Bernard Leon Barker was born in Havana, Cuba, on 17th March, 1917. His father's family originally came from Russia. Bernard's middle name suggests his father was sympathetic to the ideals of the Russian Revolution. At the age of 16 Barker joined the ABC, a revolutionary group opposed to then president Gerardo Machado Morales. It was during this period that he acquired the nickname "Macho".
The day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Barker became the first Cuban-American to join the American armed forces. He received his basic training in Tampa before moving to Houston where he eventually graduated as a second lieutenant. He flew patrol missions over the Gulf of Mexico before being sent to London to join the 331st squadron of 8th Air Force. Over the next few months he served as a bombardier on board a B-17 Flying Fortress.
On his 12 mission on 2nd February, 1944, over the Ruhr Valley, Barker's aircraft was hit and the crew were forced to bail out. Barker was captured and sent to a concentration camp called "Stalag Luft 1". Sixteen months later he was liberated by the Red Army.
After the war Barker returned to Cuba and joined the National Police. He worked as an assistant to the Chief of Police with the rank of sergeant. Later he was recruited by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and worked for them as an undercover agent. He also did work for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
When Fidel Castro successfully overthrew Fulgencio Batista, Barker and his family moved to Miami (January 1960). Barker became a significant figure in the Cuban exile community. He remained a CIA agent and worked under the direction of Frank Bender. Later that year Barker was assigned to work under E. Howard Hunt. Barker's new job was to recruit men into the 2506 Brigade. These men eventually took part in the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
In 1972 James W. McCord was appointed as security director for the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). Later that year Gordon Liddy presented Nixon's attorney general, John N. Mitchell, with an action plan called Operation Gemstone. Liddy wanted a $1 million budget to carry out a series of black ops activities against Nixon's political enemies. Mitchell decided that the budget for Operation Gemstone was too large. Instead he gave him $250,000 to launch a scaled-down version of the plan.
One of Liddy's first tasks was to place electronic devices in the Democratic Party campaign offices in an apartment block called Watergate. Liddy wanted to wiretap the conversations of Larry O'Brien, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Liddy recruited McCord to help him with this. On 28th May, 1972, and his team, including Barker, broke into the DNC's offices and placed bugs in two of the telephones.
It became the job of Alfred Baldwin to eavesdrop the phone conversations. Over the next 20 days Baldwin listened to over 200 phone calls. These were not recorded. Baldwin made notes and typed up summaries. Nor did Baldwin listen to all phone calls coming in. For example, he took his meals outside his room. Any phone calls taking place at this time would have been missed.
It soon became clear that the bug on one of the phones installed by James W. McCord was not working. As a result of the defective bug, McCord decided that they would have to break-in to the Watergate office again. He also heard that a representative of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War had a desk at the DNC. McCord argued that it was worth going in to see what they could discover about the anti-war activists. Gordon Liddy later claimed that the real reason for the second break-in was “to find out what O’Brien had of a derogatory nature about us, not for us to get something on him.”
E.Howard Hunt then contacted Bernard Barker and invited him to join the team that broke into the Watergate office. In 1997, Barker told The Miami Herald that Hunt "said this would put us in a situation in which we can later ask for help for the freedom of Cuba.''
The original operation was unsuccessful and on 17th June, 1972, Barker, James W. McCord, Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez and Eugenio Martinez returned to O'Brien's office. However, this time they were caught by the police. The phone number of E.Howard Hunt was found in address books of the burglars. Reporters were now able to link the break-in to the White House. Bob Woodward, a reporter working for the Washington Post was told by a friend who was employed by the government, that senior aides of President Richard Nixon, had paid the burglars to obtain information about its political opponents.
Carl Bernstein went to Miami to talk to the prosecutor there who had started his own Watergate investigation. Martin Dardis told Bernstein that he had traced money recovered at the Watergate to the Nixon re-election campaign (CRP). He discovered that a $25,000 check banked by Barker had come from Kenneth H. Dahlberg, a businessman who had been fundraising for Richard Nixon. He told Woodward that he turned over all the money he raised to Maurice Stans, CRP's finance chairman. On 1st August, 1972, the Washington Post ran the story about this connection between the Watergate burglars and Nixon.
In January, 1973, Barker, E.Howard Hunt, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Frank Sturgis, Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord were convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping. After serving 12 months in prison Barker found work as a Miami building inspector. He then became a zoning consultant. In 1983, Barker was charged with perjury in connection with alleged payoffs to city Zoning Board members but was later acquitted of the offence.
Bernard Leon Barker, suffered from cancer and heart problems, died in Miami on 5th June 2009.
The first groups of exiles were mostly members of the deposed dictator Fulgencio Batista, followed later by people who had believed in the revolution and were betrayed, their property confiscated and their lives in danger. Due to the explosion in unrest throughout, not only Cuba, but also the rest of Central and South America at that time, the CIA's "Miami Operations Base" had hundreds of agents, all under the command of a" Mr. B", whose code name was Frank Bender.
One of Mr. B's associates was Eduardo Hamilton, the code name used by E. Howard Hunt. Bender and Hunt were veterans of the OSS and the CIA and were experienced cold warriors. In 1960 Barker was assigned to work under Hunt, to recruit and organize men for what would become a Cuban Exile invasion force training to liberate Cuba from Castro. The group was then known as the "2506 Brigade." In reality far from being a Cuban led and organized effort, these training activities were in accordance with an official plan to implement the CIA's "A Program of Covert Action Against the Castro Regime" which was approved by President Eisenhower on March 17, 1960.
In order to accomplish his mission Barker had to organize this revolutionary force, with the help of others, from scratch, introducing most recruits to a new and secret way of life. On the other hand, he also had to educate the trainers and other American agents in the Cuban culture and the current political environment in Miami and in Cuba. It was not easy to reconcile these two cultures, with their different ways of thinking, into one cohesive plan of action. Barker described his task as the need to make soldiers out of civilians and to maintain high morale and discipline in a changing political world. A world that was shaped on a daily basis by the events of the times...
In the bright bronze light of a Florida afternoon, I remarked to Barker that thirty-seven years had now passed since the disaster of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Before he responded, I could see the resignation mixed with pain on his face, as he remembered those days. "It is easy to blame us (the CIA) for the failure of the invasion, but the original plan called for strong air support from the U.S. armed forces, that was not provided. We "dumped" them on the beach, with no chance to win. I wonder if today, with my experience I would have followed orders that seemed so wrong?"
Barker continued speaking in a pensive mood, "An intelligence officer is a person of one thousand bleeding scars who cannot afford to complain or to mourn along the way. Sometimes people think that we leave our hearts in a locker when we go to work. Many people died anonymously for the cause of Cuban freedom. Many young men died in front of firing squads shouting "Long live Christ the King." Close to here, in this neighborhood there are four streets by the names of Leo F. Baker, Wade C. Gray, Thomas W. Ray and Riley W. Shamburger. Do you know who those people are?", he asked me. "They were the four American pilots, all CIA men, who honored the promise that had been made to the invaders by John F. Kennedy and their trainers. That the sky would be theirs, implying air cover that never materialized for ground troops. Those four men died on the beaches of the Bay of Pigs among the men they had trained." Bernard continues,"That gesture in a certain way, redeemed America at the operational level of the failed invasion."
In 1974 Wallace told United Press International that "he hoped the Watergate investigation would turn up the man who paid the money to have him shot." Wallace later said he mis-spoke but privately told reporters he believed the White House plumbers unit might have been involved.
The WalShot Files say Wallace had received a letter from Bernard Barker, one of the men caught in the Watergate break-in. The alleged letter is said to have claimed Bremer was paid by G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt for shooting Wallace. All deny the allegation. According to the WalShot Files, the FBI and Barker claim the letter is a fraud, and agents charged the ailing Wallace was after sympathy to support a third run at the presidency.
In 1975, Wallace's wife, Cornelia, told McCall's magazine that the FBI urged Wallace not to press the issue. The FBI briefed Wallace on Aug. 20, 1974, for the second time after denying his request to see the WalShot Files. But Cornelia says agents "didn't review any new developments. All they wanted to do was assure my husband that Bremer was not involved in a conspiracy."
When the New York Times reported Watergate hush-money operative Hunt testified in a Senate Watergate hearing that White House aide Charles Colson, upon hearing the news of the shooting, immediately ordered him to "bribe the janitor" or pick Bremer's lock to find out what type of literature Bremer read, the FBI faced public pressure to reopen the case. The G-men created a memo citing Hunt's story as unlikely because Colson called the Hunt statement "utterly preposterous." The FBI records state: "The allegation that the plumbers might be involved with Bremer appears to be far-fetched in that both Bremer's diary and our investigation indicate Bremer was actively stalking President Nixon up to a short time prior to his decision to shoot Governor Wallace."
In the midst of this a CBS News crew provided the FBI with a film clip depicting a man resembling Liddy whom CBS alleged "led Wallace into Bremer's line of fire." Could this mystery man be the same person who chased down a photographer and paid $10,000 for pictures unseen and undeveloped that were strictly of the crowd? FBI records show those pictures were never pursued because they weren't considered important.
Regardless, the FBI told CBS in 1973 that the mystery man was not Liddy. Although they admitted they had no idea who it was, they claimed the mystery man was just shaking Wallace's hand.
The file shows the FBI hauled both Hunt and Colson in for secret questioning in 1974. Both acknowledge that a conversation about Bremer's apartment took place but deny Liddy or the White House had any role in the assassination attempt. Hunt also told the FBI he never spoke to Liddy about Bremer -- although Hunt says in his Watergate book that he did talk to Liddy about it.
In 1974, the FBI concluded Colson's "explanation is directly opposite" Hunt's but recommended no further probe. The FBI chose not to interview Bremer about the story as "it would not appear logical to expose Bremer to such a weak theory." Likewise they did not try to interview Liddy, who tells Insight, "You got to remember, I wasn't talking to anyone at that time." Asked if he had any role in the Wallace assassination attempt, Liddy replies, "No." Told there were pages about the claim in the FBI's WalShot Files, he is dumfounded. "It sounds to me like these are wild allegations," he says.
Asked where he was when Wallace was shot, Liddy replies, "I don't remember. What's it say in my book?" His book, Will, says only that Liddy was reading the Miami Herald the next day. Two decades later Colson's story changes. He publicly has admitted to ordering the Bremer break-in but told Seymour Hersch in 1993 that he called it off.
Even as Nixon was publicly describing the shooting as "senseless and tragic," he was privately encouraging a Bremer break-in. "Is he a left-winger, right-winger?" Nixon asks about five hours after the shooting, according to a recently released Nixon "abuse of power" tape reviewed by Insight. Colson responds: "Well, he's going to be a left-winger by the time we get through, I think." Nixon laughs and says, "Good. Keep at that, keep at that"
"Yeah, I just wish that, God, that I'd thought sooner about planting a little literature out there. It may be a little late, although I've got one source that maybe ...," Colson says on the tape. "Good," Nixon responds. And Colson replies, "You could think about that. I mean, if they found it near his apartment. That would be helpful."
All of this may refer to just another third-rate burglary that never materialized. Or did it? A Black Panther publication was found in Bremer's apartment, according to the WalShot inventory record. But when in 1974 the Los Angeles Times asked if the FBI found a Black Panther publication, the FBI lied and said it had not.
Nixon might have laughed at that. But Wallace got the last laugh. The Watergate tapes show that on July 23, 1974, after learning he would lose all three Dixiecrats on the Judiciary Committee, Nixon asked Wallace to exert political pressure on his behalf. When Wallace refused, Nixon turned to White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig and said, "Well, Al, there goes the presidency."
April 1961 started with dual and antagonistic expectations. In Washington, the White House was full of doubts, hesitant and with a President talking about "the disposal problem" if the invasion was canceled. He was obsessed with the thought that the United States should not appear involved in this adventure. On the other hand, in the training camps of Guatemala, the would-be invaders, military and political leaders and CIA field personnel were all kept in the dark about the approaching disaster.
Could the United States deny its involvement in the operation? The answer is a categorical no. Major Washington and New York news organization were aware of the preparations in Guatemala. In Miami people talked about it in bars and office of exile organizations. There was no way that the recruitment, training and supply of weapons for 1,400 Cuban men could be organized without the United States participation and control.
President Kennedy saw just two options: To cancel the invasion or to go ahead with it. Cancellation implied a "disposal problem," what to do with the invaders? To keep them in Guatemala and announce that the invasion had been postponed or canceled was an invitation to a riot and a possible war between the frustrated invaders and the Guatemalan armed forces. To disband the force and ship the men the United States was a political and military risk that nobody wanted to face. The other option was to go ahead with the invasion and be sure it was a winning card. It is easier to justify a victory than a defeat. The White House selected the option to invade but not with the resolution and will to win at all costs. It was an expeditionary force sent to the battlefield to "melt" and disappeared in the jungle: they did not land they were "dumped" into a swamp. This unexplainable act of political suicide coined a phrase: the Bay of Pigs "fiasco."
This act of political and military absurdity has been explained many times as treason of the CIA, ineptitude of the Pentagon, and similar excuses. But up to now very few have explained that it was foreign policy at his most disastrous state carried out by cold, cynical and incompetent presidential aides whose main task was to protect the political capital of the boss (John F. Kennedy) not the prestige of the country or the lives of the persons participating in the invasion.
There is also persuasive support for the "dumping thesis" in "A Thousand Days," the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Schlesinger paints a vivid account of President Kennedy's indecision on the matter of how much and when to provide support for the Brigade. He also documents the obsession within the White House to avoid any hint of US involvement in the Bay of Pigs affair.
"On April 17, 1971 (The tenth anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion). I came home and found a message in the door of the house. The message was from E. Howard Hunt and said: If you are the same Barker I once knew, meet me at . . . , signed Eduardo. We met and talked about the old times and remembered mutual friends. Hunt told me he was working in Washington now, at the White House, and needed my help for a big and important project.
Without asking the nature of the project I told him he could count on me. I was very excited thinking that the fight against Castro was continuing. I had been waiting a long time for this moment, being reactivated to start the fight again in Cuba."
However, what Hunt had in mind was not directly related to Cuba. His task was to stop the flow of leaks to the press coming from people in sensitive government positions. Some of the leakers were suspected of being opposed to the war in Vietnam. Hunt spoke to Barker of a comprehensive plan aimed to tighten security at different levels in the government. The immediate task was to stop the leaks to the press. The work required persons willing to work under absolute secrecy with unquestionable loyalty to the country. Hunt asked Barker if he could recruit help among the former CIA Cuban agents in Miami. Barker answered with an unequivocal "yes."
During the conversation, Barker asked Hunt which of the intelligence agencies they were going to work for. Hunt answered that "this time the CIA and the FBI are working for us. What is happening is affecting the security of the country directly." Barker said that his impression was that we were to work directly for the National Security Council. He noted that he never had any doubt of the legitimacy of his subsequent work for Hunt.
Hunt invited Barker and his men to join the team of "Plumbers." This group was assembled secretly to stop government leaks. "I recruited the men and started the training," said Barker, "and our first job was related to Ellsberg." Hunt explained to Barker that he had to obtain a psychological profile of Ellsberg from the CIA but they had refused to do it, on the basis that he was an American citizen. Hunt insisted that the profile had to be done and finally with the help of the White House, he obtained two profiles of Ellsberg. From what Hunt learned from the profiles he decided to move on Ellsberg psychiatrists in California. Hunt had his doubts about Ellsberg: he could be a patriot, a misguided patriot or a double agent.
In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a defense analyst, had leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times: 47 volumes (7,000 pages) of the top-secret history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Hunts had decided that the team of Plumbers should break into the office of Ellberg's psychiatrist in a search for information to discredit the leaker.
Later, the Plumbers were assigned to break into the Watergate to search the offices of the Democratic National Committee. What were you to look for?
Barker replied: "The way it was presented to me was that they had received information from different sources, including British Intelligence, that Castro had contributed money to George Mc Govern thorough several radical organizations, perhaps including the Black Panthers. Our job was to find proof of Cuban involvement."
Did nothing good come from the Watergate? Barker looked at me for a few seconds and glanced at his hands as he began to speak. His words were clear and deliberate, well pronounced. My question was in Spanish but he answered in English: "It is difficult to quantify or qualify the whole thing. The Watergate scandal meant many things to many people, for the Cuban-Americans who participated in the operation it was an opportunity to go back to battle. Obviously, we were totally misled. I remember you writing once: Americans know how to die with their boots on but not with their mouths shut. Well, that was not our case. We did not open our mouths. I cannot talk on behalf of the Americans or Cubans. I am speaking for myself. One very good thing that came from all this was a very critical look at our system of government. The president of this country was too powerful, the CIA was too powerful, the legislative power did not watch the executive close enough. Maybe the unintended consequences of Watergate were increased accountability and the restoration of checks and balances. Not everything was bad."
One of the things that has always intrigued me is the large number of mistakes that were made during the Watergate operation. This is in direct contrast to other Nixon dirty tricks campaigns. Some people have speculated that there were individuals inside the operation who wanted to do harm to Nixon. I thought it might be a good idea to list these 24 “mistakes” to see if we can identify these individuals. Could it have been Bernard Barker?
(1) The money to pay for the Watergate operation came from CREEP. It would have been possible to have found a way of transferring this money to the Watergate burglars without it being traceable back to CREEP. For example, see how Tony Ulasewicz got his money from Nixon. As counsel for the Finance Committee to Re-Elect the President, Gordon Liddy, acquired two cheques that amounted to $114,000. This money came from an illegal U.S. corporate contribution laundered in Mexico and Dwayne Andreas, a Democrat who was a secret Nixon supporter. Liddy handed these cheques to E. Howard Hunt. He then gave these cheques to Bernard Barker who paid them into his own bank account. In this way it was possible to link Nixon with a Watergate burglar.
(2) On 22nd May, 1972, James McCord booked Alfred Baldwin and himself into the Howard Johnson Motor Inn opposite the Watergate building (room 419). The room was booked in the name of McCord’s company. During his stay in this room Baldwin made several long-distance phone calls to his parents. This information was later used during the trial of the Watergate burglars.
(3) On the eve of the first Watergate break-in the team had a meeting in the Howard Johnson Motor Inn’s Continental Room. The booking was made on the stationary of a Miami firm that included Bernard Barker among its directors. Again, this was easily traceable.
(4) In the first Watergate break-in the target was Larry O’Brien’s office. In fact, they actually entered the office of Spencer Oliver, the chairman of the association of Democratic state chairman. Two bugs were placed in two phones in order to record the telephone conversations of O’Brien. In fact, O’Brien never used this office telephone.
(5) E. Howard Hunt was in charge of photographing documents found in the DNC offices. The two rolls of film were supposed to be developed by a friend of James McCord. This did not happen and eventually Hunt took the film to Miami for Bernard Barker to deal with. Barker had them developed by Rich’s Camera Shop. Once again the conspirators were providing evidence of being involved in the Watergate break-in.
(6) The developed prints showed gloved hands holding them down and a shag rug in the background. There was no shag rug in the DNC offices. Therefore it seems the Democratic Party documents must have been taken away from the office to be photographed. McCord later claimed that he cannot remember details of the photographing of the documents. Liddy and Jeb Magruder saw them before being put in John Mitchell’s desk (they were shredded during the cover-up operation).
(7) After the break-in Alfred Baldwin and James McCord moved to room 723 of the Howard Johnson Motor Inn in order to get a better view of the DNC offices. It became Baldwin’s job to eavesdrop the phone calls. Over the next 20 days Baldwin listened to over 200 phone calls. These were not recorded. Baldwin made notes and typed up summaries. Nor did Baldwin listen to all phone calls coming in. For example, he took his meals outside his room. Any phone calls taking place at this time would have been missed.
(8) It soon became clear that the bug on one of the phones installed by McCord was not working. As a result of the defective bug, McCord decided that they would have to break-in to the Watergate office. He also heard that a representative of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War had a desk at the DNC. McCord argued that it was worth going in to see what they could discover about the anti-war activists. Liddy later claimed that the real reason for the second break-in was “to find out what O’Brien had of a derogatory nature about us, not for us to get something on him.”
(9) Liddy drove his distinctive Buick-powered green Jeep into Washington on the night of the second Watergate break-in. He was stopped by a policeman after jumping a yellow light. He was let off with a warning. He parked his car right outside the Watergate building.
(10) The burglars then met up in room 214 before the break-in. Liddy gave each man between $200 and $800 in $100 bills with serial numbers close in sequence. McCord gave out six walkie-talkies. Two of these did not work (dead batteries).
(11) McCord taped the 6th, 8th and 9th floor stairwell doors and the garage level door. Later it was reported that the tape on the garage–level lock was gone. Hunt argued that a guard must have done this and suggested the operation should be aborted. Liddy and McCord argued that the operation must continue. McCord then went back an re-taped the garage-level door. Later the police pointed out that there was no need to tape the door as it opened from that side without a key. The tape served only as a sign to the police that there had been a break-in.
(12) McCord later claimed that after the break-in he removed the tape on all the doors. This was not true and soon after midnight the security guard, Frank Wills, discovered that several doors had been taped to stay unlocked. He told his superior about this but it was not until 1.47 a.m. that he notified the police.
(13) The burglars heard footsteps coming up the stairwell. Bernard Barker turned off the walkie-talkie (it was making a slight noise). Alfred Baldwin was watching events from his hotel room. When he saw the police walking up the stairwell steps he radioed a warning. However, as the walkie-talkie was turned off, the burglars remained unaware of the arrival of the police.
(14) When arrested Bernard Barker had his hotel key in his pocket (314). This enabled the police to find traceable material in Barker’s hotel room.
(15) When Hunt and Liddy realised that the burglars had been arrested, they attempted to remove traceable material from their hotel room (214). However, they left a briefcase containing $4,600. The money was in hundred dollar bills in sequential serial numbers that linked to the money found on the Watergate burglars.
(16) When Hunt arrived at Baldwin’s hotel room he made a phone call to Douglas Caddy, a lawyer who had worked with him at Mullen Company (a CIA front organization). Baldwin heard him discussing money, bail and bonds.
(17) Hunt told Baldwin to load McCord’s van with the listening post equipment and the Gemstone file and drive it to McCord’s house in Rockville. Surprisingly, the FBI did not order a search of McCord’s home and so they did not discover the contents of the van.
(18) It was vitally important to get McCord’s release from prison before it was discovered his links with the CIA. However, Hunt or Liddy made no attempt to contact people like Mitchell who could have organized this via Robert Mardian or Richard Kleindienst. Hunt later blamed Liddy for this as he assumed he would have phoned the White House or the Justice Department who would in turn have contacted the D.C. police chief in order to get the men released.
(19) Hunt went to his White House office where he placed a collection of incriminating materials (McCord’s electronic gear, address books, notebooks, etc.) in his safe. The safe also contained a revolver and documents on Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Kennedy and State Department memos. Hunt once again phoned Caddy from his office.
(20) Liddy eventually contacts Magruder via the White House switchboard. This was later used to link Liddy and Magruder to the break-in.
(21) Later that day Jeb Magruder told Hugh Sloan, the FCRP treasurer, that: “Our boys got caught last night. It was my mistake and I used someone from here, something I told them I’d never do.”
(22) Police took an address book from Bernard Barker. It contained the notation “WH HH” and Howard Hunt’s telephone number.
(23) Police took an address book from Eugenio Martinez. It contained the notation “H. Hunt WH” and Howard Hunt’s telephone number. He also had cheque for $6.36 signed by E. Howard Hunt.
(24) Alfred Baldwin told his story to a lawyer called John Cassidento, a strong supporter of the Democratic Party. He did not tell the authorities but did pass this information onto Larry O’Brien. The Democrats now knew that people like E. Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy were involved in the Watergate break-in.
Several individuals seem to have made a lot of mistakes. The biggest offenders were Hunt (8), McCord (7), Liddy (6), Barker (6) and Baldwin (3). McCord’s mistakes were the most serious. He was also the one who first confessed to what had taken place at Watergate.
In the course of a long and colourful career, Mr Barker was also one of the leaders of the failed CIA attempt to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.
He had suffered from cancer and heart problems, the AP news agency said.
The Watergate break-in sparked one of America's biggest political scandals, toppling then-President Richard Nixon.
A quick run through the CV of the Cuban-born CIA operative is like taking a ride through some of the most controversial covert operations in late-20th century American history, says the BBC's Emilio San Pedro.
Not only was he was one of the leaders of the 1961 CIA attempts to invade Cuba, but his name was often discussed by American conspiracy theorists as having played a role in the assassination of John F Kennedy, allegedly in revenge for his failure fully to support the Bay of Pigs invasion.
But he was best known for being one of the five men who broke into the Democratic Party headquarters in 1972 at the Watergate building in Washington, DC, at the behest of then President Nixon.
The men were attempting to plant wiretaps to spy on the Democrat opponent of Mr Nixon - an event which eventually led to the once-popular president resigning in disgrace two years later.
In his later years, Mr Barker remained unapologetic about his involvement in the Watergate scandal, for which he only served a little over a year in prison.
As an anti-communist activist, he said he remained convinced that Mr Nixon was "one of the best presidents" the United States ever had.
Barker was one of five men who broke into the Watergate building in Washington on June 17, 1972. A piece of tape used by the burglars to cover the lock to a stairwell door was noticed by a security guard, setting in motion events that would topple Richard M. Nixon's presidency.
Barker and three of the others were recruited in Miami by CIA agent E. Howard Hunt, with whom they had worked a decade earlier in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The fifth burglar was a security consultant for Nixon's campaign. They were trying to plant a wiretap to gather information on Nixon's Democratic opponent in the upcoming presidential election, George McGovern.
While the national spotlight faded from the burglars over the past few decades, their deed was never forgotten. Barker lamented the infamy of his crime in a 1997 interview with The Associated Press.
"I think it's time that people forgot the whole damn thing," Barker said at the time. "That was a sad time."
Still, Barker said he had no regrets about the break-in. He served a little more than a year in prison for his role and later worked for the city of Miami.
The Watergate affair made Barker well-known in Miami's anti-Castro Cuban community, where he remained steadfast in his own dislike of the dictator over the years, said his daughter, Marielena Harding.
"His fight for true freedom continued to the end, and he was just sorry that he never got to see Cuba free," Harding said.
Bernard Leon Barker was a hero to many, first as a World War II flier and prisoner of war, later as a CIA operative working to overthrow Fidel Castro. But he is best remembered as a White House ''plumber:'' one of the burglars whose break-in helped topple a U.S. president.
He died Friday at the Veteran's Administration Medical Center in Miami at 92.
His only child, Marielena Harding of Miami Lakes, said the cause was lung cancer. He had been living in Westchester with his fourth wife, Dora Maria Barker.
Barker - nicknamed ''Macho'' as an infant - was a protégé of the late E. Howard Hunt, the CIA mastermind who planned the Bay of Pigs and Watergate operations.
The former failed to oust Castro in 1961. The latter forced President Richard Nixon out of office in 1974.
Conspiracy theorists have long implicated Barker in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who sanctioned the Bay of Pigs invasion then withdrew air support, dooming the mission.
''It's not true,'' his daughter said. "But he always suspected that Castro was involved.''
Barker organized a Cuban exile force in Miami known as Brigade 2506 for the overthrow attempt. It landed on a beach southeast of Havana on April 17, 1961, under heavy fire, and sustained massive losses.
Barker flew with José Miró Cardona, who was to have become provisional president in the event that Fidel Castro was overthrown, Harding said. Defeated but uninjured, Barker and Cardona returned to Miami.
''When it was obvious there was not be a free Cuba, [Barker] became. . .a real-estate broker and he was doing quite well,'' Harding said.
A decade later, Hunt resurfaced in his life, proposing an assignment in Washington.
'Howard sent a little note to him saying, `If you're still the same Macho that I always knew. . .,' '' Harding said.
Barker, with Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez and James McCord, was caught breaking into Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex on June 17, 1972. They were working for the Special Investigations Unit of the Nixon White House, paid by the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP).
They were called the ''plumbers'' because they had been hired to plug information leaks from the White House to its enemies.
In 1997, Barker told The Miami Herald that Hunt, who died in 2007, "said this would put us in a situation in which we can later ask for help for the freedom of Cuba.''
The five who broke into the Watergate, along with Hunt and CREEP general counsel G. Gordon Liddy, pleaded guilty to wiretapping, planting electronic surveillance equipment and document theft. They faced 40-year sentences.
Barker served nearly 18 months at the Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury, Conn., and Eglin Air Force Base in Pensacola.
After his release in 1974, he worked as a Miami building inspector, but was fired for slacking on the job. He then became a zoning consultant. In 1983, Barker was charged with perjury in connection with alleged payoffs to city Zoning Board members. He was acquitted at trial.
Bernard Barker was the son of Americans living in Cuba. He is thought to have been the first person from Cuba to enlist in the U.S. Army after Pearl Harbor.
A bombardier on a B-17 Flying Fortress, he was shot down over Germany in early 1944 and held as a prisoner of war for nearly 18 months.
In July 1945, he married Clara Elena Fernández, the daughter of a prominent Havana newspaper publisher. Still in the U.S. Air Force, he was sent to Jamaica, where Marielena was born in 1947.
Barker joined the Cuban national police, then the FBI and, after Fidel Castro took power, the CIA. He moved his family to Miami in 1960.
Her father lived two lives, Marielena said: ''one before Watergate, one after.'' The first, she said, was ''normal family life.'' The second: "disaster for everyone around him...
"My mother put together a very large group where every Cuban who knew my father gave the deed to their houses for collateral for the bonds.''
His role in the Bay of Pigs made Barker a hero in the exile community. His Watergate role made him a celebrity of a different kind.
''Everywhere he went in Miami, women chased him,'' his daughter said. He left his wife, who died last year, and remarried three times.
Barker lived quietly in a house that his daughter owns. He spent his days doing crossword puzzles, ''walking around on his walker,'' listening to Cuban music and playing solitaire on his computer - which has no Internet access.
He outlived all the men who broke into the Watergate except Martinez, who lives in Miami.
A funeral procession will leave Bernardo Garcia Funeral Home, 8215 Bird Rd., at 1 p.m. Saturday for Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 4801 W. Flagler St., where Mass will be celebrated at 1:30 p.m. Internment follows at Graceland Park Cemetery, 4420 SW Eighth St., Coral Gables.
Bernard Barker, who has died aged 92 of lung cancer, was arrested hiding under a desk, with $2,500 in new $100 bills in his pocket. A Cuban-American, he, like McCord's other three accomplices, was a veteran of the CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion, representative of the shadowy ties to which Nixon, on his infamous Oval Office tapes, referred as "that whole Bay of Pigs thing".
Working for the CIA under E Howard Hunt, Barker organised a brigade of Cuban exiles for the ill-fated 1961 invasion aimed at overthrowing Fidel Castro. In the wake of its failure, President John Kennedy's lack of support incensed the Cuban exile community, and is often cited as a possible motive behind his 1963 assassination. Many conspiracy theories link Barker to the assassination: he was accused by at least one Dallas police detective of having been the man on the grassy knoll showing secret service credentials and keeping the public away from the spot some believe hid the gunman who fired the fatal shot. Barker dismissed such claims, insisting Castro was behind Kennedy's killing.