "Woodstein" broke one of the biggest news stories of all time: a chain of abuse by the Executive office of the Presidency that led to calls for impeachment, and the eventual resignation, of President Richard Nixon.

Immortalized by Robert Redford in the movie based on the book All the President's Men, the real Woodward is quite an enigma. Adrian Havill, in his recent book Deep Truth, presents the most comprehensive biography to date of both Woodward and Bernstein. He also details some of the fabrications that passed for nonfiction in the book from which the film was based. Most importantly, he gives us a great wealth of background on who Woodward really is, where he comes from, and what his connections are.

A Yalie and a Secret Society Member

The staunchly conservative Bob Woodward grew up in Wheaton, Illinois. A good student at Yale, he was ultimately one of fifteen seniors "tapped" for one of that university's secret societies, Book and Snake, a cut below the more infamous Skull and Bones, but the top of the second-tier fraternities. Woodward had his first journalistic experience working for the Banner, a Yale publication. In his 1965 yearbook he was referred to as a "Banner mogul." Havill writes,

Certainly, with the CIA encouraged to recruit on the Yale campus, particularly among history majors and secret societies, it is more than reasonable to assume Bob may have been one of those approached by the agency, or by a military intelligence unit, especially after four years of naval ROTC training. Although it would answer a lot of questions that have been raised about Bob Woodward, at this point one can only speculate as to whether he was offered the chance to become a "double-wallet guy," as CIA agents who have two identities are dubbed. It would certainly be understandable if he decided not to adhere to the straight and accepted the submerged patriotic glamour and extra funds that such a relationship would provide. It would also explain the comments of Pulitzer Prize-winning author J. Anthony Lukas, when he wrote in 1989 that Bob Woodward was "temperamentally secretive, loathe to volunteer information about himself," or the Washingtonian's remarks in 1987: "He is secretive about everything." As Esquire magazine put it, summing up in its 1992 article on Bob, "What is he hiding?"

The "Floating Pentagon" Assignment

Three days after graduating from Yale, Woodward was sent by the U.S. Navy to Norfolk, Virginia, where he was commissioned as an ensign by none other than U.S. Senator George Smathers from Florida. Bob's assignment was to a very special ship, called a "floating Pentagon," the U.S.S. Wright. The ship was a National Emergency Command Ship-a place where a President and cabinet could preside from in the event of a nuclear war. It had elaborate and sophisticated communications and data processing capabilities. It had a smaller replica of the war room at the Pentagon. It ran under what was called SIOP-Single Integrated Operation Plan. For example, in the event of nuclear war, the Wright was third in line to take full command if the two ahead of it, the Strategic Air Command in Omaha (SAC) and NORAD, were rendered incommunicado. Woodward-straightfacedly-told authors Colodny and Gettlin (Silent Coup) that he guessed he was picked for the ship because he had been a radio ham as a kid.

Aboard the Wright, Woodward had top secret "crypto" clearance-the same clearance researcher Harold Weisberg found had been assigned to Lee Harvey Oswald when he was himself in the Marines. Such clearance in Woodward's case gave him full access to nearly all classified materials and codes on the ship. Woodward also ran the ship's newspaper. Woodward has insisted that possessing a high security clearance is not necessarily indicative of intelligence work.

The Wright carried men from each of the military services, as well as CIA personnel. One of Havill's government sources reported that the CIA would likely have had additional informants on a ship of such sensitivity, adding that "the rivalry between the services was intense."

After a two and a half year stint on the Wright, Woodward was assigned to go to Vietnam. Woodward wrote the Pentagon asking to serve on a destroyer. The wish was granted. One naval captain told Havill that it seemed reasonable Woodward would have a little pull from his previous duty to avoid getting assigned to Vietnam. Another former naval officer disputed that, saying "Nobody got out of going to Vietnam in 1968."

But Woodward did. He was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Fox, based in Southern California. The personnel on board the Fox included an intelligence team, many of whom had studied Russian and Asian languages at the famous armed services language school in Monterey, California.

By 1968, Woodward ran the ship's radio team. In 1969, Woodward was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal for his communications work. From there, Woodward moved on to a Pentagon assignment, a job that included briefing top officers in the government. Admiral Thomas Moorer and former secretary of defense Melvin Laird are both on record noting that Woodward briefed Al Haig at the White House during this period. What is suspicious is Woodward's semi-admittance to Hougan that he had done some briefing, and his complete denial to Colodny and Gettlin that he had ever briefed anyone at the White House. Havill notes:

Considering the evidence, Bob Woodward's denial more strongly suggests intelligence than it does his uninvolvement in White House briefings.

Woodward's secrecy about his past, his choice of associates, and what is known of his activities caused Havill to write:

The question, then, begs itself once more. Was Bob Woodward ever a free-lance or retained Central Intelligence Agency liaison officer, informant or operative . . . ? This author got various forms of affirmative opinions from intelligence experts. It would explain his assignment to the Wright and his misleading statements to interviewers. It would make understandable his being able to get out of going to Vietnam in 1968, his extension for an additional year at the Pentagon, his being chosen to brief at the White House and his denials as well. It would also help explain his subsequent high-level friendships with leaders of the U.S. military and the CIA.
It would also explain the role Woodward and Bernstein wittingly or unwittingly played in keeping the CIA's nose clean while making sure the world saw the President's nose was dirty.

The Legacy of Deep Throat

Whatever his background, whatever his connections, one cannot trust what Woodward says as fact. Take, for instance, his account in Veil of his last interview with dying CIA Director William Casey. Havill tracked down Casey's family, friends, hospital security staff and CIA guardians and found that the visit Woodward described was impossible. First of all, Casey was under 24 hour guard by several layers of security: CIA members, hospital security, and Casey's family. And Woodward had already been stopped once while trying to see Casey. According to one of Havill's sources, Woodward was not merely asked to leave, as Woodward reported in his book, but was forcibly shoved into the elevator. And Woodward's story kept shifting. Woodward told a Knight-Ridder reporter that he had gotten in by flashing his press pass. To Larry King, Woodward claimed he just "walked in." But even assuming he somehow managed to get by all of that security, Woodward would still have been the only person to claim that Casey had uttered intelligible words in those last hours. The only other person to make such a claim was Robert Gates, who himself became CIA Director. The family, doctor and medical staff said Casey could not make words at this point, only noises. At least Gates questioned whether he might have been imagining he heard words. Woodward has never retracted his "conversation." In addition, Woodward once said that Casey sat bolt upright, which would seem highly implausible given his rapidly deteriorating state. Onetime CIA Director Stansfield Turner, a friend of Woodward's since 1966, said Woodward told him he'd walked by Casey's room and Casey had waved to him. Casey's bed was positioned in such a way in the room as to make that impossible too.

Likewise, Woodward does not seem to demand authenticity from subordinates. Under his watch as Assistant Managing Editor of the Metro desk, the Post suffered a humiliation of the highest proportions at the hands of one of his hires, Janet Cooke. It was this incident that knocked the Post from its perch as "America's leading newspaper," as it had been called in the wake of its Watergate reporting.

Janet Cooke was a gifted writer with a knack for capturing the essence of the streets of D.C. She went to the Post for a job, and Woodward hired her. More illustrator than reporter, she painted vivid images, if not entirely accurate ones. The latter trait soon brought her trouble.

Cooke's crowning glory-and worst disaster-was a story called "Jimmy's World," about an eight year old heroin addict. The story brought both praise and outrage: praise for the vivid writing, outrage that a reporter could just stand by and watch a kid taking drugs. The controversial story managed to earn a Pulitzer, but only after some arm twisting by the committee head, who overruled the committee's first choice for the prizewinner to pick "Jimmy's World." Some of the committee members hadn't even read the story, but not wanting to appear divisive, they stood together, for better or for worse. Made bold by the award, Janet Cooke's fabrications grew even larger and more personal. She started making up a history for herself that she didn't possess, including training in languages she couldn't speak. Several at the Post, including Woodward, were worried that her story of Jimmy may not be true. They pressured Cooke to produce "Jimmy." Losing the battle to protect her source, it rapidly became clear that she had no source. There was no Jimmy. And for the first time ever, a Pulitzer was returned. The Post was thoroughly embarrassed by a woman under Woodward's direct supervision at the paper.

But Woodward's most stunning deceptions come from the work that launched his career, his tracking of the Watergate story as retold in the supposedly nonfiction work All the President's Men. Adrian Havill found curious discrepancies between accountings of incidents as reported in the book, and the rest of the available facts (see sidebar at right).

Given his role in the Watergate cover-up, and the misrepresentations in his own work, it remains to us a huge mystery why this man is treated with the reverence he is. Considering his behavior, his background, his credibility, and his connections, we now feel compelled to join Adrian Havill in asking who is Bob Woodward? Whom does he serve? Is his career sustained for the purposes of those with a "secret agenda"?

"Sidebar at right" follows:

The Deceptions of All the President's Men

Had the book been presented as fiction, readers could not complain. However, the book sits on non-fiction shelves around the world. Maybe it shouldn't.

In his book Deep Truth, author Adrian Havill presents several events in All the President's Men that are, to put it generously, highly suspect. One example is the scene in which Woodward and Bernstein have made their first egregious mistake. They sourced Hugh Sloan's grand jury testimony for a story that Sloan had never told the Grand Jury, showing that Haldeman was one of the inner group at CREEP controlling the mysterious slush fund. In the book, the dejected Woodward and Bernstein walk home in the rain, beaten both physically and symbolically by the elements, with only newspapers over their head to keep them dry. Havill did some checking. It never rained that day. That might seem an inconsequential detail to some, but others will understand that it was a device created to bring drama. How many other "events" were merely fictional devices? Havill found several. For instance, at one point, Carl Bernstein is about to be subpoenaed by CREEP, and Ben Bradlee advised Carl to go hang out at a movie until after 5:00 p.m., then to call into the office. According to the book, Carl went to see Deep Throat, hence the reason for the name "Deep Throat" having been given to Woodward's secret source. But there was no Deep Throat playing anywhere in D.C. at that time. In fact, the theaters were being very cautious, having recently been raided by law enforcement authorities. Not one theater in town was showing Deep Throat.

And speaking of "Deep Throat" . . .
One of the most astonishingly bald-faced inventions was the process by which Woodward and "Deep Throat" allegedly made contact when they needed to speak to one another. In the book, much is made of the spooky, clandestine meetings between "Deep Throat" and Woodward. When Woodward needed to ask "Deep Throat" something, he was to put a flower pot with a red flag in it on his sixth floor balcony, which, we are supposed to believe, this high level source checked daily. When "Deep Throat" wanted to speak to Woodward, a clock would supposedly be drawn in his copy of the New York Times designating the meeting time. But neither of these scenarios fits the reality of where Woodward lived. Woodward, who could remember the exact room number (710) where he met Martha Mitchell just once, evidently had trouble remembering the address at which he had lived. In an interview he once said it was "606 or 608 or 612, something like that." However, Havill found that Woodward's actual address was 617. This is important, because the balcony attached to 617 faced an interior courtyard. Havill poked around and found that the only way to view a flower pot on the balcony was to walk into the center of the complex, with eighty units viewing you, crane your neck and look up to the sixth floor. Even then, a pot would have been barely visible. There was an alley that ran behind the building that allowed a glimpse of the apartment and balcony, but at an equally difficult angle. And in both cases, we are to believe that this source, who strove hard to protect his identify, would walk up in plain view of the eighty apartments facing the inner courtyard or the alley on a daily basis, on the chance that there might be a sign from Woodward. When Havill tried to poke around, just to look at the place, residents of the building stopped him and inquired who he was and what he was looking for. Unless "Deep Throat" was well known to the residents of the building, his daily visits seem to preclude being able to keep his identity a secret.

As for the clock-in-the-paper, the New York Times papers were delivered not to each door, but left stacked and unmarked in a common reception area. There was no way "Deep Throat" could have known which paper Woodward would end up with each morning.

Havill, in fact, believes that "Deep Throat" is no more real than the movie episode or the rain, but rather, a dramatic device. It certainly worked well. And Woodward's and Bernstein's editor at Simon and Schuster, Alice Mayhew, urged them to "build up the Deep Throat character and make him interesting." While it is now clearly known that at least one of Woodward's informants was, in fact, Robert Bennett, the suggestions from Colodny and Gettlin in Silent Coup about Al Haig and Deborah Davis's suggestions in Katherine the Great about Richard Ober may not be contradictory. Other names that have been suggested have included Walter Sheridan (Jim Hougan in Spooks) and Bobby Ray Inman (also in Spooks). If Havill is correct and there is no "person" who was known as "Deep Throat", it is possible that any or all of the above were passing along information, explicitly not to be sourced or credited to them in any way, on deep background.

Havill asks, and then answers, his own questions as to the dishonesty in All the President's Men:

Why would Bob and Carl invent or embellish such seemingly incidental details of their book? Why would they make up meetings with a character named Deep Throat? The answer is Bob was consumed by naked ambition, anxious to prove that he could succeed at his newly chosen profession. There was money and fame at stake. . .

And maybe a cover story to protect as well.
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Re: Bob Woodward: top-secret Naval Intelligence Agent

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Thu Jul 25, 2013 11:23 am

MinM » Sun May 06, 2012 10:44 am wrote:
Saturday, May 5, 2012 1:00 PM UTC
Watergate’s final mystery
Underneath the media's obsession with the scandal lies the neglected story of the CIA's role
By Jefferson Morley

Journalists are obsessing over Watergate again. Debate exploded this week over a new biography of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, excerpted in New York magazine. It suggests the legendary editor privately doubted aspects of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s reporting that helped bring about the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.

The story prompted a strong denial from Woodward, a demurral from Bradlee, an online chat at Poynter and a Daily Beast story by independent scholar Max Holland, who argues Woodward and Bernstein’s book about the scandal, “All the President’s Men,” is “a fairly tale, albeit a compelling one.” After hyping the story for a couple of days, Politico then dismissed it as “a storm in a Washington teacup.”

Not quite. As Reuters columnist and Watergate buff Jack Shafer points out, “Watergate is the Ur-journalism story.” It is a true tale that defines the profession’s imagination and its relation to Washington power. But this latest round at the Watergate cooler has been stronger on the Ur- than the journalism, focusing more on the implications of Woodward and Bradlee’s thinking than on the abuses of power that they sought to uncover.

That’s too bad. If Watergate still matters, it is because the story tells us something about the intersection of power and journalism in Washington. The ur-personalities of these veteran newsmen are important but so are new facts, and recent revelations illuminate one aspect of the story that is often overlooked: the role of the CIA.

Woodward acknowledged as much in what is perhaps the single most interesting Watergate revelation of recent years. In June 2007, the CIA released most of the so-called “Family Jewels,” a long-suppressed internal report on the agency’s abuses of power. The newly declassified documents, Woodward wrote in the Post, showed in “telling detail” how the CIA, under the leadership of director Richard Helms, served as “the perfect Watergate enabler.”

The Helms/Nixon relationship lies at the heart of the Watergate story. Nixon, of course, was a paranoid genius, a master of resentment politics at home and geopolitical maneuvering abroad. Helms, his long-serving director of Central Intelligence, was the epitome of a CIA man in the Cold War: correct, discreet and ruthless.

The CIA’s involvement in Watergate, Woodward noted, “is one of the murkiest parts of the story.” He and Bernstein didn’t write about it much in “All the President’s Men,” not because they didn’t have suspicions but because they could not pin the story down. Howard Baker, vice chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee, likened the Agency’s role to “animals crashing around in the forest — you can hear them but you can’t see them.” And Helms’ role was especially elusive. Said Baker: “Nixon and Helms had so much on each other that neither one of them could breathe.”

Thanks to the release of the “Family Jewels” report and an extraordinary collection of 11 conversations between Helms and Nixon in 1971-73 (first published online in 2009) we can see (and hear) what Nixon and Helms had on each other: knowledge of the other guy’s record of ”dirty tricks.”

Plenty of people suspected this at the time. The Agency’s fingerprints were evident in the botched burglary at the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate apartment complex. It was well known that five of the seven burglars had worked for the CIA. Four were Cuban-Americans from Miami involved in the Bay of Pigs operation. It was less well-known that the two ringleaders, James McCord and Howard Hunt, were career officers who had been personally close to Helms for more than a decade.

In his 2007 Post story, Woodward revealed that McCord had written the CIA director after his arrest in June 1972, seeking assistance. Another senior Agency official told Helms that he “felt strongly” that the letter should be turned over to the FBI, which was supposedly conducting a rigorous investigation of Watergate.

“It was a critical moment in the Watergate probe,” Woodward wrote, “with Nixon seeking reelection that fall and desperate to keep the botched burglary from spoiling his chances.” He went to write:

McCord’s letter to the CIA could have been important evidence; according to later testimony, he was seeking assistance from the CIA, where he had worked for decades, and was on the verge of blowing the whistle about Watergate, as he did months later in a famous March 21, 1973, letter to Judge John J. Sirica.

Instead, Helms told the FBI nothing. Investigators never learned the story and Woodward and Bernstein could never shake Helms’ dubious denials of any connection to the burglars, whom the Agency blandly portrayed as “retired” employees acting on their own.

In hindsight, Woodward wrote that Helms “was anything but forthcoming.”

“The CIA had no involvement in the break-in. No involvement whatever,” Helms testified to the Senate Watergate committee on Aug. 2, 1973. “The agency had nothing to do with the Watergate break-in,” he added. “And I hope all the newsmen in the room hear me clearly now.”

You get the feeling Woodward felt Helms was personally lecturing him. (I left a message for Woodward requesting comment; he did not respond.)

The question, Woodward wrote in 2007, was, “What could have Helms known?”

One possibility, he said, was that he knew Howard Hunt was carrying out burglaries for the president. Another document made public in 2007 showed that Hunt had sent a memo to the CIA two months before the Watergate burglary seeking to hire a former CIA employee “accomplished at picking locks.” Helms, Woodward suggested, might have gotten wind of what Hunt was doing.

The question of what Helms knew about Watergate still matters because, amazingly enough, after 40 years later, we still don’t know who ordered the burglary or why. As Shafer told the Poynter discussion, “I’ve read all the books, listened to all the lectures, and even eaten dinner in the Watergate and I don’t know why Nixon’s people broke into the DNC twice and bugged it.”

What is certain is that Helms knew Hunt was working for the White House as early as April 1971. In response to Nixon’s pestering, Helms had offered the president two CIA reports on the failed Bay of Pigs operation in 1961 and a report about the assassination of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963. Nixon was looking for facts that would impugn the reputation of President John F. Kennedy and thus harm the presidential ambitions of the martyred president’s younger brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy who was expected to run for president in 1972.

“Obviously, I’m going to hand this stuff over to the President,” Helms told Nixon aide John Ehrlichman, “but I’d be terribly glad if you would get his backing not to share it with a lot of the staff of there. For example, I know that Howard Hunt has been doing some work. There’s nothing he’d like better than, as an old Agency hand to run around in some of the soiled linen there is around here, in the garbage cans and so forth.”

Here you can almost hear the clench-jawed East Coast mandarin that Helms was — “terribly glad” and “soiled linen” and all that — doing his damnedest to suck up to the president. The Nixon-Helms collaboration deepened in October 1971 when Nixon summoned the CIA director to the White House. Before the meeting, Ehrlichman briefed Nixon why Helms’ was visiting: He had “dirty line” to share. He said the CIA director had told him

that his relationship with past presidents had been such that he would not feel comfortable about releasing some of this very, very dirty linen to anyone without first talking it through with you because he was sure that when you became a former president you would want to feel that whoever was at the Agency was protecting your interest in a similar fashion.

Ehrlichman also reminded Nixon of Helms’ concerns about Howard Hunt, the White House “consultant.”

“Helms is scared to death of this guy Hunt that we got working for us because he knows where a lot of the bodies are buried,” he said.

When Helms arrived in the Oval Office, Nixon wasted no time in assuring him that he would keep the secrets of the CIA, which he called without irony, the “Dirty Tricks Department.” Nixon said:

“I know what happened in Iran [CIA-sponsored coup in 1953] and I also know what happened in Guatemala [CIA-sponsored coup in 1954] and I totally approve of both. I also know what happened at the Bay of Pigs [the failed invasion to overthrow socialist Fidel Castro in 1961], which was planned under Eisenhower. I totally approved of it. The problem was not the CIA. …

Nixon wanted it to be known that he could be trusted to defend the agency.

My interest there is solely to know the facts in the event that as time goes on here, things heat up, and this becomes an issue. That is what I want you to understand regarding any information.I need it for a defensive reason … “

Then, in his abrupt, awkward way, Nixon launched into a soliloquy about what political controversies the documents might shed light on:

Who shot John? Is Eisenhower to blame? Is Johnson to blame? Is Kennedy to blame? Is Nixon to blame?

In the context of a negotiation over sensitive government records from the early 1960s, Nixon’s aside — “Who shot John?” — could only have been a reference to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963. But if Nixon was implying that the CIA might have something to hide on the question of who ambushed the liberal president in Dealey Plaza, he was also assuring Helms he would keep the Agency’s secrets.

“I need to know what is necessary to protect frankly, the intelligence gathering and the Dirty Tricks Department and I will protect it,” Nixon said. “I have done more than my share of protection, and I think it’s totally right to do it.

Helms sensed his opportunity and spoke for the first time. He had an offering.

“Sir, as a matter of fact the reason that I want to speak …” he began. Helms said he had found a previously unknown document about the assassination of Diem in South Vietnam in 1963.

“When I saw this document I thought to myself, ‘This is the kind of document that I would be rather irresponsible if I didn’t go to the president and tell him what this document was,’” Helms explained. “I’ve got it right here. It’s got extracts from State Department cables, Defense Department cables …”

Helms passed the documents to Nixon. Nixon didn’t get anything with “who shot John” but he get a lot of who shot Diem (rival generals) and he might be able to use that against the hated Teddy Kennedy. The meeting ending on a satisfactory note for both men.

Nixon then passed the Diem cables to aide Chuck Colson (whose recent death was another blast from the Watergate past) who gave them to none other than Howard Hunt. A veteran undercover officer and dirty tricks specialist who loathed President Kennedy, Hunt doctored the cables to create the impression that JFK was complicit in the assassination of Diem, a pro-American despot. The forged documents were then shown to a Life magazine writer in the hopes of creating problems for Ted Kennedy’s expected presidential candidacy. Life magazine turned down the story, perhaps because the animus behind the story was so transparent. Hunt moved on to other missions for the White House. The story of the doctored Diem cables was later uncovered by Watergate investigators but Helms’ supporting role remained obscure.

Helms and Nixon had forged an effective partnership. They spoke at least five more times in the coming months. On June 16, 1972, Nixon called him to tell about certain secret CIA operations involving Mexican President Luis Echeverria, the details of which are still secret. So when Hunt and other former CIA men were arrested at the Watergate the next day, Nixon simply assumed the CIA director would help him stonewall the investigation.

“We’ve protected Helms from a hell of a lot of things,” Nixon told his chief of staff H.R. Haldeman on June 23, 1972. He wanted to remind Helms that the investigation might lead to Cuba-related revelations that would harm the CIA.

“You open that scab and there’s a hell of a lot of things,” Nixon went on, “and we just feel that it would be very detrimental to have things go any further. This involves these Cubans, Hunt and a lot of hanky-panky that we have nothing to do with ourselves.”

Nixon could be sure Helms would know what he was talking about. He had been seeking sensitive CIA reports about the Bay of Pigs operations for more than a year; Hunt was a leading figure in that operation. In his 1979 memoir, Haldeman speculated that Nixon was tacitly reminding Helms of two extraordinarily sensitive issues: the CIA’s plots to kill Fidel Castro and the assassination of JFK. The Oct. 8, 1971, tape lends credence to the notion. If Nixon had offered to protect the Agency’s interests on “who shot John” then surely Helms would cooperate with the White House in smoothing over what his press secretary described as a “third rate burglary.”

Nixon assumed wrong. “This has nothing to do with the Bay of Pigs,” the normally calm Helms shouted at Haldeman, who was surprised as his rage. Helms was a canny bureaucratic operator who was sensitive about Cuba and assassinations. He knew he could not block the FBI’s investigation without risk to his own position and he saw no reason why he should. Hunt was a useful scoundrel whose screw-ups were legendary but whose loyalty to the Agency was assured. Publicly and privately, Helms maintained the fiction that the Agency knew nothing of Hunt’s proclivities — and he kept very quiet about his own back channel to McCord. As Nixon and his aides scrambled to cover up the White House’s “dirty tricks,” the FBI — and the young reporters at the Washington Post — began to unravel the story, albeit without much insight into Helms’ role as enabler.

The secrets that Nixon and Helms shared exerted invisible gravitational force on the unfolding scandal. From his jail cell, Hunt let it be known that he would talk about his knowledge of “highly illegal conspiracies” at the CIA unless he was paid off. To underscore his point, he then published a memoir of the Bay of Pigs operation, “Give Us This Day,” which opened with a denunciation of President Kennedy for his “shameful” failure to support the Agency’s anti-Castro rebels. His point was blunt and subtly ominous: if JFK had backed the CIA venture, he might not have been killed by an allegedly pro-Castro gunman in Dallas. Hunt was not one to get sentimental about the playboy president’s bloody end in Dallas. Like others in the CIA, he thought JFK was a contemptible weakling who had it coming. The “whole Bay of Pigs thing” was fraught indeed.

Amid such black intrigue, the spymaster proved more agile than the president. Helms avoided talking about what he knew of Hunt’s service to the White House while Nixon succumbed to the burglar’s blackmail, ordering aides to raise money to pay off Hunt for his silence. The CIA man cultivated Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham as a social friend. Nixon enmeshed himself further in the scandal.

Nixon and Helms parted ways in December 1972. Nixon forced the CIA director to resign; Helms extracted an ambassadorship so that his exit from Washington would not be tainted with Watergate or presidential disfavor. Besieged by investigators and the press, Nixon resigned 20 months later. Helms had to plead guilty to charges of lying to Congress about a CIA assassination conspiracy in Chile. But admiring colleagues rallied to his defense and, he was never held accountable for the Agency’s deeply suspicious role in the intelligence failure that culminated in the crime of Dallas. Thanks to the forgiving culture of Washington, both men outlasted their notoriety in the 1970s and lived out their lives as controversial but ultimately respectable statesmen.

The Shakespearean struggle of Richard Nixon and Dick Helms is central to the Watergate story. It speaks a volume about the covert workings of power in Washington and is still shrouded in official secrecy 40 years later. (For example, the JFK Assassination Records Collection at the National Archives contains 366 pages of CIA documents on Howard Hunt that have never been made public.) But the unfinished story of the CIA and Watergate fits awkwardly in the annals of the scandal. Its implications eluded the best journalists of a generation and its legacy is not reassuring to readers.

Read: “The Keeper of Secrets Earns His Reputation,” by Bob Woodward, Washington Post, June 27, 2007.

Listen: “Who shot John?” Richard Nixon and Dick Helms’ discuss CIA dirty tricks on Oct. 8, 1971; read a summary here. Courtesy of ... opic=19069

From Watergate to Wikileaks

FBI agent takes down Nixon

What about Watergate?
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