Watergate

Photo of the Day

E. Howard Hunt during his imprisonment at the Federal Prison Camp at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, 1978. Michael Brennan/Getty

Confession of Howard Hunt

E. Howard Hunt, America’s most notorious spook who later served time for his role as one of the plumbers in the bungled burglary that later toppled Richard Nixon, gave a near-deathbed confession to his long-estranged son, naming then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and a handful of CIA spooks as the cabal behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy

Before his death in January 2007, CIA master spy and convicted Watergate conspirator Howard Hunt confessed to being peripherally involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, and named several other participants.

In notes and conversations with his son Saint John, and in an audiotape he created in 2004 to be played after his death, Hunt described being invited into the “big event” at a Miami safehouse in 1963.

Howard Hunt names numerous individuals with both direct and indirect CIA connections as having played a role in the assassination of Kennedy, while describing himself as a “bench warmer” in the plot. Saint John Hunt, son of E. Howard Hunt, agreed that the use of this term indicates that Hunt was willing to play a larger role in the murder conspiracy had he been required.

Hunt alleges on the tape that then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was involved in the planning of the assassination and in the cover-up, stating that LBJ, “Had an almost maniacal urge to become president, he regarded JFK as an obstacle to achieving that.”

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Photo of the Day

Frank Wills, the security guard who discovered the now infamous Watergate break-in, is seen in this May 16, 1973, file photo. (AP Photo, file)

Next Time There Maybe No Watchman in the Night

On August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States. No president had done this before; none have done it since. But it may never have happened at all if a security guard named Frank Wills hadn’t found a suspicious piece of tape.

“Watergate” is a general term used to describe a complex web of political scandals between 1972 and 1974. The word specifically refers to the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. whilst it is now a term synonymous with corruption and scandal, in 1972 the Watergate was one of Washington’s plushest hotels. It also houses office complexes and residential apartments.

In more recent times, Watergate has been home to former Senators and was once the place where Monica Lewinsky laid low, as the liaison that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment became news. It was here that the Watergate Burglars broke into the Democratic Party’s National Committee offices on June 17, 1972.

If it had not been for the alert actions of Frank Wills, a security guard, the scandal may never have erupted.

The story of Watergate has an intriguing historical and political background, arising out of political events of the 1960s such as Vietnam, and the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1970. But the chronology of the scandal really begins during 1972, when the burglars were arrested. By 1973, Nixon had been re-elected, but the storm clouds were building. By early 1974, the nation was consumed by Watergate.

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Leaking, Leakers and Leaks

What makes sources leak to me or to anyone else in the media?

A new book by veteran journalist Max Holland called Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat (University Press of Kansas) looks into the Watergate scandal from a different perspective.

Leak overturns once and for all the romantic, popular interpretation of the Watergate saga of one inside source risking it all to save democracy. “Nixon’s downfall was an entirely unanticipated result of Felt’s true and only aim,” Holland writes. Although Holland never disparages the enterprise of Woodward and Bernstein, acknowledging the impact their reports had on Judge John J. Sirica and the senators who formed an investigative committee, neither does he bow to them. “Contrary to the widely held perception that the Washington Post ‘uncovered’ Watergate, the newspaper essentially tracked the progress of the FBI’s investigation, with a time delay ranging from weeks to days, and published elements of the prosecutors’ case well in advance of the trial.”

So Woodward and Bernstein were in fact fast followers of the investigation, but with a heads up from the leaker:

Leak, to be published Mar. 6, vindicates journalist Edward Jay Epstein, one of the earliest critics of Woodsteinmania. In a Commentary piece published in July 1974, about a month after the Woodstein book came out, Epstein eviscerates what he calls the “sustaining myth of journalism.” Naïve readers believe that intrepid reporters expose government scandals by doggedly working their confidential sources. Of course such scoops do occur, but the more conventional route to a prize-winning series is well-placed leaks from well-oiled government investigations, which Holland maintains was the case with Watergate.

I like the description “sustaining the myth of journalism”. But what of the leaker? What motivates them?

 Every source leaks for a reason, and it’s usually not about preserving the Constitution and the American way. As Stephen Hess writes, sources have many reasons to leak. They leak to boost their own egos. They leak to make a goodwill deposit with a reporter that they hope to withdraw in the future. They leak to advance their policy initiative. They leak to launch trial balloons and sometimes even to blow the whistle on wrongdoing. But until contesting evidence arrives, it’s usually a safe bet that a leak is what Hess calls an “Animus Leak,” designed to inflict damage on another party.

Heh “Animus Leak”…yep I like that description.