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Profile: Francis Gary Powers

Francis Gary Powers was a participant or observer in the following events:

E. Howard Hunt.E. Howard Hunt. [Source: Michael Brennan / Corbis]Convicted Watergate burglar and former CIA operative E. Howard Hunt (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972) denies that his requests for money from the Nixon White House ever amounted to blackmail or “hush money” (see Mid-November, 1972 and January 8-9, 1973). Writing in Harper’s magazine, Hunt says his situation was comparable to a CIA agent caught and incarcerated in a foreign country. Those agents, he says, are entitled to expect that the government will financially support their families and continue to pay their salaries until the agents are released.
Comparisons to CIA Agents Captured by Foreign Governments - He compares himself to American pilot Francis Gary Powers, whose U-2 surveillance plane was shot down over the Soviet Union during the Eisenhower administration, and who was financially supported by the government until his release. Another agent, John Downey, was kept prisoner for 20 years by China; when he returned, Hunt notes, he was paid twenty years’ worth of back salary. Hunt says that his situation is no different, and that not only was his efforts to secure large sums of cash from the Nixon administration understandable in the context of these captured intelligence agents, but something that should have been expected and handled without comment. “It was this time-honored understanding that for a time buoyed the hopes of the seven men who were indicted—and in two cases tried—for surreptitious entry into Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate,” he writes. “That their attorneys’ fees were partially paid, that family living allowances were provided—and that these support funds were delivered by clandestine means—was to be expected.”
Dropoff of White House Support - He names then-Nixon campaign chairman John Mitchell, Mitchell’s deputy Jeb Magruder, and then-White House counsel John Dean as the “official sponsors of their project.” The fact that the White House and the CIA paid on Hunt’s demands “clearly indicates,” Hunt claims, “a perception on the Haldeman-Ehrlichman level of the appropriateness of clandestine support.” (H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman were then-President Nixon’s top aides and closest confidantes.) It is only because “[a]s time passed, however, the burden of providing moneys was assumed by less sophisticated personnel” that Hunt’s “urgent requests for overdue support began to be interpreted as threats, i.e. ‘blackmail.’” He says that Dean and perhaps Nixon “misconstrued” the situation. Since there was no question that the “Watergate Seven” would be granted immunity from prosecution, “there was no question of buying silence, of suppressing the truth with ‘hush money.’” He concludes: “The Watergate Seven understood the tradition of clandestine support. Tragically for the nation, not all the president’s men were equally aware.” [Harper's, 10/1974]
Conflict with Other Versions of Events - Hunt’s reconstruction of events directly clashes with others’ recollections and interpretations, as well as the facts themselves (see June 20-21, 1972, June 26-29, 1972, June 29, 1972, July 7, 1972, July 25, 1972, August 29, 1972, December 8, 1972, January 10, 1973, January 10, 1973, March 13, 1973, March 21, 1973, March 21, 1973, and July 5, 1974).

Entity Tags: Francis Gary Powers, E. Howard Hunt, Central Intelligence Agency, Eisenhower administration, H.R. Haldeman, Jeb S. Magruder, John Mitchell, John Downey, John Dean, Nixon administration, John Ehrlichman

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

The dispute between the US and China over the downed US spy plane over Chinese territory, and the subsequent detention of the crew by the Chinese (see March 31, 2001, April 4-5, 2001, April 6-7, 2001, and April 8, 2001), is resolved. Chinese officials approve the letter from US officials expressing regret over the incident, and early that morning, the crew members are released into American custody. [CNN, 4/2001] The plane, filled with secret US surveillance equipment, remains in Chinese custody; it will eventually be disassembled on Hainan Island by US crews and returned to American custody in July, 2001. [US Pacific Command, 7/2001] Defense expert Paul Beaver says China’s acquisition of even part of the surveillance equipment—whatever was not destroyed by the crew before the plane was boarded by Chinese troops—is an incalculable loss to the United States. China may cut the US lead in electronic warfare by at least a decade. “The EP-3E is the jewel in the crown of the US Navy’s electronic intelligence gathering capability and the loss of its secrets to a potential unfriendly nation is a grievous loss to the US,” Beaver writes. He writes that the loss of the EP-3 is perhaps the most serious loss to the US intelligence community since the downing of Francis Gary Powers’s U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union in 1961, and warns that China could even sell the technology it acquires to nations such as Russia or Pakistan. [BBC, 4/3/2001] It is not publicly revealed until 2006 that President Bush secretly engaged Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar to conduct the delicate negotiations with the Chinese over the US aircraft and crew. Bandar, a close friend of the Bush family and a senior Saudi official, is an unusual choice for the negotiations, but Bandar has a special relationship with the Chinese due to Saudi Arabia’s various deals to purchase arms and missiles, and the increasing reliance of China on Saudi oil. Bandar, never a modest man, considers it a personal favor from the Chinese to have them release the 24 American hostages. Bandar also oversees the wording of the American “apology” to the Chinese for the incident, where the US apologizes for entering Chinese airspace to make an emergency landing, but does not apologize for the E-3’s legitimate intelligence-gathering mission. Secretary of State Colin Powell, nominally in charge of the US negotiations, only finds out about Bandar’s efforts through the NSA’s monitoring of Bandar’s phone calls to the Chinese; when he calls Bandar to congratulate him on his success, Bandar snaps to the Secretary of State, “How the hell do you know?” [Woodward, 2006, pp. 28-29] Media pundit Eric Alterman characterizes the response of the US media as “extremely indulgent” towards Bush, with the notable exception of neoconservatives, who complain about “the national humilation [Bush] has brought upon the United States” and Bush’s “weakness…and fear.” Alterman says that while the incident itself is a foreign policy disaster, the manipulation of a compliant US media is brilliant. He notes that Bush was able to apologize twice to the Chinese without actually being reported in America as apologizing. Neither was the tremendous intelligence loss of the EP-3 focused upon as the potential disaster that many military and intelligence officials perceived it to be. He quotes Washington Post correspondent John Harris as writing, “The truth is, this new president has done things with relative impunity that would have been huge uproars if they had occurred under Clinton. Take it from someone who made a living writing about these uproars.…Take the recent emergency landing of a US surveillance plane in China. Imagine how conservatives would have reacted had Clinton insisted that detained military personnel were not actually hostages, and then cut a deal to get the people (but not the plane) home by offering two ‘very sorrys’ to the Chinese, while also saying that he had not apologized. What is being hailed as Bush’s shrewd diplomacy would have been savaged as ‘Slick Willie’ contortions.” [Alterman, 2003, pp. 194-197]

Entity Tags: Paul Beaver, John Harris, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Eric Alterman, Bandar bin Sultan, Francis Gary Powers, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Timeline Tags: US Military

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