Saturday, August 9, 2014

Where were you at 2:30 a.m. on June 17, 1972?

That is the exact time and date at which the Watergate burglars were caught in the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate hotel and office complex in Washington, D.C.

Over the next two years, citizens of the United States would learn that their President had attempted to undermine and subvert democracy by rigging elections, bribery, entrapping or framing political opponents in embarrassing or illegal situations, planned the fire-bombing of opponents' offices, engaged in wiretapping, ordered the national police agencies of the American government to spy on those who opposed his policies.

And when this attempt at facism was exposed, the American people would learn that their President and almost all of his senior staff would then perjure themselves, lie, bribe, steal, destroy evidence, obstruct justice and engage in bank and wire fraud in an attempt to cover up what they had done.

President Richard M. Nixon then resigned on August 8, 1974.  He resisted resignation right until the end, obstructing justice and declaring the President was above the law.

Watergate was the single worst Constitutional crisis of the American republic since the Civil War.

Don't believe me?

Richard M. Nixon was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from California in 1946, winning office for his tough anti-Communist views and no-holds-barred campaigning. In 1948, Nixon led a House subcommittee investigation into whether Alger Hiss, a liberal intellectual and bureaucrat, was a Communist spy. Whittaker Chambers, a senior editor from Time magazine, exposed Hiss in dramatic, televised testimony. Hiss was sent to prison, Chambers wrote his memoirs and became a famous conservative icon, and Nixon was on his way to the U.S. Senate. In 1950, Nixon was elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating Sen. Helen Gahagan Douglas (D), a former actress. Nixon viciously attacked her during the course of the campaign, accusing her of having Communist sympathies.

In 1952, Republican presidential nominee Dwight D. Eisenhower named Nixon his vice-presidential running mate. In August 1952, Democrats claimed that Nixon had received $18,000 from a "slush fund" that had functioned as a secret source of income for Nixon. To counter these charges, Nixon made a dramatic speech to the nation on September 23, 1952. Nixon listed his family assets, and outright denied the Democratic charges except in one case. Nixon admitted to a single gift -- a cocker spaniel dog named Checkers, which he gave to his two young daughters. The "Checkers speech" was a success and saved Nixon's political career.

In 1960, Nixon ran for the presidency against John F. Kennedy. Nixon lost by only 118,574 votes. The election was probably much closer; widespread Democratic vote fraud in Illinois may have cost Nixon the election. In 1962, Nixon ran for governor of California and was soundly defeated by Pat Brown (father of Jerry Brown). Afterward, a bitter Nixon uttered a famous phrase to reporters: "You won't have Richard Nixon to kick around any more."

In 1968, Nixon ran for president again, declaring himself "tanned, rested and ready." Nixon claimed to have a "secret plan" to get America out of Vietnam. He was lying. But the ruse worked. Nixon won the presidency in a squeaker (by 510,314 votes) over Vice President and former senator Hubert M. Humphrey. Democratic Alabama governor George Wallace, a notorious racist, ran as an independent and cut heavily into Humphrey's support in the South, garnering more than 9.9 million votes (13.5 percent of votes cast).

Richard M. Nixon was sworn in as the 39th president of the United States on January 20, 1969. His chief of staff is H.R. Haldeman, a former advertising executive with the J. Walter Thompson agency in California. Haldeman brought with him fellow ad-man Dwight Chapin, and appointed him special assistant to the president (responsible for scheduling and appointments).

The day Nixon was sworn in, his campaign illegally hid $1.4 million in leftover funds from the 1968 presidential campaign for use as a "slush-fund" in the 1972 re-election campaign. The funds were to be used as a way of evading a new election law -- due to take effect in 1971 -- which would force candidates to reveal the sources of their donations. At the same time, the Nixon team set up "The Committee to Re-Elect the President." The unfortunate acronym was spelled and pronounced "CREEP."

Nixon's entire history as a politician led him to believe in conspiracies, that he was victimized by his enemies, that politics was governed by dirty tricks and cheating, and that he needed to respond in kind or he would fail to win office. Nixon immediately began to break the law in order to win re-election. On May 19, 1969, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover met with Dr. Henry Kissinger, Nixon's national security advisor. Kissinger approved illegal phone taps on his staff and Hoover agreed to keep logs of the taps a separate, secret file so that they could be kept away from the courts.

In May, 1970, John Ehrlichman, a lawyer and chief domestic policy advisor to Nixon, hired two former New York City policemen to begin collecting intelligence on potential Democratic candidates for president. The two men reported directly to John Dean, chief counsel to President Nixon. The two illegally impersonated police detectives and reporters in an investigation of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

On June 5, 1970, Richard Nixon ordered Tom Huston, an ultra-right-wing college student who had been chairman of Young Americans for Freedom and now a minor Nixon speechwriter, to lead a working group of intelligence agency heads (CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, FBI, etc.) to investigate left-wing anti-war groups. Huston told the group that they should use illegal bugging, burglary and agent-provocateurs to destabilize the anti-war movement. The career bureaucrats were appalled, and demanded Nixon's approval before they went forward with these plans. On July 14, 1970, Nixon approved the "Huston plan" and ordered it to go into effect on August 1, 1972. This was the first time Richard Nixon broke the law.

On July 18, 1970, Huston wrote a memo to H.R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff, advocating that the White House hire a team of burglars to break into the Brookings Institution, steal documents, and then firebomb the building to cover up evidence of the burglary.

On July 28, 1970, Hoover went to John Mitchell, U.S. Attorney General and a close Nixon friend, to demand that Nixon withdraw approval for the "Huston plan." Mitchell did so, and Nixon withdrew his approval for the plan.

In November, 1970, Nixon hired Charles Colson, a Republican political operative from Massachusetts who had worked for Sen. Leverett Saltonstall (R-Mass.), as special White House counsel. Colson was the liaison to organized, influential lobbying groups, and oversaw special projects (such as lobbying for the ABM Treaty, generating lists of possible political appointees, and writing legal briefs). Colson reported directly to the president, although in practice he had to go through chief of staff Haldeman.

In February, 1971, Nixon ordered that an automatic taping system be installed in the Oval Office.

In the spring of 1971, White House chief of staff Haldeman installed Jeb Stuart Magruder, a cosmetics company executive and White House communications director, to be director of CREEP.

On May 5, 1971, Nixon and Haldeman conspired to have the Teamsters union send thugs into crowds of students (then protesting the war in Vietnam and threatening to block all bridges leading into D.C.), attacking them and brutally beating hundreds of them. The plan was never carried out because Haldeman feared exposure.

In early June, 1971, special counsel Chuck Colson hired E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA agent, as a security consultant to ensure that Colson's projects were kept secret. Hunt reported directly to Colson. The same month, Nixon appointments and scheduling aide Dwight Chapin contacted a former college classmate turned lawyer, Donald Segretti, and asked him to help destabilize the American political system through the use of "dirty tricks" to help ensure Nixon's re-election. Segretti, who had a long history of subverting elections (he called this "ratfucking"), agreed to help.

Later that month, Colson's ex-cops proposed a new dirty tricks effort, titled "Operation Sandwedge." "Operation Sandwedge" would set up a phony security firm to provide "security services" to Republican corporate donors, who in turn would "pay for services" (e.g., make donations). This money would be used to fund illegal espionage and dirty tricks against the Democrats in the 1972 presidential campaign. Among Operation Sandwedge's tactics: Penetrate Democratic headquarters with a mole; burglarize Democratic offices and steal or photograph documents; conduct illegal surveillance of Democratic meetings; and undertake a disinformation campaign to undermine the political process.

On June 13, 1971, the New York Times began publishing "the Pentagon Papers." Commissioned in 1967, the 47-volume, top-secret study by the RAND Corporation (a defense contactor) covered America's involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to May 1968. Only 15 copies of the study were made. The Pentagon Papers were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, a RAND Corp. and Defense Dept. analyst who was disenchanted with the war in Vietnam. Ellsberg gave the Pentagon Papers to New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan.

On June 14, Attorney General John Mitchell ordered the New York Times to cease publication of the Pentagon Papers. The Times refused. On June 15, the Justice Dept. obtained an injunction from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York forcing the Times to cease publication of the Pentagon Papers. On June 18, the Washington Post also began publishing the Pentagon Papers. The government also ordered the Post to stop publishing the Pentagon Papers, but the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia refused to grant the government's injunction. On June 19, 1972, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York overturned the district court's injunction against the New York Times. The same day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia refused to overturn the district court's ruling and grant an injunction against the Washington Post. On June 24, 1971, the New York Times asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal. On June 30, 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in "New York Times Co. v. United States" (403 U.S. 713) -- one of the most important free speech cases ever handed down -- that the injunction against the New York Times constituted "prior restraint of the press" and was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.

In response to the publication of the Pentagon Papers, an outraged Nixon set up an "enemies list" of people who opposed Nixon and who Nixon felt were "out to get him." Initially limited to only 20 or so names, it expanded over the summer to more than 100 people and organizations.

On July 1, 1971, Gordon Strachan, chief aide to Haldeman and Haldeman's liaison to CREEP, received permission from Haldeman to set up "Operation Sandwedge."

On July 2, 1971, Nixon told chief of staff Haldeman to establish a "plumbers" unit to plug "leaks" in the administration. Haldeman's chief aide, Egil "Bud" Krogh, headed the "Plumbers." Krogh had worked for Ehrlichman's law firm and had been Nixon's drug czar before becoming an aide to Ehrlichman. Working under Krogh were E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy and David Young. G. Gordon Liddy, an attorney, was an aide to Ehrlichman. David Young, a former appointments secretary to Kissinger at the National Security Council, was a domestic policy aide to Ehrlichman. The Plumbers reported through Krogh to Ehrlichman.

On several occasions, the Plumbers received assistance from Robert Mardian, Assistant Attorney General for Internal Security at the Justice Department. Mardian illegally used his office to obtain wiretaps and evidence about news leaks that the Plumbers could use against Nixon's political foes.

On August 5, 1971, Krogh and Young proposed burglarizing the offices of California psychiatrist Lewis Fielding, who was Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist. Ehrlichman approved the plan a week later. The week Ehrlichman approved the plan, Colson aide E. Howard Hunt traveled to Miami to meet an old CIA friend, Bernard Barker. Hunt recruited Barker and several other anti-Castro Cubans to work for the Plumbers.

On September 9, 1971, the Plumbers burglarized Fielding's office, looking for evidence that would discredit or ruin Ellsberg. They found nothing.

On September 18, 1971, Haldeman ordered that more money be budgeted for "Operation Sandwedge." Attorney General Mitchell was barred by law from acting as head of CREEP until he left public service. But in fact, Mitchell was already CREEP chairman in all but name. Mitchell approved the transfer of $50,000 ($257,000 in 2007 dollars) for use in "Operation Sandwedge." The money went through Herb Kalmbach, Nixon's personal attorney and CREEP's deputy finance chairman.

On December 6, 1971, G. Gordon Liddy resigned as Erhlichman's aide and was hired by CREEP as its general counsel. But Liddy's real duties were to to offer fake "security services" to corporations and to have them "pay for these services" (e.g., make illegal campaign contributions), and to funnel these funds to "Operation Sandwedge."

On January 1, 1972, James McCord, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and formerly in charge of physical security at the CIA, was hired to work on "Operation Sandwedge." Officially, though, McCord worked under Liddy as CREEP's security coordinator.

Some time in early 1972, Maurice Stans, Nixon's former Commerce Secretary and now finance chairman of CREEP, set up a money-laundering operation with a Mexican attorney named Manuel Ogarrio Daguerre. Stans encouraged conservative Democrats, corporations (which were barred by law from donating to political campaigns), businessmen or labor leaders having regulatory problems, special-interest groups and underground sources (such as the mafia, mob-dominated labor unions, casinos and others) to donate to the Nixon campaign before the new campaign finance law went into effect on April 7, 1972. The money would be laundered through Ogarrio's bank account in Mexico (where the bank records were beyond the reach of American subpoenas), and then Ogarrio would write checks to the Nixon campaign.

On January 27, 1972, CREEP general counsel Liddy met with Attorney General Mitchell. Liddy proposed a $1 million operation called "Operation Gemstone." Burglary-and-bugging operations against Democratic headquarters and the campaign offices of Democratic presidential contenders; kidnapping of anti-war leaders, drugging them and holding them in Mexico; bugging the bedrooms of Democratic leaders; hiring prostitutes to sleep with Democratic candidates for president and then exposing the affairs on television; hiring a chase plan to bug the Democratic presidential campaign plane; hiring Cuban terrorists to sabotage the Democratic National Convention hotel and hall; hiring drug users, hippies and pedophiles to stage mass demonstrations in "support" of the Democrats; funding radical Democratic candidates for president in order to force the party to repudiate its liberal wing -- all this and more was part of "Gemstone." Appalled at the plan's cost (but not the plan's illegal activities), Mitchell ordered Liddy to come up with something different.

On February 4, 1972, Liddy scaled back "Operation Gemstone" to $500,000 ($2.5 million in 2007 dollars). While most of the egregious aspects of the plan were dropped, the bugging operations were retained. John Dean obtained approval for "Operation Gemstone" from White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman.

On March 30, 1972, "Operation Gemstone" was scaled back even further. Mitchell, accompanied by his chief advisor, Fred LaRue, met with Colson and CREEP director Jeb Stuart Magruder. Mitchell felt the plan was still too costly, and ordered that it be scaled back to $250,000 ($1.25 million in 2007 dollars). Colson argued that the chief target of the bugging plan should be Democratic Party national chairman Lawrence O'Brien. Thus, the decision was made to bug the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters.

On May 28, 1972, "Operation Gemstone" went into action. G. Gordon Liddy and three others installed bugging equipment at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate hotel and office complex in Washington, D.C. But the equipment failed to function properly, and a second operation was planned.

On June 17, 1972, five burglars -- Bernard Barker, James McCord, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, and Frank Sturgis -- were arrested at 2:30 a.m. during a break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate hotel and office complex in Washington, D.C.

On June 18, 1972, the Associated Press reported that McCord was the security director for CREEP. The name of E. Howard Hunt was also in the notebook of both Eugenio Martinez and McCord.

On June 19, 1972, Mitchell -- whose long-planned resignation as Attorney General had finally take effect and was now chairman of CREEP -- denied any link to the burglary operation. The odd thing is, no one had asked Mitchell for a statement... The same day, President Nixon ordered the CIA to "hinder" the FBI's investigation of the Watergate burglary, telling CIA director Richard Helms that the burglary involved "national security." Mass destruction and shredding of campaign documents occurred at CREEP headquarters as campaign officials sought to destroy any record of involvement with the Watergate burglary.

And so it began.

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