II: Identifying the Mole
was a mole in the White House. This is the central fact of the Watergate
investigation. Without him, Nixon would not have been threatened
with impeachment, let alone conviction. This is the issue that no
one mentions and no one pursues. It is the elephant in the living
room. It has been there for over 30 years. The media’s response
by now is universal: "What elephant? We don’t see any elephant."
Plumbers had broken into the Watergate complex to bug one office.
They were called Plumbers because their original job was to plug
leaks. Perhaps the greatest irony in American political history
is this: the most damaging of all leakers in American history was
inside the Nixon White House, and the most significant bugs in history
were installed on Nixon’s orders.
that Judge Sirica’s request came in on August 14, less than a month
after the recording system was shut down by Haig. Whoever was leaking
the information identified the incriminating passages very fast.
were 3,700 hours of poorly recorded tapes. They were recorded at
15/16 inches per second: the lowest of low fidelity.
of the mole’s task. Reviewing all of the tapes by himself from scratch
in time to tip off one of the two committees or Sirica was impossible.
He would have had to spend months listening to tapes unless he knew
exactly where the passages were. If he did, then this was a long-term
spying operation. It did not begin on July 16, 1973.
he had a photocopy of the President’s appointments calendar, he
could have narrowed down the meetings with key advisors. This would
have helped speed up the operation, but not enough to make possible
the detailed identifications in less than a month.
would not have turned duplicates over to a Congressional staffer.
What could the staffer have done with them, other than to parcel
them out to low-level staffers for review? For them to have reviewed
all of the tapes, it would have taken a team effort. This would
have been risky: too many people in on the deal. Secrets are hard
to keep personally, let alone in a group. Copies of the tapes were
stolen goods and therefore inadmissible in a court, at least a court
that was operating in full public view. The secret had to be maintained.
did he do it? I see only four possibilities:
- He had
been monitoring the conversations and taking notes of what was
being said, correlating this information with the tapes. He
later reviewed his notes and retrieved the key tapes, identifying
the key passages by using a stopwatch.
- He had
been making duplicate copies of all the tapes for months, and
then delivered them all at once to someone who had access to
a team of oath-bound intelligence community reviewers.
- He made
copies on a high-speed duplicator and delivered them to a team
of oath-bound intelligence community reviewers.
- He knew
approximately when the incriminating discussions had taken place,
and he went back to the specific tapes to time exactly how far
into each tape each discussion began and ended. He then turned
these numbers over to a Congressional staffer or other intermediary.
#1 makes this conclusion inescapable: the mole was a Secret Service
agent whose full-time job was to record the tapes while listening
#1 and #2 assume the existence of a long-term strategy: use the
tapes against Nixon when the opportunity arose. But what kind of
opportunity? How could the mole have predicted Butterfield’s testimony
to the Senate committee? Was there more to monitoring the tapes
than a plan to cooperate with as-yet unassembled authorities?
#2 and #3 assume the existence of a team of reviewers.
for option #4, who would have known which meetings had been crucial?
Butterfield left the White House for the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) in late December, 1972. He had been in charge of taping Cabinet
meetings, but Cabinet meetings were not where the Watergate cover-up
was discussed. How could he have been the mole? Yet there is no
doubt that he knew the mole. He may not have known that the mole
had become a mole, but if he didn’t suspect what was happening after
Sirica’s request, 1973, he was either remarkably unobservant or
else completely out of the loop.
reporter today asks Butterfield about any of this. The elephant
really is invisible to this generation of reporters.
anyone to have made duplicate copies of all the tapes prior to Butterfield’s
testimony (option #2) would have been an immense undertaking for
one man working part-time, i.e., not monitoring the discussions
as they took place (option #1). It would have taken months. After
Butterfield’s testimony, it would have been impossible for a mole
to do this by himself.
is possible that a second set of tapes had been made from the very
beginning, or at least after the break-in. Whoever had such a set
of tapes would have had leverage over the President. But the Secret
Service controlled the machines. How did anyone gain access to the
tapes without Nixon’s authorization? Why would Nixon have given
a team to review the tapes, how could one man have done this on
short notice, i.e., after July 16? He would have had to be one of
the Secret Service agents who sat in the room to monitor the tapes,
assuming that someone did this, even though the tape machines came
on automatically. He took notes. But this would mean that he was
self-consciously looking for ammunition to be used against Nixon.
main problem with this theory is that other Secret Service agents
did not know what was going on in the room where the machines were
kept. If there was a full-time agent in that room all day long,
there would have been suspicions.
2003, Butterfield attended a conference on the tapes. He
described where the tape machines were located.
was a little thing — they blasted a hole in the brick wall
down underneath the White House and put all this machinery inside
a brick wall and then put a cabinet door over it. And I said to
[Secret Service security agent Alfred] Wong, I — this was
in the locker room of the protective security [unclear —
microphone problem] Secret Service agents, so when they’d come
to work, they had little lockers in there, and they’d change clothes
and go home. They didn’t stay long in this little room, and I
said, "Aren’t they going to think this great big panel —
what you call it used to be a brick wall, they’re going to question
that?" And he said, "No, they probably won’t, and if
they do, I’ll just say, u2018We’ve got something in there,’ and they
won’t ask any questions." And that’s true. The Secret Service
wouldn’t pry or probe at something like that. But there was a
hell of a big door in there, and we — [laughter] and it was
a tiny little room anyway, pretty little.
the equipment resided, and here boxes of tapes were stored. Nobody
noticed. "Don’t ask. Don’t tell."
there were only a few Secret Service technicians who knew what was
inside that little room. These men served as the gatekeepers. Anyone
wanting access to the tapes had to get through at least one of these
gatekeepers . . . unless one of them was the mole.
the tape operator was the mole, he could not have been in that room
full-time without creating scuttlebutt and suspicion. This does
not rule out the possibility, but it does impose a special burden
of proof on the person who chooses this option. This evidence would
be difficult to obtain: pay receipts that say "for taping and
personally monitoring Nixon’s conversations." Alternatively,
Butterfield could affirm in writing that one agent was always present
in the taping room when Nixon was in the White House.
person was almost certainly the mole.
there any other possibility of a one-man operation? It is conceivable
that someone very high in Nixon’s inner circle had access to the
tapes after Butterfield’s testimony. Haig is one candidate. This
is the man Gary Allen thought was the source of the leak. The hard
evidence is not there, as far as I can see. But it is not beyond
mole operating alone had to know approximately when the incriminating
discussions had taken place. Only a highly placed person on Nixon’s
staff could have known this, presumably a participant. He somehow
gained private access to these tapes, got out his stop watch, and
listened to each tape until he found various smoking guns. Then
he told a Congressional staffer what sections to ask for.
this was done by someone on Nixon’s staff, it would have been someone
who did not incriminate himself on a tape. Some of the highest-placed
staff members went to jail or were exposed to the threat of jail.
Haldeman knew, yet he kept talking. He was the one senior staff
member identified by Butterfield as having known about the tapes.
He went to jail. It is unlikely that he was the mole.
us assume for the sake of argument that no duplicate set of tapes
existed prior to July 16. Someone who had detailed knowledge of
the tapes was able to review the originals and then pass on this
information within weeks. How did he get by the Secret Service?
is the central organizational issue of the Watergate story. I doubt
that anyone will pursue this at this late date. But it needs to
be pursued if we are ever to get the story even remotely straight.
GUARDS THE GUARDIANS?
is one of the oldest questions in political history.
see no alternative to this conclusion: someone who had the cooperation
of the Secret Service had access to the tapes. The tapes were stored
in a secret room under the Oval Office. Here is Butterfield’s account
Outside of you, who knew the system was being used?
Well, yeah, it was a deep dark secret, and I want to say no one
knew, but the people who actually knew are the president, myself,
Bob Haldeman and Larry Higby, Bob’s staff assistant — one
of three staff assistants to Bob, Al Wong, who was the Technical
Security Division Chief, Al Wong, W-O-N-G, and three technicians
who, who put these tapes in: a fellow named Ray Zumwalt, Roy Schwalm,
S-C-H-W-A-L-M, and Charles Bretts. They were the technicians,
and one of those three changed the tapes when they had to be changed
and that sort of thing.
did not indicate that someone was in the taping room full-time.
If someone was, and if he was there every day, then he becomes the
most likely candidate for the title of lone mole. Otherwise, this
had to be a team effort: the mole, plus a team of reviewers.
shorter the time period between Butterfield’s testimony and Sirica’s
first request, the larger the team had to be, or else the more sophisticated
the tape-reviewing technology had to be. The team had to find where
the key discussions were on the tapes. There were a lot of discussions.
the money. Also, follow the oath. Look for a motive. If it’s not
money, sex, or power, then start looking for revenge.
I been a reporter, after Nixon’s resignation I would have gone looking
for a motive — a motive acknowledged as legitimate by one or
more of the tapes’ gatekeepers. I would have gone looking for someone
with (1) personal connections to the White House Secret Service
unit that oversaw the taping and (2) a motive for revenge against
Nixon and all the President’s men.
reporter did this. Now it is up to historians, who tend to be even
more risk-aversive and peer-sensitive than reporters. Don’t hold
got through the gates. He was working with a team. There was insufficient
time for one man to review all of the tapes.
question has to be raised: Why would any of the technicians have
cooperated with such a team? Why would he have handed over duplicate
tapes, plus handed over a photocopy of the President’s schedule,
to enable the third parties go snooping?
had to be a jointly shared motive. The motive presumably had to
do with the oath: loyalty. There was a higher shared loyalty involved,
a loyalty to something above Nixon. This could have been the Constitution.
In intelligence circles, I don’t think this one is high on the list.
Loyalties are more personal than Constitutional law. So are sanctions
for violating the oath. The secret would remain a secret.
is loyalty owed to oath-bound brothers. There is also loyalty to
"cousins" operating under a different but similar oath-bound
structure. There is loyalty of professionals against amateurs, of
lifetime bureaucrats against temporary politicians. "Loyalty
to" always implies "potential disloyalty to."
there is loyalty, there is always the opportunity for disloyalty.
This is why secrecy is so powerful: it offers an opportunity to
destroy. Where there is oath-bound loyalty, the temptation for disloyalty
increases, especially against those bound by a rival oath. There
must be serious sanctions against betrayal. (You do not have to
read the century-old works of Georg Simmel to understand these issues,
but it helps.)
the question arises: What team supplied the reviewers? Answer: a
group that perceived its corporate connection with the victims.
The victims are easy to identify: the Plumbers. Their connection
is easy to identify: the CIA.
were they? G. Gordon Liddy (ex-FBI) ran the show. Then there were
the five burglars: Bernard Baker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez,
James McCord, and Frank Sturgis. The name of E. Howard Hunt (ex-CIA)
appeared in address books carried by two Plumbers. By the time Butterfield
testified, all seven were in jail.
had been a CIA agent until 1970. Hunt had been a CIA agent until
1970. In March, 1973, McCord wrote to judge Sirica from his jail
cell to say that he and the others had been pressured to plead guilty.
He singled out John Dean and the former Attorney General, John Mitchell.
This set the framework: Nixon vs. the brothers.
left them all to cool their heels in jail. Here is how Hunt described
it in a 2004 interview
I still don’t understand how you get involved in Watergate later.
Through the CIA?
I had been a consultant to the White House. I greatly respected
Nixon. When Chuck Colson [special counsel to Nixon] asked me to
work for the administration, I said yes. Colson phoned one day
and said, "I have a job you might be interested in."
This was before Colson got religion.
How long were you in prison for the Watergate break-in?
All told, 33 months.
That’s a lot of time.
It’s a lot of time. And I’ve often said, what did I do?
Did you get a pardon?
No. Never did. I’d applied for one, and there was no action taken,
and I thought I’d just humiliate myself if I asked for a pardon.
Hunt: He was sort of numb because all of this happened to his
wife and his family, his children went into drugs while he was
still in prison.
Wasn’t your first wife killed in a plane crash?
Hunt: She was killed when her plane crash-landed at Chicago’s
Midway Airport. And there was all this speculation from conspiracy
buffs that the FBI blew the plane up or something — so that
she would never talk, all this ridiculous stuff.
stuff? Strange stuff, yes, but in no way was it ridiculous.
Hunt had been an ex-CIA operative. She had met her husband in the
CIA. Her plane went down on December 8, 1972: a United Airlines
flight from Washington to Chicago. It crashed at Chicago’s Midway
Airport. Most of the passengers and all of the crew members died.
a few hours, a team of 50 FBI agents was at the scene, investigating
everything. This is no rumor. It was confirmed in a June 11, 1973
letter from acting FBI Director William Ruckelshaus to the Director
of the National Transportation Safety Board, who had sent a letter
of complaint (six months after the event) to Ruckelshaus regarding
the interference of the FBI.
a team of 50 FBI agents to a supposed crime scene within hours is
so unheard of as to mark any such event as historically unique.
Legendary. This was not done by the book.
Hunt had been carrying a little over $10,000 in cash — the
equivalent of $50,000 today.
I refer to this Web page to provide transcripts of the letters sent
by the two Directors, plus the basic chronology of the crash. I
do not trust several of the sources cited.)
Hunts had been "present at the creation," when the CIA
was known as the OSS. The condition of Hunt would not have not escaped
the notice of former colleagues. Nixon had let a team of former
national security operatives go to jail for a burglary related to
his re-election. It was clear by late 1972 that they were not going
to be pardoned.
crash was followed by these peculiar events, which were long forgotten
until the Web revived them.
after the crash, Nixon nominated Egil Krogh, the head of CREEP,
as Undersecretary of Transportation. The Department of Transportation
is the agency that supervises the National Transportation Safety
confirmed in February, resigned in May, and pleaded guilty to
supervising Hunt and Liddy in the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg’s
psychiatrist’s office. He went to jail.)
after Krogh’s nomination, Nixon nominated Butterfield as head
of the FAA.
- In January,
1973, Dwight Chapin, Nixon’s appointments secretary, resigned.
He immediately took a senior-level position with United Airlines
was convicted in 1974 for lying to the grand jury in 1973 and
for offering me a job at the White House in 1971 — no,
scratch that: he only said he MIGHT offer me a job. He never
did. He did hire Bob Segretti, who later ran the dirty tricks
operation. As a result, they both went to jail.)
imagine that the intelligence community was unaware of the rapid
sequence of these aeronautical-related events is to have a vivid
of an oath-bound fraternity who believe that several of its members
have been taken down by outsiders is a force to be reckoned with.
There is loyalty at stake. There is also the matter of self-preservation.
There is a well-known strategy for dealing with such threats: tit
the intelligence community, there is a degree of cooperation by
professionals: those inside vs. those outsiders known as politicians.
MOLE OR TEAM EFFORT?
tapes were the Achilles heel of Nixon’s attempt to avoid public
exposure. John Dean could talk, others could talk, but it was their
word against Nixon’s . . . unless the prosecutors could use Nixon’s
words against Nixon.
prosecutors received information regarding the precise location
of these words. They received this information because someone inside
the White House leaked to investigators working with or for Judge
Sirica the IDs of tapes that would condemn Nixon. But the mole could
not have obtained this information by himself, unless he had been
working on this project almost from the beginning: taking notes
and identifying tapes.
raises a key question. If the project began before July 16, how
would he have known that Butterfield would tell the Committee about
the tapes? Monitoring the information on the tapes made strategic
sense if the courts or the committees knew about the existence of
the tapes. Otherwise, there was nothing to subpoena.
he did assemble this information over many months while sitting
in the taping room, pen in hand, taking notes, then he had another
agenda. He was monitoring what was being said for purposes other
than cooperating with Sirica, who was not yet in the picture. This
raises two questions: (1) Who guards the guardians? (2) To whom
do they report?
is what we know for certain: the information was made available
to Sirica within weeks of Butterfield’s testimony.
get access to the tapes, someone had to get by the Secret Service
and into that room beneath the Oval office. Someone did.
Secret Service is pledged to save the President’s life. It is not
pledged to save his career. Its agents live in every President’s
household until he dies, and then they remain with his widow until
she dies. We do not call this arrangement what it obviously is:
a lifetime monitoring operation.
I been a Washington reporter in 1974, and had I known of Sirica’s
specific tape requests, which were a matter of public record, I
would have gone looking for a connection between one of the Plumbers
and one of the tapes’ gatekeepers.
analyst did: Mae Brussell. She was a legendary left-wing conspiracy
theorist who saw mysterious connections everywhere. If ever there
was a believer in a vast right-wing conspiracy, it was Mae Brussell.
She immediately spotted a connection. She wrote in The Realist
(July, 1973) that the Ervin committee had called the wrong witnesses.
first example was Al Wong.
witnesses called. Last July, 1972, it was obvious that Al Wong,
the Secret Service man who hired James McCord, should be a major
witness. When it was disclosed by Alexander Butterfield that
the White House was bugged, Al Wong appeared to be holding the
tapes. Wong and McCord were close associates.
was she referring to? What had Wong hired McCord to do? The previous
August, also in The Realist, she
had reported on the assignment.
McCord, Jr. held two important jobs at the time of his arrest.
He was Chief of Security for the Committee to Re-elect Richard
Nixon. With that appointment, McCord was issued his own radio
frequency. And that employment was the smaller assignment of the
biggest contract a security agent could receive went to McCord
Associates, selected by Secret Service agent Al Wong, to provide
all security for the republican Convention in Miami.
offered no footnote to support this claim, but she surely was on
top of this issue from the beginning. Indeed, she was the first
journalist to suspect this connection: Wong, McCord, and the tapes.
I were going to write a book on Watergate, I would begin looking
for evidence to support her second paragraph. Given McCord’s CIA
background and his CREEP position, the connection sounds plausible.
does not mean that CIA agents necessarily constituted the reviewing
team. It could have been a select group of Secret Service agents,
acting on behalf of similarly oath-bound "cousins" or
some other group.
is a unique piece of information, reported by Gary Allen in his
book on Kissinger and also his book on Nelson Rockefeller. He
quotes from Newsweek (September 23, 1974).
former white House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman awaits trial for
his part in Watergate, the Secret Service chief he ousted from
the White House last year has landed a plum job. Robert H. Taylor,
49, who tangled with Haldeman over Nixon security procedures,
is now head of the private security forces for all the far-flung
Rockefeller family enterprises.
the mole acted alone in note taking, then he began early. He was
alone in that room, but he was not alone with respect to a hierarchy.
Government bureaucrats on salaries do not do "extra credit."
They get paid to follow orders.
gave the order? When? Why?
are the kinds of questions that the mainstream media steadfastly
refuse to ask. They find it easier to believe in the tape fairy.
Throat confirmed to Woodward that CREEP was where the money flowed
into and out of. This was a smoking gun, if modern gunpowder smoked.
It was a .22 pistol: CREEP. The story would have come out anyway
because of the $25,000 check. Following that money was easy. It
was not worth a Pulitzer Prize and a movie.
take Nixon down, there had to be evidence that would stand up in
court. This evidence had to have the appearance of being admissible,
i.e., not illegally obtained. Yet it was unquestionably illegally
obtained. The specificity of the location of the smoking guns on
the tapes should have made it clear that the evidence was inadmissible.
Yet Judge Sirica — "Maximum John" — pretended
that it was admissible. He pretended that the tape fairy had delivered
the IDs. Every reporter, then and now, has gone along with him.
the statute of limitations ran out (1980), nobody could prosecute
the accused, had there been an accused. There never was. I do not
think there ever will be.
was not until July 27, 1974 that the Supreme Court ordered Nixon
to turn over all of the tapes. He refused and resigned on August
9. Until the Supreme Court ordered him to deliver all of the tapes,
he may have thought he could successfully stonewall his prosecutors.
He was wrong. From the day he refused to hand over the specific
tapes demanded by Sirica, he was on the defensive. From the day
that Sirica started using stolen evidence to hound Nixon, it was
only a matter of time. Maximum John was willing to break the law
to get him. Congress was willing to break the law to get him. Nixon
was doomed. The federal system’s checks and balances by 1973 were
managed by tax-funded "crooks": law-breakers all.
resignation under fire created an immediate problem for Republican
Congressman John Hammerschmidt of Arkansas, who had recommended
that Nixon not resign, and said that Nixon’s offense might not be
impeachable. He had stood almost alone. His opponent had gone for
is] no question that an admission of making false statements to
government officials and interfering with the FBI and the CIA
is an impeachable offense.
lost in November. Not many Democrats did, however.
never did turn over all of the tapes. He died in 1994. Only then
did the government get all the tapes.
The government is still waiting to release to the public the final
batch: November, 1972 through July, 1973.
don’t worry. They are on their way. They are being administered
by the same experts who took over the administration of the Ark
of the Covenant in the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
is now over three decades after these events. We still do not know
why the burglars broke in a second time in June, 1972. We do not
know how or why 50 FBI agents showed up at the plane crash site
where the ex-CIA wife of the ex-CIA suspected Plumber died in December.
We do not know why Nixon left the tape recorders running. We do
not know for sure what Nixon did, or was planning to do, to persuade
the mole or his oath-bound associates to supply the prosecutors
with proof of the smoking guns. We do not know the transmission
belt by which the prosecutors were able to identify the precise
points on the tapes that sent Nixon’s senior staffers to prison
and were about to get him impeached.
Nixon, in his complete self-confidence, had ordered the tape recorders
installed. To use Haldeman’s phrase, he not only repeatedly let
the toothpaste out of the tube, he left a record of every squeeze.
installed the tape recorders when he did not need them. He, like
his presidential predecessors, believed he was going to retain the
upper hand, the final say, when it came time for him to write his
memoirs. He let famous men speak in his presence, unaware of the
tapes. They would speak their minds, he thought, but he would remain
clever. As the English say, he was too clever by half. The following
exchange took place in 2003:
Mr. Butterfield, why do you think President Nixon sort of let
the machine run? I mean, do you think he sometimes even forgot
about the fact that he was taping?
Absolutely. Yes. Yeah. We, we marveled at his ability to, uh,
seemingly be oblivious to the tapes. I mean, even I was sitting
there uncomfortably sometimes saying, "He’s not really going
say this, is he?" [laughter] But . . . but he did. . . .
was paranoid as no President ever was, either before or after. He
was convinced that "they" were out to get him: the liberals,
the Jews, the media, the Eastern elite. And he was right. There
was a widespread visceral hatred of Nixon that has been matched
only by hatred for Hillary Clinton. But in circling the wagons against
enemies outside, he forgot Jesus’ warning:
a man’s foes shall be they of his own household (Matthew 10:36).
received a pardon for crimes never presented in a court of law.
He received it from the only President ever chosen by his predecessor
rather than by a vote, who in turn appointed as his Vice President
a man who had publicly insisted, "I never wanted to be vice
president of anything" — Nelson Rockefeller. This was
the man who had hired Nixon after his California gubernatorial defeat
in 1962, bringing him to New York City to live for free in a condominium
owned by Rockefeller, and putting him under the authority of bond
lawyer John Mitchell, who later went to jail over Watergate. This
was the man who had became Henry Kissinger’s patron, who in turn
hired Col. Al Haig in 1969, who was a 4-star general just four years
later — skipping the third star altogether. He became Supreme
Allied Commander of NATO in 1974, soon after Nixon quit. There were
winners and losers in Rockefeller’s orbit.
pardon ended the legal issue for Nixon. But, until the day he died,
he refused to turn over all of the tapes.
His estate finally surrendered the last 201 hours worth of tapes
in November, 1996.
the day that the first highly detailed request came from Sirica,
Nixon must have known the truth: he was going to become the victim
of the biggest leak in American history. From that point on, Nixon
knew he had been betrayed from the inside. He knew he was trapped.
He was a lawyer. He had made his political career in 1948 based
on rolls of film that had been buried in a hollowed-out pumpkin:
evidence that Whittaker Chambers had actually forgotten he had regarding
Nixon must have known, no salaried reporter has figured out. Susan
Huck did. Gary Allen did. I did. But none of us was ever a full-time
man who supplied the prosecutors with the technically inadmissible
evidence of Nixon’s smoking guns may still be alive. He has not
broken silence. He has maintained his loyalty. He has kept the oath.
If he was watching the evening news in the first week of June, 2005,
he must have had a good chuckle.
over three decades, the press played hide-and-seek with the shadow
known as Deep Throat. Reporters and authors expended time, energy,
and money on tracking him down. At long last, they have found him,
senile and unable to tell his story. "Mystery solved! Case
I hear unerasable voices in my mind.
night, David." "Good night, Chet."
that’s the way it was."