Len Colodny is a journalist. In 1992 he co-wrote with Robert Gettlin: Silent Coup: The Removal of Richard Nixon. In the book the authors claim that John Dean ordered the Watergate break-in because he knew that a call-girl ring was operating out of the Democratic headquarters. The authors also argued that Alexander Haig was not Deep Throat but was a key source for Bob Woodward, who had briefed Haig at the White House in 1969 and 1970.
In 1992 John Dean began legal action against Len Colodny and Gordon Liddy. Dean objected to information that appeared in books by Liddy (Will) and Colodny (Silent Coup) that claimed that Dean was the mastermind of the Watergate burglaries and the true target of the break-in was to destroy information implicating him and his wife in a prostitution ring. That case was settled in 1999 when State Farm Insurance Company paid Colodny $410,000.00 to allow Dean to dismiss the case without going to summary judgement. Dean also had to agree not to sue Colodny again and that was in the Court Order.
John Dean encouraged former DNC secretary Ida Well to sue Gordon Liddy on the same subject as his original suit in US District Court in Baltimore. In July, 2002, jurors reached a unanimous decision in favor of Liddy and the theory put forward in Silent Coup: The Removal of Richard Nixon.
Colodny has written extensively about Watergate. Articles by him include Felt Was Asked Under Oath in 1975 If He Was Deep Throat (9th June, 2005) and Still Protecting Al Haig (7th July, 2005).
Under Haig, Larry Higby recalls, the day-to-day operation of the White House changed dramatically from what it had been under Higby's former boss, Haldeman. Higby told us that "The changes were fundamentally that Al controlled everything-everybody and everything." Whereas Haldeman had acted as a "general manager and coordinator as well as a personal adviser," Higby contends that Haldeman never blocked people from seeing the president, particularly Kissinger or Ehrlichman, and actually interceded to urge the president to see these men. "Bob [Haldeman] would often just glance at the stuff Henry was putting in or John was putting in or anybody else. Whereas Al tightly controlled each and every thing. I mean Al got much heavier involved in policy... Al was trying to manage the whole thing personally."
Haig's heavy hand meshed with the increasingly difficult times to heighten Nixon's isolation. Often the president would sit alone in his office, with a fire roaring and the air-conditioner running, a yellow tablet and pencil in hand, unwilling to see anyone. Stephen B. Bull, who served as a scheduler and later as a special assistant to Nixon during his entire presidency and also after his resignation, says that "The irony of Richard Nixon is that he had little trust in a lot of people, and he put too much trust in too few people.... When the world started closing in... it was quite convenient for [Nixon] to deal with Haig on a lot of matters and a lot of areas in which Haig really wasn't qualified." Bull remains angry at Haig, not because they were rivals, but because he viewed Haig as looking out for himself over Nixon.
The second Woodward and Bernstein book, The Final Days, paints a picture of a Haig who did not want to be everything to the president, and did not want to get Nixon into trouble. Bull saw precisely the opposite behavior on Haig's part during Bull's tenure as the day-to-day administrator of the president's office from February 197 3 through the August 1974 Nixon resignation. He watched with dismay as Haig "allowed the president to be isolated and indeed perhaps encouraged it." White House logs of the president's last fifteen months in office show Haig and Ziegler as the aides most often let into the inner sanctum with the president. To Bull, in those fifteen months, Haig seemed "duplicitous ... motivated by self-aggrandizement, rather than ideology or principle."
When Haig learned at a staff meeting of a decision that had been made without consulting him, Bull recalls that Haig "began pounding the table with his fist... and said two or three times, `I am the chief of staff. I make all the decisions in the White House.' We thought he was crazy." Such outbursts would characterize Haig's responses even to decisions made on nonpolicy matters such as the president's daily schedule. According to Bull, Haig at one point said, "If you think that this president can run the country without Al Haig... you are mistaken."
If a senator made a speech against the president's policies in regard to Vietnam, Nixon would issue an order to Haldeman: "Put a twenty-four-hour surveillance on that bastard."
Why a surveillance? To obtain deleterious information that could be used against the senator. Nixon liked that sort of secret, intrigue related intelligence, and fostered an environment within the White House that put a premium on it. The president believed that the domestic information-gathering arms of the government - the FBI and other federal policing agencies - could not be counted on to undertake confidential assignments of the sort he had in mind. J. Edgar Hoover, Nixon believed, had files on everybody, but even though Hoover often cooperated with Nixon, the FBI director was reluctant to release any of those files to Nixon even after he became president, just as reluctant as Director Richard Helms would be in 1971 to release the CIA's Bay of Pigs files when Nixon instructed him to do so.
And so, just weeks after Nixon's inauguration, the president directed White House counsel John Ehrlichman to hire a private eye. "He wanted somebody who could do chores for him that a federal employee could not do," Ehrlichman says. "Nixon was demanding information on certain things that I couldn't get through government channels because it would have been questionable." What sort of investigations? "Of the Kennedys, for example," Ehrlichman wrote in Witness to Power.
Ehrlichman quickly found a candidate, a well-decorated, forty year-old Irish New York City cop, John J. Caulfield. Caulfield had been a member of the NYPD and its undercover unit, the Bureau of Special Services and Investigations (BOSSI). He had made cases against dissident and terrorist organizations, and BOSSI as a whole was known for its ability to penetrate and keep track of left-wing and black groups. One of the unit's jobs was to work closely with the Secret Service and guard political dignitaries and world leaders who frequently moved through the city. During the 1960 election, Caulfield had been assigned to the security detail of candidate Richard Nixon. He had befriended Nixon's personal secretary, Rose Mary Woods, and her brother Joe, the sheriff of Cook County, Illinois. In 1968, after leaving the New York City Police Department, Caulfield had served as a security man for the Nixon campaign.
But when Ehrlichman approached him in early 1969 and asked Caulfield to set up a private security firm to provide services for the Nixon White House, Caulfield declined, and instead suggested that he join Ehrlichman's staff and then, as a White House employee, supervise another man who would be hired solely as a private eye. Ehrlichman agreed, and when Caulfield arrived at the White House to start work in April 1969, he said he had the ideal candidate for presidential gumshoe, a BOSSI colleague, Anthony Ulasewicz.
In May 1969, Ehrlichman and Caulfield flew to New York and met Ulasewicz in the American Airlines VIP lounge at LaGuardia Airport. Ulasewicz was ten years older than Caulfield, just as streetwise, and even saltier, with a thick accent picked up from his youth on the Lower East Side and twenty-six years of pounding the pavement on his beats. He was told in the VIP lounge that he would operate under a veil of tight secrecy. He would receive orders only from Caulfield though he could assume that those came from Ehrlichman, who would, in turn, be acting on instructions from the president. Ulasewicz would keep no files and submit no written reports; he later wrote in his memoirs that Ehrlichman said to him, "You'll be allowed no mistakes. There will be no support for you whatsoever from the White House if you're exposed." Ulasewicz refused an offer of six months' work, and insisted on a full year, with the understanding that there would be no written contract, just a verbal guarantee. It was also agreed that to keep everything away from the White House, Ulasewicz would work through an outside attorney. In late June 1969, Caulfield directed Ulasewicz to come to Washington and meet a man named Herbert W. Kalmbach at the Madison Hotel. Kalmbach was Nixon's personal attorney in California, and he told Tony that he would be paid $22,000 a year, plus expenses, and that the checks would come from Kalmbach to Tony's home in New York. To avoid putting the private eye on the government payroll, Kalmbach was to pay him out of a war chest of unspent Nixon campaign funds. Ulasewicz requested and was promised credit cards in his own name and in that of a nom de guerre, Edward T Stanley. Shortly, he started on his first job for the Nixon White House. One day after Senator Edward M. Kennedy's car plunged off a bridge, killing a young woman, Tony Ulasewicz was at Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts, posing as a reporter, asking a lot of questions and taking photographs. He stayed a week, and phoned reports to Caulfield thrice daily.
Thereafter, he crisscrossed the country, investigating whatever the president or his subordinates thought proper targets for information such Democrats as George Wallace, Hubert Humphrey, Edmund Muskie, Vance Hartke, William Proxmire, and Carl Albert, Republican representatives John Ashbrook and Paul McCloskey, antiwar groups, entertainers, think tanks, reporters, even members of Nixon's own family.
Shortly after assuming his position, John Dean began thinking about expanding his domain, and hired former Army officer Fred F. Fielding as an assistant lawyer in the counsel's office. They became close friends. In Dean's 1976 memoir, Blind Ambition, he recounted how he explained to his new associate the way in which their careers could quickly rise: "Fred, I think we have to look at our office as a small law firm.... We have to build our practice like any other law firm. Our principal client, of course, is the president. But to convince the president we're not just the only law office in town, but the best, we've got to convince a lot of other people first." Especially Haldeman and Ehrlichman.
But how to convince them? As Dean tried to assess the situation at the White House, events soon showed him that intelligence gathering was the key to power in the Nixon White House. One of Dean's first assignments from Haldeman was to look over a startling proposal to revamp the government's domestic intelligence operations in order to neutralize radical groups such as the Black Panthers and the Weathermen.
The scheme had been the work of another of the White House's bright young stalwarts, Nixon aide Tom Charles Huston. The impetus was a meeting chaired by Nixon in the Oval Office on June 5, 1970, attended by J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Helms, and the chiefs of the NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The various agencies were almost at war with one another; just a few months earlier, for instance, Hoover had cut all FBI communication with the CIA. Nixon wanted the agencies to work together against the threat from the "New Left." In the aftermath of Nixon's decision in May 1970 to invade Cambodia, and the killings of several students at Kent State University, colleges all over the country were again being rocked by riots and demonstrations as they had been in the last year of Lyndon Johnson's presidency, and for the same reason-young people were objecting to the president's war policies. In Nixon's view, the threat was grave and must be attacked; therefore the agencies must find some way to bury their differences and concentrate on the true enemy. Huston was assigned to help Hoover and the intelligence chiefs clear obstacles to their working jointly on these matters.
In early July, Huston sent a long analysis to the president, endorsed by Hoover and the other intelligence agency directors, on how to enhance cooperation. To this memo Huston added his own secret one that became known as the "Huston Plan." It called for six activities, some of which were clearly illegal. They included electronic surveillance of persons and groups "who pose a major threat to internal security"; monitoring of American citizens by international communications facilities; the relaxation of restrictions on the covert opening of mail by federal agents; surreptitious entries and burglaries to gain information on the groups; the recruitment of more campus informants; and, to ensure that the objectives were carried out and that intelligence continued to be gathered, the formation of a new interagency group consisting of the agencies at the June 5 meeting and military counter-intelligence agencies. Nixon endorsed these measures in the Huston Plan on July 14, 1970, because, as he put it in his memoir, "I felt they were necessary and justified by the violence we faced."
The secret plan angered J. Edgar Hoover, not because he objected to coming down hard on dissidents, but, rather, because he felt that any new interagency group would encroach on the turf of the FBI and because he was concerned about the negative public reaction should any of the activities be exposed. On July 27, the day Dean began work at the White House, Hoover took the unusual step of venturing out of his own domain to visit his nominal superior, Attorney General John Mitchell. As Hoover learned, Mitchell did not know anything about the Huston Plan at the time. "I was kept in the dark until I found out about it from Hoover," Mitchell later told us. But as soon as he was apprised of the plan, Mitchell agreed with Hoover that it must be stopped-not for Hoover's reasons, but because it contained clearly unconstitutional elements-and immediately visited Nixon and told him it could not go forward. In testament to Mitchell's arguments and good sense, Nixon canceled the plan shortly thereafter and Huston was relieved of his responsibilities in the area of domestic intelligence.
Coordination of official domestic intelligence from various federal agencies concerning anti-war activists and other "radicals" was then handed to the new White House counsel, John Dean, along with a copy of the rejected Huston Plan. But it seemed that the president was still not satisfied with the quality of domestic intelligence, because in August and September Haldeman pushed Dean to try and find a way around the Hoover road-block. In pursuit of a solution, on September 17, 1970, Dean went to see his old boss, John Mitchell. Hours earlier, Mitchell had lunched with Director Helms and other senior CIA officials who had all agreed that the FBI wasn't doing a very good job of collecting domestic intelligence.
Dean and Mitchell spoke, and the next day Dean prepared a memo to Mitchell with several suggestions: "There should be a new committee set up, an interagency group to evaluate the government's domestic intelligence product, and it should have "operational" responsibilities as well. Both men, Dean's memo said, had agreed that "it would be inappropriate to have any blanket removal of restrictions" such as had been proposed in the Huston Plan; instead, Dean suggested that "The most appropriate procedure would be to decide on the type of intelligence we need, based on an assessment of the recommendations of this unit, and then to proceed to remove the restraints as necessary to obtain such intelligence."
Dean's plan languished and was never put into operation. Years later, in the spring of 1973, when Dean was talking to federal prosecutors and preparing to appear before the Senate committee investigating Watergate, he gave a copy of the Huston Plan to Federal Judge John J. Sirica, who turned it over to the Senate committee. Dean's action helped to establish his bona fides as the accuser of the president and was the cause of much alarm. In his testimony and writings thereafter, Dean suggested that he had always been nervous about the Huston Plan and that he had tried to get around it, and as a last resort had gotten John Mitchell to kill the revised version. In an interview, Dean told us, "I looked at that goddamn Tom Huston report," went to Mitchell and said, "General, I find it pretty spooky." But as the September 18, 1970, memo to Mitchell shows, Dean actually embraced rather than rejected the removal of "restraints as necessary to obtain" intelligence.
A small matter? A minor divergence between two versions of the same incident? As will become clear as this inquiry continues, Dean's attempt to gloss over the actual disposition of the Huston Plan was a first sign of the construction of a grand edifice of deceit.
The 10:00 a.m., June 20, meeting was held in Ehrlichman's office the one in which he'd produced Admiral Welander's confession six months earlier-and was attended by Haldeman, Mitchell, Kleindienst, and Dean. The first subject, as always, was leaks. How had the information about McCord and Hunt gotten out? Kleindienst assured the men that it had not come from justice, but from the Metropolitan Police Department.
Dean maintained a deep silence, and the other men were completely in the dark about the events, so there wasn't much to discuss. Haldeman and Ehrlichman harbored doubts about Mitchell's role in the break-in, but, according to Haldeman's memoir, though the meeting produced no new information he was glad to see that Mitchell "looked better than I had seen him in days. He puffed on his pipe with that humorous glint in his eye that we all knew so well. I felt that was a good sign because Mitchell was now the Chairman of CRP, and should have been worried if there was a major crisis impending. Instead, he said, `I don't know anything about that foolishness at the DNC. I do know I didn't approve the stupid thing.' We believed him-and that lightened our mood considerably."
Dean left that meeting in the company of Kleindienst, and returned to justice with the attorney general. Kleindienst was furious about the break-in and about Liddy's approach to him at Burning Tree. Dean said nothing about his role in those events. When they reached the Justice building and the two men were joined by Henry Petersen, the assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division, Dean's motive for making the trip became clear: He wanted the FBI 302s, the investigative reports prepared by the field agents. Dean invoked Nixon's name to get them.
"The representation that he (Dean) made to me and to Mr. Petersen throughout was that he was doing this for the President of the United States and that he was reporting directly to the President," Kleindienst later testified. Kleindienst and Petersen quite properly refused to give up the 302s, which were raw data, and said they would only supply summaries of the data. The attorney general added that if the president wanted to see the reports, he would take them to Nixon himself. Dean left, empty-handed.
Meanwhile, back at the White House, Haldeman was reporting to Nixon what had happened in the ten o'clock meeting - but the exact particulars of that conversation will never be known, because that's the tape in which there is the infamous eighteen-and-a-half-minute gap. A new notion on how that gap came into being will be offered in a later chapter, but at this point in the narrative we can suggest some of what was covered in the meeting, based on the memoirs of both participants. According to both men, Nixon's main interest was in the Hunt-Colson connection. He had learned from Colson that Hunt had been involved in the Bay of Pigs operation, and that gave him an idea. As he remembered in RN, Nixon told Haldeman that the way to play the break-in was to say it had been a Cuban operation, perhaps designed ' to learn how the Democrats were going to view Castro in the coming election; that would stir the anti-Castro community in Miami "to start - a public bail fund for their arrested countrymen and make a big media issue out of it." This would damage the Democrats and at the same time turn the Watergate affair into something favorable to the White House.
This reaction was vintage Richard Nixon. Watergate would become simply another battle in his lifelong war with the Democrats. Floundering in ignorance as to how the affair had begun, and instead of attempting to solve the crime, Nixon was busy calculating how he might use it to strike at his enemies. Among the hallmarks of Nixon's personality were a penchant for turning away from facts and continual attempts to transform problems for himself into problems for his opposition.
Haldeman's June 23 meeting with the president ended at 11:39 A.M., and he immediately arranged a meeting between Walters, Helms, himself, and Ehrlichman for 1:30 p.m. Moments before that meeting, Haldeman poked his head in again to the Oval Office, and Nixon reemphasized the way to get the CIA to cooperate. Tell the CIA officials, Nixon instructed, "it's going to make the ... CIA look bad, it's going to make Hunt look bad, and it's likely to blow the whole Bay of Pigs thing, which we think would be very unfortunate for the CIA and for the country at this time, and for American foreign policy... I don't want them to get any ideas we're doing it because our concern is political." Haldeman answered that he understood that instruction.
Haldeman was once again impressed, he writes, by Nixon's brilliant instincts. "Dean had suggested a blatant political move by calling in the CIA-now Nixon showed how much more astute he was by throwing a national security blanket over the same suggestion."
At 1:30, in Ehrlichman's office, the four men sat down. All the participants knew that Helms disliked Nixon and the feeling was mutual. But now Nixon had been maneuvered into believing he had a need to use Helms and his agency. The director began the conversatior by surprising Haldeman with the news that he had already spoken t( Gray at the FBI and had told him that there was no CIA involvement, in the break-in and none of the suspects had worked for the Agency ic the last two years. After Helms's surprise, Haldeman then played what he called "Nixon's trump card," telling the CIA men that the entire affair might be linked to the Bay of Pigs.
"Turmoil in the room," Haldeman reported later in his book "Helms gripping the arms of his chair, leaning forward and shouting `The Bay of Pigs had nothing to do with this. I have no concern about the Bay of Pigs.' "
Haldeman understood that Nixon had been right about mentioning, the old disaster, for Helms immediately calmed down and voiced some further objections to having Walters tell Gray to back off. Ehrlichman' remembrance of the meeting closely parallels Haldeman's. Just a important is the fact that neither man mentioned in his memoir telling the CIA chiefs that the reason for asking them to block the FBI was political; following Nixon's rather precise instructions, that notion was specifically kept out of the conversation.
At 2:20 P.M. Haldeman went back to the Oval Office and informed Nixon that "Helms kind of got the picture" and had promised, "`We'll be happy to be helpful, to ah-you know-and we'll handle everything you want.' " Haldeman then added: "Walters is gonna make the call to Gray." The CIA men agreed to help, Helms would later testify, only because they figured the president was privy to a CIA operation in Mexico that even the CIA director did not know about. "This possibility always had to exist," Helms said. "Nobody knows everything about everything."
Dean apparently had an idea about what was going on, for at 1:35 that afternoon-before Haldeman actually had had a chance to brief the president on the Helms meeting - Pat Gray got a call from Dean apprising him that Walters would be phoning for an appointment, and that Gray should see him that afternoon. Waiters' secretary called Gray twenty minutes later and scheduled a 2:30 p.m. meeting. Dean phoned Gray again at 2:19 p.m. to see if it was on, learned that it was, and asked Gray to call him when he'd seen Walters.
Once again, John Dean's testimony on these events is strikingly at odds with that of others. In his testimony to the Senate Watergate committee, before the committee was to hear from Gray about the Gray-Dean telephone conversations of June 23, Dean would first avoid revealing any knowledge of the Helms-Walters meeting. Then, when pressed by Senator Inouye, Dean claimed that he had "had no idea that Mr. Haldeman and Mr. Ehrlichman were going to meet with Mr. Helms and General Walters, that was unknown to me until I subsequently was so informed by Mr. Ehrlichman but not as to the substance of the meeting they had held."
Gray and Walters met at 2:34 p.m. at FBI headquarters, and, according to Gray's testimony before Congress, Walters "informed me that we were likely to uncover some CIA assets or sources if we continued our investigation into the Mexican money chain.... He also discussed with me the agency agreement under which the FBI and CIA have agreed not to uncover and expose each other's sources." Acting Director Gray had never read that agreement, but considered it logical, and told Walters that the matter would be handled "in a manner that would not hamper the CIA."
If Woodward wanted a meeting, says the book, he would signal Deep Throat by moving a flowerpot on his apartment balcony, and if Deep Throat wanted a meeting he would scribble a message inside the morning newspaper at Woodward's front door.
Bernstein had developed material about the dirty tricks activities of Donald Segretti that Woodward wanted to confirm. Barely stopping for drags on his cigarette, Deep Throat told Woodward in the garage more of what he had alluded to in September, the extent of the Nixon campaign's intelligence-gathering activities. Throat said that "fifty people worked for the White House and CRP to play games and spy and sabotage and gather intelligence," that the November Group which had handled campaign advertising was involved in the dirty tricks, and that the targets included Republican contributors as well as Democratic candidates. He also said that Mitchell was behind the Watergate break in and other illegal activities, and that for ten days after the break-in, Howard Hunt had been assigned to help Mitchell conduct an investigation of Watergate.
This information was wildly inaccurate in many particulars, for instance, the number of people in campaign intelligence, and Hunt's role in the cover-up. But Deep Throat's disclosures reflected White House thinking in the fall of 1972, insofar as it related to Mitchell's role in the break-in.
If Deep Throat was Haig, why would he release a flood of information-some of it clearly inaccurate-at this time? In the fall of 1972, Nixon was riding high as a result of major success in his foreign policy and arms control initiatives, including the antiballistic missile and SALT treaties with the Soviet Union and the China opening. These initiatives had been opposed by the military as giving too much away to the Russians and the Chinese. At the time of the October 10 Post article, Haig was scheduled to leave the White House to assume the position of vice chief of staff of the Army and Nixon was on his way to an unprecedented landslide reelection victory that would give him even more power in the foreign policy arena. Revelations of the dirty practices of the Nixon campaign as reported in the Post would have the effect of weakening Nixon's post election influence, a desirable outcome to someone seeking a greater role for the military and a dampening of Nixon's secret diplomacy. Whether or not Deep Throat knew that some of the information given to Woodward was inaccurate, the inaccuracies did serve to cover the trail that could identify him as Woodward's source. Most important to Deep Throat, however, was that his purpose had been served-tarring Nixon before the election.
Woodward had a great need for Deep Throat's information. Deep Throat's revelations were Woodward's way to vault to the forefront of investigative reporters by having a confidential source who divulged information to him and to him alone. For Woodward, Deep Throat was key to the realization of journalistic ambitions. If Deep Throat was Haig, he and Woodward were engaged in a high-stakes game in which confidentiality was essential-to Haig especially, for if Nixon knew that his trusted general was leaking damaging stories to a man who had briefed Haig in the basement of the White House in 1969-1970, even that fourth star would not be enough to protect the general from the president's well-known wrath....
Around 11:00 p.m. on May 16, according to All the President's Men, Woodward had another meeting with Deep Throat, an ultra dramatic one in the underground garage. When Woodward arrived, his source "was pacing around nervously. His lower jaw seemed to quiver. Deep Throat began talking, almost in a monologue. He had only a few minutes, he raced through a series of statements. Woodward listened obediently. It was clear a transformation had come over his friend." Deep Throat would answer no questions about his statements or anything else, but did add that Woodward should "be cautious."
In this rendering, Woodward called Bernstein, who arrived at Woodward's apartment to find his reportorial twin refusing to talk and masking the silence with classical music while he tapped out on his typewriter a warning that electronic surveillance was going on and that they had "better watch it." Who was doing the monitoring? "Woodward mouthed C-I-A." Both men then feared for their lives, and went around for some days looking for spooks behind every tree.
Later in the book, Woodward and Bernstein describe the doings of that night as "rather foolish and melodramatic." Actually, the dramatic elements of the scene draw the reader away from the material that Deep Throat presented to Woodward that night, which concerned the precise matters that Nixon had been discussing with Haig and Buzhard those incoming missiles, and Dean's allegations of a cover-up. Some of the leads that Deep Throat gave to Woodward that night were outlandishly wrong, such as the claim that some of the people involved in Watergate had been in it to make money, that Dean had regular talks with Senator Baker, and that the covert national and international schemes had been supervised by Mitchell. The matters about which Deep Throat spoke that were later proved correct-discussions of executive clemency, Hunt's demands for money, Dean's activities with both the White House and the CRP officials, Dean's talk with Liddy were the ones Nixon had earlier that evening discussed with Buzhardt and Haig.
After a five-day state trial Bremer was convicted and, in 1973, sentenced to 53 years in prison. A year later federal charges were dropped after Maryland appeals courts upheld Bremer's state conviction.
End of story? Not yet. During a months-long review, Insight obtained Bremer's parole records and the once highly secret 5,413-page FBI report known as the WalShot Files - a 26-volume package spanning eight years from the day of the shooting to 1980. Here too, for the first time, is not only a comprehensive review straight from the FBI archives but details from exclusive interviews with the lead prosecutor and defense attorney who, after 26 years, break their silence about the shooting of Wallace.
"I still have reservations about the case, and I'm not one for conspiracy theories," says former Prince George's County State's Attorney Arthur "Bud" Marshall, who prosecuted Bremer. "But it's worth taking a look at."
It is indeed. What follows is the story of how the FBI, led by Acting Director L. Patrick Gray, dug relentlessly into Bremer's background. And how Gray, who later admitted destroying Watergate records, prevented the Bremer case from being explored during the Watergate hearings. The most feasible rationale for this might be protection of the president from further wild rumor-mongering, but it also might be what Silent Coup author Len Colodny calls "Nixon's second operation."
"You know, of all the people who wanted Wallace dead, Nixon was on top of the list," says Colodny, who is working on a book about the Wallace/Nixon relationship. "But we have not found the smoking gun to support it. We're still looking."
What is known is that Nixon stepped in to control the Bremer investigation shortly after the shots were fired, according to Femia. At the hospital, an FBI agent hung up a hospital phone, turned to Femia and barked, "That was the president. We're taking over. The president says, `We're not going to have another Dallas here.'" Femia, who already had prepared an indictment, objected fiercely, but the agents pushed him aside and grabbed Bremer in the gurney.
Femia threatened to file assault charges against the FBI, but cooler heads prevailed. Bremer went to Baltimore with the FBI.
While the story of Nixon's crude seizure of the case remained buried for a quarter-century, it exemplifies his obsession with the Wallace shooting. Historian Dan T. Carter in The Politics of Rage traces this obsession to 1968 when Wallace captured 10 million votes on the American Party ticket. Pollsters Richard Scammon and Ben Wattenberg noted that four of five Wallace voters in the South would have voted for Nixon if Wallace had bowed out.
Using the Nixon papers, Carter showed how the president tried to forestall another Wallace presidential bid by pumping $400,000 from a secret slush fund into then Alabama Gov. Albert Brewer's unsuccessful attempt to defeat Wallace in 1970. Nixon's efforts continued with the "Alabama Project" which, according to Carter, consisted of more than 75 IRS officers digging "over the past tax returns of Wallace, his brothers and virtually every financial supporter who had done business with the state." The IRS probe found nothing, but the private war continued...
Angered by the prosecution's portrayal of him as an unemployed busboy living in his car, Bremer snapped at his arraignment, "Why would I be living in my car when I stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel? The press is going to - up this case." He was right about the press. In what the Chicago Tribune called a "circus atmosphere," reporters stampeded Bremer's apartment after the FBI inexplicably failed to seal it. Bullets and a personal notebook were removed by journalists and curiosity seekers.
And Bremer's silence after his court appearance bothered prosecutor Marshall. "We had concern that someone else was involved," Marshall says. "The question I always had is how the Secret Service found out who he was as quick as they did. They were in his apartment within an hour."
Forty-five minutes after the shooting, the WalShot Files show, a Baltimore FBI agent called the Milwaukee FBI office identifying Bremer as the shooter based on personal identification found on Bremer. The Secret Service identified Bremer's address at 5:35 p.m., it claims, after tracing his .38-caliber handgun. But 25 minutes earlier, at 5:10 p.m., when two FBI agents entered Bremer's apartment, a Secret Service agent already was there. How the Secret Service managed that remains a mystery, inspiring conspiracy aficionados to speculate that the White House knew about Bremer before the shots were fired. The Secret Service agent told the FBI he was on an "intelligence-gathering mission."
All three agents left the apartment, but returned with another Secret Service agent after reports that the press had managed to get inside. At this point the Secret Service removed items from the apartment, setting off a turf war between the agencies that ignited when the Secret Service refused to turn over to the FBI the original of Bremer's "diary" manuscript, found in his car, until Nixon ordered them to do so...
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."
On April 17, 1990, as I was interviewing John Ehrlichman for my book SILENT COUP (1991, St Martin's Press), the former top White House aide to President Richard M. Nixon told me an incredible story -- which current headlines now verify. He said that he had dinner the previous night with a former Justice Department Official who had worked in the U.S. Attorney's office for Washington, D.C. in the mid-1970s. This friend told Ehrlichman of an event that he had witnessed, and of a relationship between Mark Felt, formerly of the FBI, and reporter Bob Woodward.
According to Ehrlichman's friend, in the aftermath of the Church hearings, a senatorial inquiry into earlier activities of the FBI and the CIA involving illegal entries -- black bag jobs -- Mark Felt had been called to testify on this subject to a Grand Jury. (Felt would later be convicted of a crime related to such illegal entries, and in April of 1981 was pardoned by President Reagan.)
As the transcript of my Ehrlichman interview relates, his friend told the former presidential counselor:
"They had, had Felt for, I guess, an hour and a half, two hours [before the Grand Jury] and he was testifying rather evasively but somewhat responsively; and they turned to his contacts in the White House and said, 'Did you have much contact with the White House?' Well, he had some, and he was a little bit sort of bobbing and weaving about who he had contacts with, and so forth; and they asked him a question and he said, well, he didn't have intimate contact, and then, and smiled rather grandly and said, 'Well, the next thing I know you're gonna be accusing me of being Deep Throat.' And at that point the Grand Juror raisedhis hand and said, 'Are you?'" My friend said "Felt's face just collapsed, and he was obviously struggling with the quandary of how to answer that question under oath." The U.S. Attorney -- stopped the proceedings, and advised Felt that he didn't need to answer that, that the question was not germane to their inquiry, and then they took a recess. And Felt made a bee-line for a telephone booth.Ehrlichman continued "Later on, my friend ran into Bob Woodward at aparty, and Woodward said, 'I understand you've been giving my friend Felt a hard time,' and the U.S. Attorney's guy said, 'Well, those are secret proceedings. How do you know about that?' 'Well," he (Woodward) said, 'there's nothing in the law that prevents a witness from telling what went on.' And they talked a little more and it came out that the one that Felt had telephoned from the booth was Woodward."
Ehrlichman related that in his friend's conversation with Woodward at that party, Woodward had confirmed that Felt had been "a source" for him.
My conversations with John Ehrlichman took place over many years, from the late 1980s until near the time of his death in 1999. John had long been involved in trying to figure out the identity of Deep Throat. He suspected it was Mark Felt, but could not reconcile that idea with the one, put forth in ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, that Deep Throat had been Woodward's source for information about the infamous "Deliberate Tape Erasure" that Throat told Woodward about in early November of 1973, since Ehrlichman knew that Felt had resigned from the FBI in April of 1973.
Moreover, Ehrlichman knew that only a small handful of people within the White House had known about that tape gap at the time it was discovered. Ehrlichman later came to believe, therefore, that Deep Throat was a name used to cover several different sources tapped by Woodward, Felt among them.
In June 2, 2005's Washington Post, Bob Woodward stated that his role with Navy in regards to the White House was merely that of a courier.
"In 1970, when I was serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and assigned to Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, the chief of naval operations, I sometimes acted as a courier, taking documents to the White House."
"One evening I was dispatched with a package to the lower level of the West Wing of the White House, where there was a little waiting area near the Situation Room. It could be a long wait for the right person to come out and sign for the material, sometimes an hour or more, and after I had been waiting for a while a tall man with perfectly combed gray hair came in and sat down near me. His suit was dark, his shirt white and his necktie subdued. He was probably 25 to 30 years older than I and was carrying what looked like a file case or briefcase. He was very distinguished-looking and had a studied air of confidence, the posture and calm of someone used to giving orders and having them obeyed instantly. . ."
Moorer And Others Dispute Woodward's Report of His Trips to The White House as a "Courier."
With the publication of "Secret Man: Story Of Watergate's Deep Throat," Woodward still leaves us with the mystery of why he has lied about key facts about his military service and especially his relationship with Al Haig. Since Felt is unable to speak for himself, Woodward will be speaking for him (and making more millions off him) based on the evidence contained in this story and others to come, the question is why should we believe him? When Felt could talk and write he strongly denied being Woodward's source.
Bob Woodward has a big credibility gap as it applies to his missions to the White House when he was in the Navy in 1969. He says he was a "courier," doing no more than carrying packages for Admiral Moorer. When asked when he first met Colonel Alexander Haig, he says it was in 1973.
But that is not the truth.
Unlike Woodward, SILENT COUP uses on-the-record sources to show that Woodward acted as a briefer for Admiral Moorer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, going to the White House to brief then Colonel (later General) Alexander Haig of the National Security Council.
SILENT COUP has not one, but three on-the-record, named and taped sources who claim that briefing Haig is exactly what Woodward was doing on his details to the White House Situation room.
Haig was not a terribly important person in the national hierarchy in 1969 --70 he was the military's liaison to the NSC, and deputy to the National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger.
So why does Woodward claim not to have met Haig until 1973? What is the reason for the lie? If Haig was unimportant in 1969, why can't Woodward admit that he met Haig then?
Listen for yourself to Admiral Moorer confirming that he sent Woodward to brief Haig in 1969-1970.
The matter is of some importance to the Washington Post, as well. At the time of the publication of SILENT COUP, the Post's media guru, Howard Kurtz, fibbed to readers that we had never interviewed Admiral Moorer -- at a time when the Post had in its possession a transcript of the Moorer interview that we had provided to them.
A day later, when Moorer admitted to the rival Washington Times that the interview was correct about Haig and Woodward, the Post did not retract its accusation, nor has it to this day ever corrected the record.
Listen as Woodward defied us to find one person to say that he briefed anyone in the White House. In addition to Admiral Moorer, you may listen to two additional sources that confirm Woodward's role: Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, and Pentagon spokesperson Jerry Friedheim.
At a moment when people are wondering why the major media are no longer trusted, and America has turned to the bloggers to get the truth, you will not see questions raised about Woodward's veracity in regard to his Navy background anywhere else but on the Internet. Yet it is key to understanding the entire Watergate story.
Finally unlike Mark Felt, Al Haig knew about Rosemary Woods accidentally erasing five minutes of the June 20th tape, in fact he is the last living member of the original group of five to learn of the erasure on October 1, 1973. The others were President Nixon, Rosemary Woods, Fred Buzhardt and General John Bennett, who was the keeper of the tapes. Haig also was one of those who had access to the tapes and may well know who added the extra 13 1/2 minutes of deliberate erasures to it.
A federal jury in Baltimore weighed in on history yesterday, rejecting claims that Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy hurt the reputation of a former Democratic National Committee secretary when he linked the infamous burglary to a call-girl ring.
The jury was not asked to decide whether it believed the alternate Watergate theory, which portrays the burglars as looking for photos of prostitutes and not just political dirt. But in their verdict, the jurors found that Liddy did not defame Ida "Maxie" Wells by repeating it.
Liddy, 71, who has parlayed his role in the history books as a Watergate villain into a successful career as a lecturer, talk radio host and actor, called the jury's decision a "great day for the First Amendment."
"I think it's very important that American citizens be able to have vigorous debate on the elements of history," said Liddy, who flashed a victory sign as he left U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Wells, the former DNC secretary who filed the $5.1 million defamation suit against Liddy in 1997, said the verdict amounted to a license for Liddy to continue spreading lies.
"It just kind of makes me feel like there is no justice," Wells said as she wiped away tears. "To me, what's so frustrating is somebody can just go around and tell lies about you and get away with it."