Bringing in-depth reporting of crime and corruption in high places
has witnessed the removal from power of a variety of Pope's, Prince's
and Potentates, sometimes for the oddest motives.
The ultimate reason for their fall is often no more than the
straw that broke the camel's back - following a period of infighting
That being the case, the disgrace and subsequent resignation
of President Richard Nixon in August 1974, was perhaps the most curious
reason of all - a piece of tape stuck around a door.
The 13-month imbroglio that ensued has become known as Watergate,
the first of many "gates" that have subsequently rocked America.
five months prior to Nixon's landslide re-election campaign in November
1972, two reporters - Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The
Washington Post - had dogged President Nixon by reporting a series
of "Dirty tricks" that underpinned his re-election campaign.
Their reportage had begun in June of that year, following a bungled
burglary at the Democratic headquarters located in the opulent Watergate
complex in downtown Washington.
A security guard discovering the lock of a door artfully taped
back to allow covert access, had phoned the police.
Five men dressed in conservative business suits and wearing Platex
rubber surgical gloves had been arrested.
They were carrying two 35-millimeter cameras, 40 rolls of unexposed
film, a walkie-talkie, lock-picks, tear gas guns and electronic surveillance
equipment designed to tap telephones and bug room conversations.
intriguing still, each carried a small stash of $100 bills issued in
The following morning, the five men appeared in court and were
Having previously given the police phoney names, they were all
Four of them hailed from Miami, Florida, and claimed they were
The fifth man identified himself as James W. McCord, Jr., adding
under questioning by the Judge that he was a former CIA field officer.
Additional digging by Post reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, revealed that the other four
burglars were also "former CIA types" and heavily involved
in the anti-Castro activities that flourished in Miami.
24 hours, the reporters learned that James McCord was employed by the
Committee for the Re-election of the President
Known as "CREEP" the Re-election Committee was then
headed by John Mitchell.
A close friend of President Nixon and, more significantly, a
former Attorney General of the United States, Mitchell had ranked as
the most senior law enforcement officer in America.
The connection between McCord and CREEP - and the prospect of
White House involvement in the affair - would soon begin to occupy Woodward
and Bernstein's waking hours.
Their diligence would later earn both reporters a coveted Pulitzer
Prize - the ultimate accolade from fellow professionals.
their investigation continued, the two reporters were increasingly confronted
with serious obstacles and cleverly organised stone-walling tactics,
designed to stall their progress.
It soon became clear that the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI), charged with investigating the Watergate burglary, were engaged
in what was later learned to be a cover-up.
This caused the reporters numerous difficulties in advancing
There was additionally the concealed presence of the Central
Intelligence Agency, that were concerned with limiting the scope of
Although the journalists remained unaware at the time, the Watergate
burglary was merely the tip of a National Security iceberg dedicated
to perverting the course of democracy in America.
Woodward had access to one highly placed source in the Executive Branch
known only as "Deep Throat."
This source's input, usually gleaned directly from the White
House, was vital but was never directly used in print.
The agreement was that he would provide leads and other "deep
background," enabling the Post
team to develop other sources whose knowledge and involvement could
be published - even if remaining unattributed.
Twenty five years later, the true identity of "Deep Throat"
is still a closely guarded secret, though numerous guesses have been
made to identify him.
with Deep Throat were held in the dead of night - often around 2 a.m.
- in a public garage, following a pre-arranged signal.
Woodward was instructed to constantly watch out for being followed
and never to use less than two different taxi's to take him within walking
distance of the final destination.
Their meeting often covered several hours.
provided by Deep Throat led the Washington
Post duo to investigate the money-trail that led from Watergate.
The sequential $100 bills found in the wallets of the five burglars
was part of an enormous slush-fund illegally collected and laundered
by CREEP officials, through Mexico.
Eventually, the slush-fund would lead to Herbert Kalmbach, President
Nixon's personal lawyer, who was engaged in providing political favours
in return for illegal donations to Nixon's re-election war chest.
Tracking the money would also reveal the existence of a secret
White House unit known as the "Plumbers."
Said to be solely engaged in plugging administration "leaks,"
the Plumbers unit, it would turn out were responsible for a whole range
of illegal activities.
prominent covert operation conducted by this unit was the burglary of
Daniel Ellberg's personal psychiatrist in 1971.
Ellsberg, formerly with the Department of Defense and the Rand
Corporation, had leaked the now infamous Pentagon
Papers to The New York Times.
These classified documents painted a dubious picture of the US
rationale for the Vietnam War.
President Nixon despised Ellsberg and wanted dirt that would
up the White House Plumbers, was E. Howard Hunt, a career CIA operative
turned political "dirty tricks" specialist for Nixon's re-election
According to Deep Throat, Hunt was the "really heavy operations
team" that engaged itself in all manner of illegal activities.
By tracking Hunt's involvement, and continuing to pursue to dirty
money trail, Woodward and Bernstein gradually inched their way closer
to White House complicity in Watergate and other illegalities.
breakthrough came when the two journalists managed to trail illegal
contributions to Nixon's Relection Committee.
Some of this had subsequently been used to bribe Howard Hunt
and his team of Cubans to remain silent, after their arrest and imprisonment.
Orders for this diversion of funds came from the White House.
Inexorably, the trail of wrongdoing came ever closer to senior
now morale in the White House had slumped to an all time low.
The formerly unified front of those who were close to Nixon began
to unravel and with old loyalties shattered, "open warfare"
ensued as numerous individuals fled the sinking ship.
John W Dean 111, the Counsel to the President, who was heavily
involved in the cover-up and "hush money" payments to the
Plumbers was an early escapee.
Fearing he was about to be thrown to the wolves, Dean defiantly
announced that he would not become the "scapegoat."
Breaking ranks, he agreed to become a star witness for the Senate's
"Watergate Committee," - a panel of Senators charged with
investigating the various allegations on behalf of Congress.
stunning as this was, even worse was the revelation that Acting FBI
Director, Patrick Gray, had destroyed sensitive documents that had been
removed from Howard Hunt's White House safe.
Included in these was a bogus State Department cable, fabricated
by Hunt, that implicated President John Kennedy in the assassination
of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963.
Nixon's detestation of Kennedy and his family was well known.
A second folder contained a variety of apparently damning information
on Senator Edward Kennedy.
Details of Gray's stunning actions was provided by John Dean
to Assistant Attorney General Henry Petersen.
Dean revealed he had attended a meeting with Gray and John Erlichman,
the Assistant to the President on Domestic Affairs, and the third most
powerful man in the White House.
During the meeting, Gray was told the files were "political
dynamite," that should "never see the light of day."
The news that America's most senior law enforcement officer had
destroyed evidence was a bombshell that rocked Washington to its foundations.
was not long before President Nixon announced the resignation of John
With him also went H. R. Haldeman, the White House Chief of Staff,
and Nixon's most trusted lieutenant.
Significantly, General Alexander Haig, a long-time Nixon favourite,
replaced Haldeman as Chief of Staff.
Meanwhile, more suprising revelations followed.
According to Alexander P. Butterfield, a close aide to Hank Haldeman,
the President had "bugged himself."
Intended by Nixon to be used to write his memoirs for posterity,
he had secretly ordered that all conversations in the Oval office be
An extended legal battle between the Senate and Nixon followed,
but despite the President's protestations, he was ordered to turn over
the tapes to the Senate Watergate Committee.
Once key tapes were proven to have been erased by Nixon the end
came quickly and Nixon resigned in disgrace rather than face impeachment
far as history is concerned, the foregoing is the Watergate story.
It would take a further 16 years before anyone was able to revise
history and show what had really taken place during those dark Watergate
days, was a conspiracy to dethrone a President.
In their acclaimed book "Silent Coup", Len Colodny
& Robert Gettlin, reveal that a military spy ring working for the
Pentagon had penetrated the White House.
Opposed to Nixon's foreign policy goals, the spy-ring was engaged
in stealing highly sensitive material that could be used to "spoil"
emerging policy decisions.
least the authors turn history on its head by revealing that Bob Woodward
was a former Pentagon Briefing Officer, with high security clearance,
who they strongly suspect was involved in the Pentagon spy apparatus.
As a young Navy lieutenant Woodward had briefed General Alexander
Haig on numerous occasions, while Haig was working as military liaison
to Nixon's National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger.
While Woodward continues to deny this, Admiral Thomas Moorer,
a former Joint Chief of Staff at the Pentagon has publicly confirmed
Significantly, after Woodward left the Navy, he became a junior
reporter at the Washington Post.
Here, he was be catapulted into journalistic fame by his many
stories on Watergate.
He is now editor of the Washington Post.
single most important key to Woodward's marked journalistic success
was his primary source on Watergate, "Deep Throat."
This individual, who was close to the reins of power, only spoke
to Woodward - who zealously protected his identity from other senior
members of the Washington Post, including his editor and publisher.
Not even his close colleague, Carl Bernstein, knew who "Deep
Throat" really was.
then was "Deep Throat?"
According to the authors of "Silent Coup," this individual
was none other than Alexander Haig, a one time Army Colonel attached
to Nixon's White House and later a roving assistant for Nixon and Kissinger..
Haig was heavily immersed in Nixon's Foreign Policy strategy
and participated in Nixon's most secret negotiations to reach rapprochement
with China - a policy that immensely distressed the Pentagon.
White House Spies?
Not least, some questions have been raised about the loyalty of Alexander Butterfield, the man who revealed that Nixon had bugged the Oval Office. It was this revelation that eventually brought Nixon to his knees. A former career Air Force officer and CIA liaison, Butterfield had chased a White House job and got it. According to Rose Mary Woods, Nixon's private secretary, Butterfield had been a "plant" placed inside the White House by another agency - probably the CIA. This view was later shared by H.R. Hank Haldeman. In any event, Butterfield was on extremely close terms to Alexander Haig.
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