CIA agent was among Watergate burglars, documents reveal

Watergate One of the men caught burglarizing the offices of the United States Democratic Party in 1972, a ploy that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, was an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, according to a newly declassified document. The revelation is included in a narrative history of the Watergate scandal, produced over 40 years ago by the CIA to assess its own role in the affair. It recounts the events of the early morning hours of June 17, 1972, when a security guard saw five men dressed in black breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC. When the five men were arrested by police, it was discovered that one of them was connected with the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, a fundraising organization set up by US President Richard Nixon. The remaining four burglars had CIA contacts. They included E. Howard Hunt, a retired CIA operations officer who in 1961 had played a leading role in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. It was eventually discovered that the burglary had been authorized by President Nixon himself, as part of a broader program to sabotage his political opponents.

Soon after the Watergate scandal erupted, the CIA produced an internal report entitled “CIA Watergate History – Working Draft”. Much of the 150-page document was authored by CIA officer John C. Richards, who had firsthand knowledge of the Watergate scandal. When Richards died unexpectedly in 1974, the report was completed by a team of officers based on his files. A few years ago, a Freedom of Information Act request was filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal watchdog, which petitioned to have the document released. The release was approved by a judge in early 2016 and was completed in July.

Despite numerous reductions throughout, the document gives the fullest public account of the CIA’s role in the Watergate scandal. Its pages contain the revelation that one of the men arrested in the early hours of June 17, 1972, was an active CIA agent. The man, Eugenio R. Martinez, has been previously identified as an “informant” of the CIA —a term referring to an occasional source. But the newly released document refers to Martinez as an agent —an individual who is actively recruited and trained by a CIA officer acting as a handler. It also states that Martinez was on the payroll of the agency at the time of his arrest, making approximately $600 per month in today’s dollars working for the CIA. Additionally, Martinez, a Cuban who had participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion, retained his contacts with the CIA and kept the agency updated about the burglary, his arrest and the ensuing criminal investigation.

Interestingly, the internal document reveals that the CIA was contacted about Martinez by the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, which was set up by the Department of Justice to investigate the scandal. But the CIA’s General Counsel, John S. Warner, told the prosecutors that it was against the CIA’s code of practice to turn over an agent, and that “under no circumstances” would the CIA agree to do so. Senior CIA officials, including its then Director, Richard Helms, continued to refuse to cooperate with investigators, including agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, even after President Nixon’s resignation.

Martinez, who is reportedly in his mid-90s and lives in Miami, Florida, has never spoken publicly about this role in the Watergate scandal or his alleged contacts with the CIA.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 31 August 2016 | Permalink

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Nixon White House may have bugged Pentagon leadership

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
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. Read more of this post

Comment: Was the Killing of Osama bin Laden Legal?

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

By IAN ALLEN* | intelNews.org |
The reaction of Americans to news of the assassination of Osama bin Laden has been overwhelmingly jubilant. Many will say that the killing of al-Qaeda’s founder was justified. But was it legal? Responding to news of the killing, famed linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky suggested that “we might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic”. Commenting from a different viewpoint, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin argues that the legal complications of arresting bin Laden would have been immense, and would have perhaps signaled “the most complex and wrenching legal proceeding in American history”.  We could would add to this that the White House was probably concerned about a prolonged state of heightened security for American embassies and civilian or military installations around the world, which could have lasted for as long as bin Laden’s hypothetical trial continued —which could have been years. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #471 (ex-spy edition)

  • Interview with ex-CIA analyst David Kanin. Interesting extended discussion with Dr. Kanin, who was a CIA analyst for 31 years, who suggests the US is currently on the retreat, both politically and economically.
  • New book by ex-CIA agent Everett. Watergate uncovered many high-level secrets, including the identity of CIA agent James A. Everett, whose cover was blown in Congressional hearings during the White House scandal and its fallout. Now Everett shares his story of recruitment and training by the CIA in his book The Making and Breaking of an American Spy.
  • Ex-MI5 officer questions UK spying priorities. The cascade of revelations in the UK about undercover police officers spying on environmental groups, suggest Britain needs a sense of perspective on threats to the nation, argues former MI5 intelligence officer Annie Machon.

Analysis: Landrieu-Gate is Scary, but it’s No Watergate

Stan Dai

Stan Dai

By J. FITSANAKIS and I. ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The arrests by US Marshals of four self-described conservative activists, who were caught trying to tamper with the telephone lines of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu’ New Orleans office, have caused outcry in liberal and silence in conservative blogs. Most political allies of the four young men have been scrambling to denounce them, and the few who haven’t, have tried to play off the case as an ill-conceived political prank that got out of hand. Considering that America’s political culture still reels from the effects of Watergate (1972-1974), and the far more serious COINTELPRO (1956-1971), it would be criminal neglect on behalf of the FBI to treat the Landrieu incident as a “prank”. At the same time, however, Landrieu-gate is no Watergate. Neither the target nor the operational tactics and institutional affiliations of the four men involved in the case resemble anything remotely akin to either Watergate or COINTELPRO. Keep reading →

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Analysis: Editor cautions against lionizing Deep Throat

Greg Mitchell, the author and editor of Editor & Publisher, has authored a column cautioning against the uncritical lionization of former FBI official W. Mark Felt, who died yesterday at the age of 95. In 2005, Felt voluntarily revealed he was the mysterious whistleblower nicknamed Deep Throat, who helped uncover the Watergate scandal, which lead to the eventual resignation of US President Richard Nixon. Mitchell urges “[j]ournalists and many others lionizing the former FBI official [to] not overlook the fact that Felt was one of the architects of the bureau’s notorious COINTELPRO domestic spying-and-burglary campaign”. Felt was in fact found guilty of authorizing several illegal black bag operations in the state of New Jersey under COINTELPRO, an illegal domestic surveillance and sabotage project directed by the FBI with the participation of the CIA and NSA. Black bag operations refer to covert, surreptitious entries into structures in the course of human intelligence missions. Mitchell correctly points out that “[o]nly a pardon, courtesy of Ronald Reagan, kept him out of jail for a long term”. [JF]