Nixon White House may have bugged Pentagon leadership

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon

Everyone familiar with American political history knows about the ‘White House Plumbers’, a covert special investigations unit established during the Presidency of Richard Nixon, and tasked with spying on his political opponents. The unit’s bungled attempt to burgle the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee, in 1972, eventually led to Nixon’s resignation. But the Watergate burglary was but one of many operations conducted by the ‘Plumbers’, who were one of several ‘dirty tricks’ units managed by the Nixon White House. Now, nearly 40 years after the Watergate scandal erupted, veteran intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein provides new information that suggests the Nixon White House may have bugged the Pentagon telephones of senior American military officials. Stein managed to track down Dave Mann, a former member of the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Force, who in 1971 stumbled upon a classified report claiming that listening bug signals had been detected emanating from offices in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The signals had been picked up by a technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM) team during a routine sweep of the Pentagon, in search of unauthorized interception devices. Mann run some tests to verify the TCM team’s report, and discovered that the bug signals originated from the personal office telephone line of General William Westmoreland, who was then the US Army’s Chief of Staff. He also discovered that the telephone of his assistant had been compromised, as well as the telephone lines belonging to the US Army’s assistant secretary, its logistics director, and at least one general. Mann’s personal conclusion was that the phone lines were most likely bugged with the cooperation of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, which was at that the time considered an operational wing of the FBI, under Director J. Edgar Hoover. Along with a colleague, Tom Lejeune, Mann presented his findings to his superiors, who in turn initiated a formal investigation into the wiretaps, code-named GRAPPLE TRIP. But Mann, who is now semi-retired from the military and lives in Tennessee, told Stein that “there was a lot —and I mean a lot— of pressure to prove GRAPPLE TRIP to be a fluke or a miswired telephone”. Which is precisely what happened: the investigation concluded that the bug signals were emitted due to “crossed wires in the telephone system”. The final view of the report, which was never declassified, was that “persons unknown had accidentally modified the telephone instrument”, said Mann.

One Response to Nixon White House may have bugged Pentagon leadership

  1. Gee, I accidentally had my phone line interfered with in the 1990s. I don’t know if anyone was listening in, but for three years my daughter and I had loud static noise whenever we used the phone.

    The repair service came out twice and could find nothing wrong with my equipment. The 3rd time a senior manager came out and after 2 hours find someone had inserted a splice on the line leading to my house that “accidentally” created a transmitter.

    This was after years of prank and hang up calls that I assume related to my political activities

    I write about all this in my recent memoir THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE ( I currently live in exile in New Zealand.

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