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President Nixon is intent on knocking Alabama governor George Wallace, a segregationist Democrat, out of the 1972 elections. To that end, he has his personal lawyer, Herbert Kalmbach, ferry $100,000 in secret campaign funds (see December 1, 1969) to Alabama gubernatorial candidate Albert Brewer. Kalmbach delivers the money in the lobby of a New York City hotel, using the pseudonym “Mr. Jensen of Detroit.” Through his chief of staff H. R. Haldeman, Nixon also orders an IRS investigation of Wallace. White House aide Murray Chotiner delivers the information gleaned from the IRS probe to investigative columnist Jack Anderson, who subsequently prints the information in his syndicated columns. When Brewer forces a runoff with Wallace in the May 5 primary elections, Kalmbach has another $330,000 delivered to Brewer’s campaign. Brewer’s aide Jim Bob Solomon takes the money, in $100 bills, to Brewer via a flight from Los Angeles to Alabama; Solomon is so worried about the money being discovered in the event of a plane crash that he pins a note to his underwear saying that the money is not his, and he is delivering it on behalf of the president. Wallace, calling Brewer “the candidate of 300,000 n_ggers,” wins the runoff despite the massive cash infusions from the White House. (Reeves 2001, pp. 228-229)
International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) offers the Nixon administration $400,000 to finance the GOP’s 1972 national convention in San Diego. (Wallechinsky and Wallace 1981) President Nixon wanted San Diego as the site of the convention, but the San Diego city government has no intention of spending lavish amounts of money subsidizing a convention it does not need. The ITT contribution, privately arranged by White House and GOP officials, is key to having San Diego as the site of the convention. In early July, the Republican National Committee announces San Diego as the convention site; eight days later, the Justice Department announces that it is dropping its antitrust suit against ITT (see July 31, 1971). Shortly thereafter, Richard McLaren, the head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and an enthusiastic trustbuster whose atypical decision to let ITT off the hook confuses many observers, abruptly quits the department; within days, McLaren lands a federal judgeship without benefit of Senate hearings. Syndicated columnist Jack Anderson believes the whole deal is fishy, and will write a December 9, 1971 column to that effect, but he will not learn the entire truth behind the GOP-ITT deal until months later (see February 22, 1972). (Anderson 1999, pp. 194-200)
Syndicated columnist Jack Anderson receives a memo written by International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) lobbyist Dita Beard; the memo goes a long way towards proving that in return for hefty campaign contributions to the GOP, the Justice Department dropped its antitrust suit against the corporation (see 1969 and July 31, 1971). The memo, written on June 25, 1971 by Beard to ITT vice president Bill Merriam, is entitled “Subject: San Diego Convention.” Beard indicated her distress at the possibility of someone leaking the fact that ITT had quietly contributed $400,000 to the GOP for its 1972 convention in San Diego. Two of the few who know of the contribution, Beard wrote, were President Nixon and Attorney General John Mitchell. She asked whether the $400,000 should be donated in cash or in services, then wrote: “I am convinced because of several conversations with Louie re Mitchell that our noble commitment has gone a long way toward our negotiations on the mergers eventually coming out as Hal wanted them. Certainly the president has told Mitchell to see that things are working out fairly. It is still only McLaren’s mickey-mouse that we are suffering.” Anderson doesn’t know who “Louie” is, but he is sure “Hal” is Harold Geneen, ITT’s president. ITT had announced a $100,000 contribution, but the real amount is four times that. One of Anderson’s aides, Brit Hume, interviews Beard, and during a night of heavy drinking and Beard’s emotional outbursts, finds out that in May 1971, Beard had gone to a party hosted by Kentucky governor Louie Nunn, the “Louie” of the memo. Mitchell was at the party, and Beard was there to prime Mitchell as to what exactly ITT wants in return for its contribution and its assurance that it can secure San Diego as the GOP’s convention site. According to Beard, the deal was hatched between herself and Mitchell at Nunn’s party. Anderson quickly publishes a column based on the memo that causes a tremendous stir in Washington and the press. (Anderson 1999, pp. 194-200) (In his book The Secret Man, Bob Woodward will give the date for Anderson’s column revealing the Beard memo as February 19. This is apparently a typographical error.) (Woodward 2005, pp. 37) The White House will successfully pressure Beard to disavow the memo (see Mid-Late March, 1972).
Shortly after syndicated columnist Jack Anderson reveals the existence of a memo that shows criminal collusion between the Republican Party, ITT, and the Justice Department (see February 22, 1972), CIA and White House agent E. Howard Hunt visits the author of the memo, ITT lobbyist Dita Beard, to persuade her to say publicly that the memo is a forgery, or to disavow it. Beard is currently in hospital, perhaps to treat mental and physical exhaustion and perhaps to keep her away from the press. To conceal his identity during the visit, Hunt wears an ill-fitting red wig similar to one he will have in his possession during the planning for the Watergate burglary (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972). (Wallechinsky and Wallace 1981; Woodward 2005, pp. 8-39) A Justice Department official will discuss Hunt’s visit to Beard with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward in February 1973, and tell Woodward that White House aide Charles Colson sent Hunt on the mission to convince Beard to disavow the memo. The official, reading from FBI files, will tell Woodward that Colson’s testimony to the FBI was done in his office to spare him the embarrassment of having to testify before the grand jury. The FBI did not ask Colson why he sent Hunt to pressure Beard. (Bernstein and Woodward 1974, pp. 255) On March 21, Beard will deny ever writing the memo, saying, “I did not prepare it and could not have.” Beard’s belated denial, and ITT’s quick shredding of incriminating documents referencing the connections between the antitrust deal and the convention, will partially defuse the potential scandal. The FBI will publicly claim that the memo is most likely authentic despite pressure from the Nixon White House (see March 10-23, 1972). (Wallechinsky and Wallace 1981; Woodward 2005, pp. 8-39)
Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman tells President Nixon that the FBI is having trouble tracing the $100 bills found on the Watergate burglars (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972). The money trail deadends at Miami’s Republic National Bank (see March-April 1972). Haldeman is also working on another diversion: claiming that investigative reporter Jack Anderson actually bugged the Democratic National Committee. The rumor is already circulating, Haldeman says. “The great thing about this is it is totally f_cked up and so badly done that nobody believes…” “That we could have done it,” Nixon finishes. “Well, it sounds like a comic opera, really.” Haldeman says the FBI cannot place “Plumber” E. Howard Hunt at the scene of the crime. “We know where he was,” says Haldeman. “But they don’t. The FBI doesn’t,” Nixon concludes. Haldeman adds: “The thing we forgot is that we know too much and therefore read too much into what we see that other people can’t read into. I mean, what seems obvious to us because of what we know is not obvious to other people.” (Reeves 2001, pp. 506-507)
White House secretary Kathleen Chenow (see June 28-July 3, 1972) confirms the existence of the “Plumbers,” the extralegal operation tasked with finding and closing media leaks (see Late June-July 1971). According to Chenow, the unit is made up of White House and Nixon campaign aides David Young, G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt, and Egil Krogh. (O.T. Jacobson 7/5/1974 ) Chenow says that Nixon’s senior aide John Ehrlichman supervised the activities of the unit. She explains: “Originally the administration had wanted a study of how close the New York Times version of the Pentagon Papers (see March 1971) was to the actual documents. Then they tried to determine how the Pentagon Papers got out. That started it all, the business of looking for leaks. For a while, they were studying State Department leaks. They checked embassy cables and tried to put two and two together about whose desks the cables went across.” The “Plumbers” also investigated reporter Jack Anderson. Chenow says that when she was interviewed by the FBI in April, Young, White House counsel John Dean, and Dean’s aide Fred Fielding were present. She adds that when she subsequently testified before the Watergate grand jury, she was puzzled that prosecutor Earl Silbert never asked her about Ehrlichman. (Bernstein and Woodward 1974, pp. 215-217)
After the first day of testimony in the Watergate trial (see January 8-11, 1973), Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein piles into a taxicab with the four Miami-based Watergate burglars and their lawyer, and accompanies them to the airport and even onto the plane one of them is taking in order to have a conversation—an impromptu interview—with one of the men. (In the book All the President’s Men, Bernstein does not identify the subject of the conversation.) The airborne conversation flows with surprising ease. Bernstein learns that E. Howard Hunt has been pressuring the others for a week to plead guilty; their families will be cared for financially, and they will certainly receive some sort of executive clemency within a few months. Hunt is once again serving as a “case officer” giving orders to his lower-level operatives. Their lawyer, Henry Rothblatt (see Early January, 1973), is furious, and has instructed his clients to “stay away from that son of a b_tch Hunt.” (Hunt’s lawyer, William Bittman, denies that Hunt pressured anyone to do anything.) Bernstein, colleague Bob Woodward, and Post editors are leery of publishing the story, worrying that the trial judge, John Sirica, might consider the interview a possible obstruction of justice or interference with the trial. The next day, the New York Times’s Seymour Hersh prints a story that says burglar Frank Sturgis believes former Nixon campaign chief John Mitchell knew about, and even encouraged, the Watergate operation. Time magazine claims that the four Miami burglars will receive $1,000 a month for their jail sentences. And columnist Jack Anderson writes that campaign money for the defendants is being funneled through burglar E. Howard Hunt. Emboldened by the other stories, the Post prints Bernstein’s story. (Bernstein and Woodward 1974, pp. 232-233)
A Senate committee tasked to investigate the activities of US intelligence organizations finds a plethora of abuses and criminal behaviors, and recommends strict legal restraints and firm Congressional oversight. The “Church Committee,” chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-ID), a former Army intelligence officer with a strong understanding of the necessity for intelligence-gathering, notes in its final report that the CIA in particular had been overly cooperative with the Nixon administration in spying on US citizens for political purposes (see December 21, 1974); US intelligence agencies had also gone beyond the law in assassination attempts on foreign government officials in, among other places, Africa, Latin America, and Vietnam. Church himself accused the CIA of providing the White House with what, in essence, is a “private army,” outside of Congressional oversight and control, and called the CIA a “rogue elephant rampaging out of control.” The committee will reveal the existence of hitherto-unsuspected operations such as HT Lingual, which had CIA agents secretly opening and reading US citizens’ international mail, and other operations which included secret, unauthorized wiretaps, dossier compilations, and even medical experiments. For himself, Church, the former intelligence officer, concluded that the CIA should conduct covert operations only “in a national emergency or in cases where intervention is clearly in tune with our traditional principles,” and restrain the CIA from intervening in the affairs of third-world nations without oversight or consequence. CIA director William Colby is somewhat of an unlikely ally to Church; although he does not fully cooperate with either the Church or Pike commissions, he feels that the CIA’s image is badly in need of rehabilitation. Indeed, Colby later writes, “I believed that Congress was within its constitutional rights to undertake a long-overdue and thoroughgoing review of the agency and the intelligence community. I did not share the view that intelligence was solely a function of the Executive Branch and must be protected from Congressional prying. Quite the contrary.” Conservatives later blame the Church Commission for “betray[ing] CIA agents and operations,” in the words of American Spectator editor R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr, referencing the 1975 assassination of CIA station chief Richard Welch in Greece. The chief counsel of the Church Committee accuses CIA defenders and other conservatives of “danc[ing] on the grave of Richard Welch in the most cynical way.” It is documented fact that the Church Commission exposed no agents and no operations, and compromised no sources; even Colby’s successor, George H.W. Bush, later admits that Welch’s death had nothing to do with the Church Committee. (In 1980, Church will lose re-election to the Senate in part because of accusations of his committee’s responsibility for Welch’s death by his Republican opponent, Jim McClure.) (Mooney 11/5/2001; History Matters Archive 3/27/2002; Assassination Archives and Research Center 11/23/2002)
Final Report Excoriates CIA - The Committee’s final report concludes, “Domestic intelligence activity has threatened and undermined the Constitutional rights of Americans to free speech, association and privacy. It has done so primarily because the Constitutional system for checking abuse of power has not been applied.” The report is particularly critical of the CIA’s successful, and clandestine, manipulation of the US media. It observes: “The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.” The report identifies over 50 US journalists directly employed by the CIA, along with many others who were affiliated and paid by the CIA, and reveals the CIA’s policy to have “their” journalists and authors publish CIA-approved information, and disinformation, overseas in order to get that material disseminated in the United States. The report quotes the CIA’s Chief of the Covert Action Staff as writing, “Get books published or distributed abroad without revealing any US influence, by covertly subsidizing foreign publicans or booksellers.…Get books published for operational reasons, regardless of commercial viability.…The advantage of our direct contact with the author is that we can acquaint him in great detail with our intentions; that we can provide him with whatever material we want him to include and that we can check the manuscript at every stage…. [The agency] must make sure the actual manuscript will correspond with our operational and propagandistic intention.” The report finds that over 1,000 books were either published, subsidized, or sponsored by the CIA by the end of 1967; all of these books were published in the US either in their original form or excerpted in US magazines and newspapers. “In examining the CIA’s past and present use of the US media,” the report observes, “the Committee finds two reasons for concern. The first is the potential, inherent in covert media operations, for manipulating or incidentally misleading the American public. The second is the damage to the credibility and independence of a free press which may be caused by covert relationships with the US journalists and media organizations.”
CIA Withheld Info on Kennedy Assassination, Castro Plots, King Surveillance - The committee also finds that the CIA withheld critical information about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy from the Warren Commission, information about government assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba (see, e.g., November 20, 1975, Early 1961-June 1965, March 1960-August 1960, and Early 1963); and that the FBI had conducted a counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) against Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Mafia boss Sam Giancana was slated to testify before the committee about his organization’s ties to the CIA, but before he could testify, he was murdered in his home—including having six bullet wounds in a circle around his mouth. Another committee witness, union leader Jimmy Hoffa, disappeared before he could testify. Hoffa’s body has never been found. Mafia hitman Johnny Roselli was murdered before he could testify before the committee: in September 1976, the Washington Post will print excerpts from Roselli’s last interview, with journalist Jack Anderson, before his death; Anderson will write, “When [Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey] Oswald was picked up, the underworld conspirators feared he would crack and disclose information that might lead to them. This almost certainly would have brought a massive US crackdown on the Mafia. So Jack Ruby was ordered to eliminate Oswald.” (Anderson’s contention has not been proven.) The murders of Giancana and Roselli, and the disappearance and apparent murder of Hoffa, will lead to an inconclusive investigation by the House of the assassinations of Kennedy and King. (Spartacus Educational 12/18/2002)
Leads to FISA - The findings of the Church Committee will inspire the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (see 1978), and the standing committees on intelligence in the House and Senate. (Assassination Archives and Research Center 11/23/2002)
Simultaneous Investigation in House - The Church Committee operates alongside another investigative body in the House of Representatives, the Pike Committee (see January 29, 1976).
Church Committee Smeared After 9/11 - After the 9/11 attacks, conservative critics will once again bash the Church Committee; former Secretary of State James Baker will say within hours of the attacks that the Church report had caused the US to “unilaterally disarm in terms of our intelligence capabilities,” a sentiment echoed by the editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal, who will observe that the opening of the Church hearings was “the moment that our nation moved from an intelligence to anti-intelligence footing.” Perhaps the harshest criticism will come from conservative novelist and military historian Tom Clancy, who will say, “The CIA was gutted by people on the political left who don’t like intelligence operations. And as a result of that, as an indirect result of that, we’ve lost 5,000 citizens last week.” (Haines 1/20/2003)
The research team for David Frost, in the midst of marathon interviews with former President Richard Nixon (see Early 1976), has a week to prepare for the upcoming four-hour interview sessions on Watergate (see April 6, 1977).
Countering the 'Other Presidents Did It, Too' Defense - Researcher James Reston Jr. tackles Frost’s possible response to what Reston feels will be Nixon’s last line of defense: that what he did was simply another instance in a long line of presidential misconduct. “Nixon nearly persuaded the American people that political crime was normal,” investigative reporter Jack Anderson had told Nixon biographer Fawn Brodie, a line that haunts Reston. Brodie gives Reston a study commissioned by the House Judiciary Committee (see February 6, 1974) and authored primarily by eminent Yale historian C. Vann Woodward, a study examining the history of presidential misdeeds from George Washington through Nixon. The study was never used. Brodie says that Frost should quote the following from Woodward’s introduction to Nixon: “Heretofore, no president has been proved to be the chief coordinator of the crime and misdemeanor charged against his own administration as a deliberate course of conduct or plan. Heretofore, no president has been held to be the chief personal beneficiary of misconduct in his administration or of measures taken to destroy or cover up evidence of it. Heretofore, the malfeasance and misdemeanor have had no confessed ideological purposes, no constitutionally subversive ends. Heretofore, no president has been accused of extensively subverting and secretly using established government agencies to defame or discredit political opponents and critics, to obstruct justice, to conceal misconduct and protect criminals, or to deprive citizens of their rights and liberties. Heretofore, no president had been accused of creating secret investigative units to engage in covert and unlawful activities against private citizens and their rights.” Frost will ultimately not use the quote, but the quote helps Reston and the other researchers steer their course in preparing Frost’s line of questioning.
Frost Better Prepared - As for Frost, he is much more prepared for his interrogation of Nixon than he has been in earlier sessions, prepped for discussing the details of legalities such as obstruction of justice, corrupt endeavor, and foreseeable consequence. Nixon undoubtedly thwarted justice from being served, and Frost intends to confront him with that charge. Reston worries that the interview will become mired in legalities to the point where only lawyers will gain any substantive information from the session. (Reston 2007, pp. 112-114)
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