Previously by Charles A. Burris: Bush Dynasty
As the fortieth anniversary of the June 17th, 1972 Watergate break-in approaches, the momentous events responsible for bringing about the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon remain a deeply shrouded mystery to most Americans. The revelation and confirmation of former FBI deputy director W. Mark Felt as the legendary whistleblower "Deep Throat" in the Watergate Scandal brings them no closer to solving that mystery. This is because most of what they think they know about Watergate is simply wrong.
As a high school history instructor I have discovered that Watergate is a series of mysterious events to which my students sadly have little or no knowledge (other than Forrest Gump had difficulty sleeping in his Washington, D. C. hotel room because of some flashing lights from the adjacent Watergate complex).
This article will attempt to focus light upon this subject in the hope such illumination will foster understanding of this crucial episode in American history.
To older Americans, Watergate was a vast scandal involving presidential abuse of power.
It was about a Nixon administration out of control — obstructing justice — concocting enemies lists of Nixon critics — soliciting illegal campaign contributions — using "dirty tricks" against electoral opponents — and most importantly — the June 17th, 1972 burglary of Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Larry O'Brien's office in the Watergate complex by men linked to the Republican's Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) and the Nixon White House.
It is this last item which remains the central fact most Americans recall concerning the scandal, for it was the subject of months of televised public hearings by Senator Sam Ervin's Watergate Committee and numerous criminal trials and investigations.
The events surrounding the Watergate break-ins were also the basis of the Academy Award winning film, All The President's Men, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, based on the acclaimed number one best-seller of the same name, by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who Redford and Hoffman portray. In this Watergate of the imagination, actor Hal Holbrook masterfully captured the cinematic persona of the elusive informant "Deep Throat."
Few Americans, including I daresay most journalists, have read the scores of Watergate-related books and published Congressional committee reports. But they have seen All The President's Men. The movie has become their reality of that series of events that gripped our nation.
The "Good Guys" as seen by the American public: Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein who courageously exposed the details of the Watergate Scandal, the shadowy whistleblower "Deep Throat," and the heroic fired White House Counsel to the President John Dean, who was the chief witness against Richard Nixon.
The "Bad Guys" as seen by the American public: the evil Machiavellian President Richard M. Nixon, his malevolent Attorney General John Mitchell, his manipulative presidential aides H. R. Halderman and John Ehirichman, the sinister G. Gordon Liddy, the enigmatic E. Howard Hunt, and the numerous CREEP/Nixon administration officials and creepy minions who went to prison.
But Larry O'Brien's office was not the target of the break-ins.
John Dean was not the selfless hero testifying to dark deeds of an evil Richard Nixon.
Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein were not all they seemed in the mythos of the Watergate legend.
And "Deep Throat," W. Mark Felt, it has been revealed, may have been more motivated by revenge at not being appointed successor to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover by Nixon and by protecting the Bureau's imperial turf from outsider L. Patrick Gray, than by convictions of conscience and dedication to the rule of law. Felt was no Hal Holbrook.
At the epicenter of Watergate was a sex scandal involving a Washington, D. C. call-girl ring. This crucial fact is little known to the vast numbers of the American public who think they know the real story of Watergate but only know the myth created and fostered by secret forces at the heart of the mystery.
1n 1972, at the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the vast Watergate complex, the executive director of the Association of Democratic State Chairmen was R. Spenser Oliver, Jr. Oliver was the nephew of Robert F. Bennett. Bennett, president of the public relations firm (and CIA front), Robert R. Mullen and Company, employed two men who were fierce rivals, Oliver's father and E. Howard Hunt, longtime CIA operative and handler of the Watergate burglars (all former CIA operatives) at the time of the Watergate break-in. According to investigative journalist Jim Hougan, Bennett was a key source for Woodward and Bernstein's Washington Post "investigations." His mission was to feed them disinformation to steer them clear of the CIA involvement in the affair and possibly the true significance of his nephew in the scandal.
Bennett was also plugged into Washington super-lawyer and powerbroker Edward Bennett Williams, whose important clients included the Democratic National Committee, The Washington Post, CIA director Richard Helms, and Senator Edward Kennedy. Watergate Judge John Sirica was one of Williams' closest friends — "I owe my career to Ed Williams."
Spencer Oliver, Jr. was a longtime associate of the sleazy attorney/pimp Phillip Mackin Bailey who set up the DNC connection to Heidi Rikin's Columbia Plaza call-girl operation. Bailey arranged with an inside DNC contact to have a secure phone and confidential descriptive information on the call-girls available for potential clients. It was the desk and telephone of Oliver's secretary, Ida Maxine Wells that was the target of the Watergate break-ins. Burglar Eugenio Martinez had a key to that desk when arrested on June 17th, 1972. The key lay in the National Archives for two decades before anyone realized its significance.
Oliver later became chief council for the Senate committee investigating the 1980 Reagan campaign "October Surprise" scandal (which resulted in a similar massive cover-up of evidence and truth of that affair) while his uncle, Robert Bennett went on to a vice presidency of the Summa Corporation, reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes's flagship operation.
The CIA had allegedly been secretly running Summa for decades.
Robert Maheu, the CIA's middleman in the CIA-Mafia assassination plots against Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, was Hughes's right-hand man and alter ego. According to Jim Hougan, the "super-connected" Robert A. Maheu Associates firm found office space with Kennedy family spook Carmine Bellino, sharing Bellino's secretary and telephone. Many persons assumed Maheu and Bellino were partners. Bellino had served at John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy's side on the McClellan Senate Investigating Committee on Labor Racketeering, targeting New Orleans Mob boss Carlos Marcello, Chicago Mob boss Sam Giancana, and Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa. Indeed Bellino was a key figure in RFK's war against Hoffa. Bellino was appointed chief investigator for the Senate Watergate Committee.
Robert Maheu was also closely connected with attorney Edward Bennett Williams.
Earlier in the 1950s, Maheu was instrumental in the multinational oil companies' conspiracy to destroy Greek oil tanker tycoon Aristotle Onassis, which involved Vice President Richard Nixon, CIA director Allen Dulles (former senior partner of the nation's most powerful law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell, who represented the Rockefeller's Standard Oil interests), future Chief Justice of the United States Warren Burger, the Rockefeller's Chase Manhattan Bank chairman John J. McCloy, and attorney Edward Bennett Williams.
Nixon nemesis Onassis later married Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of the slain JFK.
Dulles and McCloy later served on the Warren Commission.
Warren Commission Special Counsel Leon Jaworski, who investigated Lee Harvey Oswald for possible CIA or FBI connections, and found none, was later selected by Richard Nixon to be Watergate Special Prosecutor, after firing Archibald Cox in what was described as the "Saturday Night Massacre."
In the last days before his death, former CIA official and Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt, in a recorded confession to his son St. John Hunt described his involvement in a conspiracy to kill President John F. Kennedy. Other alleged conspirators named by Hunt included CIA operatives Cord Meyer, David Atlee Phillips, Frank Sturgis, David Morales, William Harvey, and vice president Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Warren Commission member Gerald R. Ford succeeded Nixon as president, pardoning him of all crimes he may have committed. Ford, in an intriguing post-Watergate gesture, offered the Directorship of the CIA to Edward Bennett Williams. Williams declined the position. The appointment was later accepted by Nixon loyalist, George H. W. Bush, the chairman of the Republican National Committee during the unfolding Watergate Scandal.
Again, citing Jim Hougan: "Organized in 1954, Robert A. Maheu Associates became the prototype for the u2018Mission Impossible' television series, handling CIA assignments so sensitive that the federal spooks dared not perform themselves. In short, it was dirty work, involving prostitution, pornography, illegal wiretaps, (and) assassination. . . According to Joe Shimon, one of Maheu's oldest friends, u2018Bob was a pimp for the Cookie Factory. What I mean is, The Agency (CIA) would call him up when Sukarno or Hussein (the late King of Jordan long on the CIA's payroll) was coming to town, and ask him to get some girls." Shimon appeared as the mysterious "Doctor Peters" featured in the A & E documentary, The Plot To Assassinate President Kennedy. He was the chief of detectives for Washington's upscale Northwest quadrant where almost all of our nation's capitol's foreign embassies are located. Shimon was a close friend of Mob figures Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli, both involved with Maheu in the CIA-Mafia Castro assassination plots and both brutally murdered for what they knew. Shimon was at early Miami meetings of these anti-Castro conspirators.
Billionaire Howard Hughes was one of Robert Bennett's principal clients, a contract held earlier by Larry O'Brien, chairman of the DNC at the time of the break-ins. Bennett was the long-time United States Senator from Utah recently defeated in the 2010 GOP primary. (Do not get this Robert F. Bennett confused with Robert S. Bennett, President Clinton's lawyer in the Paula Jones sexual harassment affair, Enron's Washington attorney, Reagan administration Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger's Iran-Contra Scandal lawyer, and attorney for the Keating Five in the Reagan administration's 1980's multibillion dollar Savings and Loan Scandal. That Robert Bennett is the brother of Neoconservative warmonger and former Reagan Drug Czar, the crazed William J. Bennett.)
Who Was "Deep Throat?"
For decades, the nation's elite news media played a "parlor game" concerning the Watergate Scandal. The "game" was to keep the nation guessing the true identity of Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein's famous source of information on the scandal, who they labeled "Deep Throat" after a notorious porno movie of the period starring actress Linda Lovelace. In an ironic twist of fate, Richard Nixon and Linda Lovelace both died on April 22nd, the former in 1994, the later in 2002.
Speculation was rife. "Deep Throat" candidates included Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, former director of the Office of Naval Intelligence, the National Security Agency, and deputy director of the CIA (who used to be briefed by Bob Woodward when he was communications duty officer of the Chief of Naval Operations, one of the most elite and trusted assignments for a young officer in the National Security Establishment); or Washington powerbroker and fixer Edward Bennett Williams; or CIA counter-intelligence official Richard Ober — a close friend of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee; or former NATO Commander/Nixon White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig (also briefed regularly by Woodward when he as a briefing officer at the Pentagon).
A host of Nixon administration appointees suspected of disloyalty to their chief were also tossed in the ring.
But all that came to an end in 2005 with the May 31st Vanity Fair story revealing that Felt was "Deep Throat." You could see the utter disappointment on the faces of the Cable News Network talking heads and their guests the day the news broke.
This self-interested "parlor game" was part of the media misdirection/disinformation effort to keep the public focused on "Deep Throat," and not on the real story of Watergate — why were the two break-ins undertaken by Hunt and Liddy's burglars?
To paraphrase X (Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty played by actor Donald Sutherland in Oliver Stone's movie, JFK) — "Who planned the break-ins? Who stood to benefit? And who has the power to cover it up? Who?"
The answer: John Dean.
John Dean masterminded the whole Watergate affair, from the break-ins, the cover-ups and obstructions of justice, to ratting out Nixon, and emerging as the hero of the scandal.
Why were the break-ins planned? The first was planned by John Dean to get sexual dirt on the Democrats concerning the Columbia Plaza call-girl ring which had the DNC at the Watergate as one of its contact points for clients. Nine days after this initial break-in, Phillip Mackin Bailey was busted by federal authorities. Upon examination of the evidence compiled by the assistant U. S. attorney in charge of this case, John Rudy, Bailey's address book was discovered by White House Counsel John Dean to have the name and phone number of "Mo Biner" under the reference "clout." Mo was Dean's vivacious blonde girlfriend, Maureen Biner, roommate of Erika L. "Heidi" Rikin (aka Cathy Dieter), the madam of the call-girl ring and mistress of Washington, D. C. Mob boss Joseph Nesline — an associate of the powerful organized crime Syndicate's Meyer Lansky — and also roommate of Josephine Alvarez, Nesline's wife.
Dean quickly married Maureen, for a wife cannot testify against her husband. A photograph of "my very dear friend Heidi" who attended their wedding appears in Maureen Dean's book, Mo: A Woman's View of Watergate. "Heidi" had performed as a stripper at Washington's Blue Mirror Club in the mid 1960s and had long been associated with prostitution in the D. C. area.
The second break-in was necessary for John Dean to find out if Mo's picture and confidential information was in the sexual client book in the locked desk of secretary Ida Maxine Wells in the DNC's Watergate office, and thus possibly lead back to implicating him.
In other words, the real unanswered question of Watergate was never: "Who was u2018Deep Throat?'" or "What did the President know, and when did he know it?"
The real question remains: "WAS MO A HO?" But the elite media will never go there in a million years.
And since the infamous John and Maureen Dean/G. Gordon Liddy civil law suit about all this controversy was settled without going to trial, and the wiretap transcripts of Ida Maxine Wells' bugged phone used for the sexual liaisons have been sealed by a federal judge, we may never know the full truth.
On March 27th of this year I had the distinct honor of addressing those two wonderful fabulists, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, spinners of the yarn known as Watergate. These aging gatekeepers of the mainstream media were in town to deliver the University of Tulsa's Presidential Lecture (sponsored by the Darcy O'Brien Endowed Chair). After these gentlemen had once again returned the spell-bound yet geriatric audience to those thrilling days of yesteryear four decades past, re-telling the lurid tales of Nixon, Liddy, Hunt, McCord, Mitchell, Halderman, etc. I expressed to them just how pleased I was to finally meet the Brothers Grimm of our national mythos, and that one day in the future I will perhaps meet Hans Christian Anderson himself, John Dean. Then we may finally address the real question at the heart of Watergate. It was not, of course, the identity of "Deep Throat," or "What did the president know and when did he know it." The real question remains: "Was Mo a Ho?" The audience gasped! You should have seen the look on Woodward's face as he struggled to explain (or as he put it, decode), the meaning of my interrogatory. Priceless! I then stated that my true question was actually directed at Mr. Bernstein, author of the brilliant article, "The CIA and the Media." I pointed out that he had outlined in his piece how the Central Intelligence Agency had engaged in covert activities with the nations' press described as "the Mighty Wurlitzer" or "Operation Mockingbird." Was the intelligence community engaged in such activities today? We can all sleep better tonight since Bernstein reassured me that all that kind of stuff ended at the conclusion of the Cold War. Woodward equally reassured us that "the system worked" because Gerald Ford did the right thing in pardoning Richard Nixon.
The Saturday Night Massacre
Congress had passed legislation providing for an independent special prosecutor to investigate Watergate. Nixon Attorney General Elliot Richardson appointed his former Harvard Law professor Archibald Cox. Cox was the epitome of a card-carrying member of the Ivy League, eastern seaboard, anti-Nixon liberal Establishment. He had served as JFK's 1960 campaign speechwriter and later as Kennedy's Solicitor General in the Justice Department.
Among those present at the ceremony of Cox repeating his oath of office were two longtime friends, Senator Edward Kennedy and his sister-in-law Ethel Kennedy, widow of Attorney General Robert Kennedy, under whom Cox had served.
Eliot Richardson himself came from the liberal Rockefeller-wing of the eastern Establishment, and was chosen by Nixon to placate these elements.
Nixon was deeply suspicious of Cox and his motives in widening his investigation beyond the Watergate break-ins and cover-up, and with good reason: of the thirty-seven lawyers Cox recruited, all but one were Ivy Leaguers, eighteen from Harvard; most were Democrats; many had worked in the Justice Department under Bobby Kennedy or Nicholas dfB. Katzenbach who succeeded Kennedy. They were determined to get Nixon.
On October 20, 1973, Nixon ordered Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refused and resigned. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Rucklehaus to fire Cox, Rucklehaus refused and was fired. Nixon then ordered the acting Attorney General, Solicitor General Robert Bork to fire Cox, which he did.
The nation was outraged by this series of impromptu actions. Bumper stickers soon emerged around the country proclaiming — IMPEACH THE COX SACKER!
Nixon then appointed Leon Jaworski as Special Prosecutor.
The Tapes Which Brought Down A President
Alexander Butterfield had enjoyed a distinguished career in military intelligence when he went to work for the Nixon White House senior staff. He was one of the most important persons surrounding Nixon. Butterfield was involved in virtually every aspect of activity relating to the day-to-day decisions of the president.
Butterfield was also a CIA plant within the highest echelons of the White House, and his pivotal role in the ensuing outcome of the Watergate Scandal cannot be overestimated. He was not the only such covert agent spying on the Nixon White House for the National Security Establishment. The Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, distrusting certain Nixon foreign policy initiatives, had run an elaborate military espionage operation within the administration. There were secret forces who wanted to see Nixon go.
Butterfield was called to testify before the Senate Watergate Committee. He revealed the existence of a sophisticated White House Oval Office taping system which had recorded every important conversation relating to Watergate and the crimes of the Nixon administration.
The shocking contents of the June 23rd, 1972 Oval Office tape discussing Richard Nixon's and John Dean's strategy for the obstruction of justice regarding the June 17th Watergate break-in has gone down in history as the "smoking gun," which led to Nixon's ultimate destruction and resignation.
The Washington Post and the CIA
The Washington Post has long held a close relationship within the Washington power elite Establishment. In the 1950s under the direction of CIA Director Allen Dulles, the Agency formulated a vast strategic program for infiltrating and manipulating the American news media. The plan was designated "Operation Mockingbird." It was devised by Frank Wisner, director of the Office of Policy Coordination, the covert action arm of the CIA; his aide Richard Helms; and by Washington Post publisher Phillip Graham. Graham committed suicide in August of 1963 after reported mental instability and ravings about CIA manipulation of journalists. His estranged wife Katherine Graham took control of the Post. Katherine was daughter of Washington powerbroker Eugene Meyer, who was chairman of the War Finance Board under Woodrow Wilson, chairman of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation under Herbert Hoover, Governor of the Federal Reserve Board under Franklin Roosevelt, and President of the World Bank under Harry Truman. Meyer purchased the Post in 1933.
Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who supervised Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate investigations, was well connected in Washington circles of power. He had been a close friend of President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline. In fact, Bradlee's sister-in-law, Mary Pinchot Meyer, former wife of high-ranking CIA counter-intelligence official Cord Meyer, had a sexual affair with JFK, allegedly involving the use of Marijuana and LSD. Mary Pinchot Meyer was mysteriously murdered in 1964. Richard Helms, instrumental in the creation of "Operation Mockingbird," was a close friend of Bradlee's since childhood. Helms was CIA Director during the Watergate Scandal. He was later convicted for lying to Congress concerning CIA activities in Chile.
Woodward, former Naval Intelligence elite briefing officer of the highest ranking officials of the National Security Council and the Pentagon, is now editor of the Post. In the nearly forty years since the Watergate Scandal he has built his career reputation as author of a series of best-selling books on America's military/intelligence Establishment. Bob Woodward has indeed proved to be a good and faithful servant to those secret forces within the corridors of power of the National Security Establishment responsible for the downfall of Richard Nixon, and loyal to the elusive man which contributed so much to building that reputation, W. Mark Felt.
Recommended Reading: Jim Hougan's excellent books, Spooks: the Haunting of America — the Private Use of Secret Agents, and Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA; Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin's masterwork, Silent Coup: The Removal of a President; Len Colodny and Tom Shachtman's insightful, The Forty Years War: The Rise and Fall of the Neocons, From Nixon To Obama; and Anthony Summers' superb The Arrogance of Power: the Secret World of Richard Nixon, are essential. In 2005, Bob Woodward authored The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat.
For fascinating links between the JFK Assassination and the Watergate Scandal, see Carl Oglesby, The Yankee and Cowboy War; Jim Marrs, Crossfire; Russ Baker, Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America's Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years; and James W. Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.
An excellent website on the Watergate Scandal can be found at: www.watergate.com.
A streaming video version of the classic A & E documentary, The Key To Watergate, which inspired this article, is available at this site.
Charles A. Burris [send him mail] teaches history in the Murray N. Rothbard Room at Memorial High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.