How al-Qaeda tried to control the media
By David Ignatius, Published: March 20
Among the last known images of Osama bin Laden is a video seized at his compound the night he was killed, which shows the al-Qaeda leader hunched before a television screen studying a video of himself. It’s testimony to bin Laden’s obsession with the media side of his war against the United States.
This modern face of bin Laden’s jihad comes through clearly in a 21-page letter from his media adviser, a U.S.-born jihadist named Adam Gadahn. The letter is undated, but it appears to have been written after November 2010, in the last six months of bin Laden’s life.
Gadahn wrote much as if he were a media planner corresponding with a client. He included suggestions about the timing of video appearances after the 2010 U.S. midterm elections and use of high-definition video, and made snarky evaluations of major U.S. networks.
As I wrote last week, Gadahn hated Fox News (“falls into the abyss”); he liked MSNBC but complained about the firing of Keith Olbermann; he had mixed feelings about CNN (better in Arabic than in English) and made flattering comments about CBS and ABC. Basically, he wanted to play them all off to al-Qaeda’s best advantage. He also mentioned print journalists, most prominently Robert Fisk of The Independent of Britain. He cites three Americans (“Brian Russ,” “Simon Hirsh” and “Jerry Van Dyke”), though it’s uncertain whom he meant.
The media guidance was among the documents taken from bin Laden’s compound the night of May 2. It was made available to me, along with a small sample of other documents in the cache, by a senior Obama administration official.
Gadahn’s memo shows an organization struggling to stay on the media offensive despite devastating U.S. attacks. It’s partly aspirational, with dreams of jihad, but there’s a core of sharp self-criticism that makes clear Gadahn, like his boss, understood that al-Qaeda was losing its war.
Gadahn even worried that al-Qaeda’s reversals in Iraq and elsewhere represented “punishment by God on us because of our sins and injustices.” Like bin Laden, he was deeply upset that al-Qaeda’s affiliates had killed so many Muslims and listed 13 operations that showed “the tragedy of tolerating the spilling of [Muslim] blood.”
Gadahn is an intriguing figure whose life story would seem far-fetched if sketched by a Hollywood screenwriter. He was born Adam Pearlman in 1978, grandson of a California doctor who had served on the board of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. Gadahn converted to Islam when he was 17, migrated to Pakistan at 20 and then disappeared in March 2001 into al-Qaeda’s world. In 2006, he was indicted by the United States for treason.
In the letter, the media adviser focuses on “how to exploit” the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, on television. He worries that CNN “seems to be in cooperation with the government more than the others,” though he praises its “good and detailed” Arabic coverage. “I used to think that MSNBC channel may be good and neutral a bit,” he continues, but then notes the firing of Olbermann.
The media chatter continues: CBS “has a famous program (‘60 Minutes’) that has some popularity and a good reputation.” ABC “is all right; actually, it could be one of the best channels,” because of its chief investigator and terrorism expert, Brian Ross. But all the networks, he complains, will bring in analysts who will “conduct a smearing” of al-Qaeda figures.
Gadahn discusses how to game the coverage. Bin Laden could offer “an exclusive press scoop” to one network; but better to spread the material “so that there will be healthy competition.” As for the print journalists, he suggests informing 30 to 50 of them that they’ve been selected to “receive special media material” for the 9/11 anniversary. If just a third of them respond, he notes, al-Qaeda will have 10 journalists who “will display our mission.”
Gadahn argues that the aftermath of the November 2010 U.S. elections is “very suitable” for new video: “All the political talk in America is about the economy, forgetting or ignoring the war and its role in weakening the economy.” He says bin Laden shouldn’t worry about being overexposed, because he can reach “millions of admirers” in the Muslim world, and “raise the morale” of al-Qaeda fighters who are “facing disaster after disaster.”
The al-Qaeda spinmeister didn’t like Fox News (“let her die in her anger”), but it’s hard to understand why. Surely Rupert Murdoch’s network, with its saturation coverage of the war on terror, did more to elevate bin Laden’s profile than any other news outlet.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ ... story.html
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Why we mistrust the media
...Example 2: Osama versus Obama. A few days ago, David Ignatius of the Washington Post informed us that documents recovered from the Bin Laden compound outlined a plot to kill Barack Obama.
The plot to target Obama was probably bluster, since al-Qaeda apparently lacked the weapons to shoot down U.S. aircraft.
Yeah. About that.
The U.S. sold Stinger missiles to the Afghan resistance during the war with the Soviets -- a very dubious decision, even though those missiles turned the tide of the war. When the U.S. went into Afghanistan after 9/11, everyone expected to see Stingers in the skies.
Instead...nothin'. Lots of other problems, yes. But no Stingers.
We then saw a flurry of news stories which alleged that the 2000 Stingers had either been recaptured by the CIA or had been shipped off to places like North Korea. Neither claim is terribly convincing. Why on earth would the Taliban give such prizes away? (I can see them selling some Stingers, but not the entire stock.) In 2005, this little-noticed piece revealed that a number of the Stingers had never, in fact, left Afghanistan, and that the Americans were trying to buy them back.
In late 2001, Pentagon officials acknowledged that some of the 2,000 missiles sent to Afghan fighters during the 1980s might have fallen into the hands of Taliban or Al-Qaeda fighters.
No U.S. aircraft has been downed by a Stinger missile in Afghanistan. But pilots of low-flying U.S. aircraft have reported seeing surface-to-air missiles fired at them -- particular near the southern city of Kandahar. It remains unclear whether those were Stinger missiles or Soviet-built SAM-7 missiles.
So how does David Ignatius know that Al Qaeda has no ability to bring down aircraft?
Then again: How do we know that these recovered documents are real?
We have some reason to mistrust Ignatius. The WP has been the home for a number of spooked-up journalists over the years -- the most famous suspected example being Bob Woodward. (Woodward has always denied the charge.) The Soviets openly accused Chris Wren -- who used to cover Russia for the Post -- of being CIA. (A boyhood friend of Wren's once told me that there was indeed a recruitment approach.)
Is Ignatius a member of Club Spooky? Well, take a look at this passage from his Wikipedia page...
Ignatius's coverage of the CIA has been criticized as being defensive and overly positive. Melvin Goodman, a 42-year CIA veteran, Johns Hopkins professor, and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy has called Ignatius "the mainstream media’s apologist for the Central Intelligence Agency," citing as examples Ignatius's criticism of the Obama administration for investigating the CIA's role in the use of torture in interrogations during the Iraq War, and his charitable defense of the agency's motivations for outsourcing such activities to private contractors. Columnist Glenn Greenwald has levied similar criticism against Ignatius and has dubbed him "the CIA's spokesman at The Washington Post".
Ignatius’s novels have also been praised for their realism; his first novel, Agents of Innocence, was at one point described by the CIA on its website as "a novel but not fiction."
I think we get the picture. Goodman's piece on Ignatius is particularly revealing.
Example 3: Yet more JFK disinfo. A CIA guy named Brian Latell spews yet more Castro-diddit nonsense.
Latell writes that Oswald, a belligerent Castro supporter, grew frustrated when officials at the Cuban embassy in Mexico City refused to give him a visa to travel to the island, and promised to shoot Kennedy to prove his revolutionary credentials.
“Fidel knew of Oswald’s intentions — and did nothing to deter the act,” the book declares.
Even so, Latell maintains his work is sober and even reserved. “Everything I write is backed up by documents and on-the-record sources,” he told The Miami Herald.
For the truth about Oswald's trip to Mexico, see the expanded paperback edition of John Newman's Oswald and the CIA. For a summary of Newman's conclusions, go here. Yes, of course Cuban intelligence knew something was up...
They'd be pretty god damn stupid not to know about it. Oswald's in their embassy making the threat.
In reality, the CIA knew about it, the FBI knew about it, the Office of Naval Intelligence knew about it, the State Department knew about it, the Mexicans knew about it, the Cubans knew about it, and the Soviets knew about it. The point of Oswald, or an impostor, or both, making a threat to JFK's life was to get that piece of info into U.S. intelligence agency files as a dormant virus that would lie low, not ring any alarm bells, and once the assassination occurs use it as blackmail against those U.S. agencies...
Only someone very high up with the right kind of knowledge of how intelligence agencies work could conceive and carry out such a plan. And John Newman points his finger at the CIA's chief of counterintelligence James Jesus Angleton.
If that seems hard to swallow -- well, read Newman's book. His documentation is solid.
There's a lot more JFK disinfo in the pipeline. Bill O'Reilly -- who, in the pre-Fox days, actually did a piece of decent reportage on the case (believe it or not!) -- is coming out with a book called "Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot." (The book was written "with" Martin Dugard. That's "with," not "by." Honest. Would you be willing to call Bill O'Reilly a liar?) I don't know what O'Reilly's take on the case will be, but I'll be very surprised if his book is anything other than right-wing garbage.
http://cannonfire.blogspot.com/2012/03/ ... media.html
John Simkin, on 21 February 2012 - 05:50 AM, said:Tom Fairlie wrote:Just read Deborah Davis's book Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and The Washington Post.
A great book. I tried to get her to participate on the forum but unfortunately, the writing of this book has frightened her off talking about the CIA.
http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index ... 741&st=180
An interview with Deborah Davis
Deborah Davis wrote:Posted 21 June 2006 - 01:40 PM
Deborah Davis is a journalist who has published articles in the New York Times, Village Voice and Ramparts. In 1979 Davis published a book about Katharine Graham (Katharine the Great). The book also looked at the connections between Philip Graham and the Central Intelligence Agency. According to Davis the owner of the Washington Post was a key figure in Operation Mockingbird, a CIA program to influence the American media. According to Davis, Cord Meyer was Mockingbird's "principal operative".
When the book was originally published in 1979 Katharine Graham persuaded the publishers William Jovanovich, to recall and pulp 20,000 copies of the book. Davis filed a breach-of- contract and damage-to-reputation suit against Jovanovich, who settled out of court with her in 1983.
http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index ... topic=7185
Watergate's Lessons for the New media Age
Posted: 04/ 9/2012 5:42 pm
The shadow of Watergate falls only lightly across the U.S. political landscape. Instead, the epic scandal is discernible mainly in the absence of the evils that engendered it. Even during the panicky post-9/11 era, when the temptation to ignore the law at times overwhelmed good judgment, never were even the most zealous of Bush-Cheney toadies accused of using the machinery of state to punish partisan adversaries.
No, that was a uniquely Nixonian response to political challenge: shadowy operatives with national security credentials tapped phones of columnists; dissidents were burgled and bullied; critics had their taxes audited; black bag operations were authorized at cabinet level and above.
That was Watergate, and since it cost Richard Nixon his presidency, it seems now to have been banished from the political sphere, an absence that is rarely noticed. So Watergate's traces on the political culture are, I think, faint.
But for journalists it's quite a different matter: For them, Watergate remains the defining event of the past half-century. It was a towering moment of heroism, an episode of legendary stature in which journalism's foundational purposes were triumphantly validated and a drift toward despotism was stopped, all thanks to a single-minded dedication to the craft of determined reporting.
And it has been a powerful inspiration for the two generations of journalists that came since. "We're all the sons and daughters of Watergate," as Jeff Leen, investigations editor of the Washington Post, told a gathering at the American Society of News Editors annual conference in Washington last week.
Leen's comment came during a remarkable panel marking the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, when burglars hired by the Nixon re-election campaign were busted while trying to plant listening devices at Democratic Party headquarters. (The anniversary isn't until June, but nobody seemed to care.)
The ASNE panel included both reporting stars of the Post's historic investigation, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. No less important, in the front row of the audience were their then-editor, Ben Bradlee, now 90, and Donald Graham, CEO of the Post organization, whose late mother Katharine, then publisher, stood firm before the fierce counterattack of the Nixon cabal.
The panel's ostensible topic was how the media would handle that affair today, in a radically different informational world. Now, with cascading opportunities for news to come to light and for informants to go public at dizzying speed, and with a burgeoning corps of amateur and semi-pro sleuths and commentators, wouldn't the secrets of the vast conspiracy have surfaced months sooner, with no need for two reporters to place calls, ring doorbells and trudge along with notebooks and questions?
Surely nowadays an election-season break-in at opposition headquarters would trigger an informational avalanche, and the mystery would unravel in days, rather than the nearly two years of courthouse and congressional hearings that it took to eviscerate Nixon's administration and force him out.
But the panel was skeptical, and it was hard not to wonder whether, paradoxically, exposing a conspiracy of that scope might actually be harder now. For one thing, Bernstein suggested, he and Woodward were writing for an audience that was interested in facts. Today's readers are looking more single-mindedly to confirm what they believe. "I'm not sure the story could withstand that cultural reception," he said. "It'd get ground up."
For another, he and Woodward both spoke reverently about the steadfastness of the institution that sheltered them. Watergate, Bernstein said, "was about a newspaper." Faced with the possibility they might be compelled to turn over their records, Woodward recalled, Katharine Graham responded, "They're not their notes, they're my notes."
That kind of resoluteness is in short supply in an era when newsroom staffs have shrunk and public mission is a line item on a quarterly marketing plan.
And there's yet another reason to wonder how readily Watergate would be exposed today. That's the capacity of authorities to identify and move against sources. The warm reception President Obama received from the editors conference a few hours before the Watergate panel was ironic in view of the unprecedented six Espionage Act prosecutions his Justice Department has mounted against people who leaked information to the press -- information that while institutionally embarrassing, was miles from constituting any detectable security threat.
Nowadays, those sources are being ferreted out and shut down with 21st century techniques of surveillance and digital information retrieval. It's good that Nixon's henchmen didn't have those tools to roll up the network of sources so patiently cultivated by Woodward and Bernstein.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/edward-wa ... ?ref=media
Deep Throat: Shallow story hides deeper history
By Larry Chin
Online Journal Associate Editor
http://www.onlinejournal.com/Commentary ... 5chin.html
June 3, 2005—The "Mark Felt is Deep Throat" story is not much of a revelation, despite the ridiculous and off-target tempest in the national teapot that has ensued. Felt has been at the top of the short list for a long time, suspected by many historians.
What's not being discussed amidst the ridiculous Republican-Democrat arguments, and raging battles between new Felt cult worshippers ("he's a hero!") and Felt attackers ("he's a traitor!") are the darker historical realities that remain dangerously misunderstood.
Who was Mark Felt? Felt may have leaked on Nixon, but was he at all heroic over the course of the rest of his career?
Described as the FBI's "Fair Haired Boy," he was a J. Edgar Hoover right hand man, immensely loyal to Hoover, and was involved in all of the FBI's dirtiest COINTELPRO operations. In other words, Felt was a lieutenant to one of the great political criminals in modern history. Curt Gentry's J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and His Secrets is one book that exhaustively documents that history.
Two days after Hoover's death, Felt personally took control of the notorious Official/Confidential file (the one used by Hoover to blackmail and control his political enemies, and secure supreme status for himself), after which the file was spirited around the FBI, excised, hidden or destroyed. Needless to say, Felt did not go running to Bob Woodward or any other reporter with information that could have saved American democracy.
After Felt and fellow FBI agent Edward Miller were eventually convicted for FBI COINTELPRO break-ins, outgoing President Ronald Reagan pardoned them. (A Hoover loyalist, and pardoned by Reagan. Think about that.)
Watergate was not, as the stereotypical myth and breathless legends go, a great moment for democracy in which a corrupt president was brought down, and a great "investigation" reformed Washington. It was an inside coup d'état, and a limited hangout, that saved Nixon and his cabal from true exposure and jail time, and helped preserve—not reform—the system that made his crimes possible. Felt must be judged against this context.
Watergate gave the naïve public a false sense of security—the fallacy that "they" (Washington) were "cleaning up"—and ushered in a new era of corruption. Gerald Ford, J. Edgar Hoover's right hand man on the Warren Commission, became president. Ford pardoned Nixon, and selected Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president. The CIA learned how to do a better job covering up their activities and controlling information. America's corporate media, long infiltrated and controlled by government operatives, would be increasingly corrupted and corporatized, and made into the voices of the White House. The Washington Post, never a paragon of investigative reporting, became even worse with time. Bob Woodward became a buddy stenographer for the Bush presidents, and the author of stomach-turning George W. Bush 9/11 myths.
Peter Dale Scott in Deep Politics and the Death of JFK concisely summarized it:
"But the in-house coalition of conservatives who opposed the Nixon-Kissinger moves toward detente in 1972 was similar to the one which opposed the Kennedy-Harriman detente initiatives in 1963. It still includes James Angleton in the CIA, who in the 1960s had suspected Harriman of being a Soviet spy, and who in the 1970s "reportedly 'objectively' believed Kissinger to be a Soviet spy." Nixon, like Kennedy was having trouble with his Joint Chiefs of Staff, one of whom, Admiral Zumwalt, resigned over his differences with Kissinger. Those who believe that Nixon's betrayer 'Deep Throat' was a real official, and not a composite, advanced well-argued reasons that he must have been a senior FBI official, probably Mark Felt, John Mohr, or L. Patrick Gray.
"In all four cases, one sees the recurrence of CIA and other intelligence officials and assets, repeatedly those with more militant anti-Communist stances than the Presidents they have worked under. Another common denominator for such individuals had been an exposure to narcotics trafficking, from the China Lobby of the 1950s to the Contra support networks of the 1980s."
Felt was no more a saint than Bob Woodward is an epitome of heroic muckraking. In both cases, they are insiders with connections who have not always acted in the best interests of democracy, but who now have shining reputations built entirely on one (let's call it "interesting") episode.
Exemplified by successful and continuous Bush administration crimes and cover-up, Watergate was a valuable lesson to government criminals. The American public, meanwhile, has learned nothing.
http://www.apfn.net/messageboard/06-07- ... gi.54.html
Biography of Editor Keeps Watergate Twists Coming
By JULIE BOSMAN
Published: May 1, 2012
The New York Times
It might say something about the state of politics that the biggest story in Washington on Monday happened 40 years ago. And it involves a potted plant.
In a new authorized biography of the journalism legend Ben Bradlee, “Yours in Truth,” by Jeff Himmelman, Mr. Bradlee is quoted expressing some anxiety over some of the most provocative and enduring details of “All the President’s Men,” the famous unfurling of the Watergate scandal by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
While Mr. Himmelman uses material from Mr. Bradlee’s old memos, letters, interviews and photos to write a “personal portrait” of the former Washington Post editor, the source of the Watergate conversation was an unpublished interview conducted in 1990 by Barbara Feinman, who was working with Mr. Bradlee on his memoir.
At one point, Mr. Bradlee told Ms. Feinman, “You know I have a little problem with Deep Throat.”
“Did that potted [plant] incident ever happen? ... And meeting in some garage,” Mr. Bradlee said, according to Mr. Himmelman’s book. “One meeting in the garage? Fifty meetings in the garage? I don’t know how many meetings in the garage. ... There’s a residual fear in my soul that that isn’t quite straight.”
In an interview Monday, a day after New York magazine published an excerpt from the book, Mr. Woodward described Mr. Bradlee’s comments as outdated, long before the identity of Deep Throat, Mr. Woodward’s anonymous source, was revealed.
“I can understand in 1990, when Ben doesn’t know all the details, he’s kind of musing and saying, ‘Gee, I’m not sure this is all straight because it seems so incredible,’ ” he said. “But all of Watergate was incredible.”
He added, “This is a classic case of manufactured controversy, as best I can tell.”
Mr. Himmelman, through his publisher, declined to be interviewed.
The cinematic details of the secret meetings between Mr. Woodward and Deep Throat in a parking garage, including the use of the potted plant on Mr. Woodward’s terrace as a signal, helped turn “All the President’s Men” into a journalistic classic and an Oscar-nominated movie. Mr. Himmelman’s account has what could be called a twist out of another film, “All About Eve”: he once worked as a research assistant to Mr. Woodward, who hired him when he was 24.
Mr. Woodward kept the identity of Deep Throat a secret for more than three decades until W. Mark Felt, a longtime official with the F.B.I., unmasked himself in 2005.
Many of the details that Mr. Bradlee expressed his concern about would be known only to Mr. Woodward and to Mr. Felt, who died in 2008. The potted plant is mentioned in Mr. Felt’s book, “A G-Man’s Life: The FBI, Being ‘Deep Throat,’ and the Struggle for Honor in Washington,” but his co-author, John O’Connor, told Politico that he had never confirmed that detail.
Mr. Woodward’s books are known for their ability to rattle Washington with shadowy revelations about people in power, and he was once criticized for saying William J. Casey, a former director of the C.I.A., had given him a deathbed confession that he had known about money funneled to the contra rebels in Nicaragua.
Perhaps trying to calm the latest Watergate storm, Mr. Bradlee released a statement on Monday to Politico through his wife, Sally Quinn, in support of Mr. Woodward. “No editor, no reader, can hope for more than Bob Woodward’s byline on a story that really matters,” Mr. Bradlee said in the statement. “I always trusted him, and I always will.”
Ms. Quinn added that there was “nothing specific” that Mr. Bradlee had doubts about.
A version of this article appeared in print on May 1, 2012, on page A16 of the New York edition with the headline: Biography of Editor Keeps the Watergate Twists Coming.
http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index ... opic=19057
Saturday, May 5, 2012 1:00 PM UTC
Watergate’s final mystery
Underneath the media's obsession with the scandal lies the neglected story of the CIA's role
By Jefferson Morley
Journalists are obsessing over Watergate again. Debate exploded this week over a new biography of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, excerpted in New York magazine. It suggests the legendary editor privately doubted aspects of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s reporting that helped bring about the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.
The story prompted a strong denial from Woodward, a demurral from Bradlee, an online chat at Poynter and a Daily Beast story by independent scholar Max Holland, who argues Woodward and Bernstein’s book about the scandal, “All the President’s Men,” is “a fairly tale, albeit a compelling one.” After hyping the story for a couple of days, Politico then dismissed it as “a storm in a Washington teacup.”
Not quite. As Reuters columnist and Watergate buff Jack Shafer points out, “Watergate is the Ur-journalism story.” It is a true tale that defines the profession’s imagination and its relation to Washington power. But this latest round at the Watergate cooler has been stronger on the Ur- than the journalism, focusing more on the implications of Woodward and Bradlee’s thinking than on the abuses of power that they sought to uncover.
That’s too bad. If Watergate still matters, it is because the story tells us something about the intersection of power and journalism in Washington. The ur-personalities of these veteran newsmen are important but so are new facts, and recent revelations illuminate one aspect of the story that is often overlooked: the role of the CIA.
Woodward acknowledged as much in what is perhaps the single most interesting Watergate revelation of recent years. In June 2007, the CIA released most of the so-called “Family Jewels,” a long-suppressed internal report on the agency’s abuses of power. The newly declassified documents, Woodward wrote in the Post, showed in “telling detail” how the CIA, under the leadership of director Richard Helms, served as “the perfect Watergate enabler.”
The Helms/Nixon relationship lies at the heart of the Watergate story. Nixon, of course, was a paranoid genius, a master of resentment politics at home and geopolitical maneuvering abroad. Helms, his long-serving director of Central Intelligence, was the epitome of a CIA man in the Cold War: correct, discreet and ruthless.
The CIA’s involvement in Watergate, Woodward noted, “is one of the murkiest parts of the story.” He and Bernstein didn’t write about it much in “All the President’s Men,” not because they didn’t have suspicions but because they could not pin the story down. Howard Baker, vice chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee, likened the Agency’s role to “animals crashing around in the forest — you can hear them but you can’t see them.” And Helms’ role was especially elusive. Said Baker: “Nixon and Helms had so much on each other that neither one of them could breathe.”
Thanks to the release of the “Family Jewels” report and an extraordinary collection of 11 conversations between Helms and Nixon in 1971-73 (first published online in 2009) we can see (and hear) what Nixon and Helms had on each other: knowledge of the other guy’s record of ”dirty tricks.”
Plenty of people suspected this at the time. The Agency’s fingerprints were evident in the botched burglary at the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate apartment complex. It was well known that five of the seven burglars had worked for the CIA. Four were Cuban-Americans from Miami involved in the Bay of Pigs operation. It was less well-known that the two ringleaders, James McCord and Howard Hunt, were career officers who had been personally close to Helms for more than a decade.
In his 2007 Post story, Woodward revealed that McCord had written the CIA director after his arrest in June 1972, seeking assistance. Another senior Agency official told Helms that he “felt strongly” that the letter should be turned over to the FBI, which was supposedly conducting a rigorous investigation of Watergate.
“It was a critical moment in the Watergate probe,” Woodward wrote, “with Nixon seeking reelection that fall and desperate to keep the botched burglary from spoiling his chances.” He went to write:
McCord’s letter to the CIA could have been important evidence; according to later testimony, he was seeking assistance from the CIA, where he had worked for decades, and was on the verge of blowing the whistle about Watergate, as he did months later in a famous March 21, 1973, letter to Judge John J. Sirica.
Instead, Helms told the FBI nothing. Investigators never learned the story and Woodward and Bernstein could never shake Helms’ dubious denials of any connection to the burglars, whom the Agency blandly portrayed as “retired” employees acting on their own.
In hindsight, Woodward wrote that Helms “was anything but forthcoming.”
“The CIA had no involvement in the break-in. No involvement whatever,” Helms testified to the Senate Watergate committee on Aug. 2, 1973. “The agency had nothing to do with the Watergate break-in,” he added. “And I hope all the newsmen in the room hear me clearly now.”
You get the feeling Woodward felt Helms was personally lecturing him. (I left a message for Woodward requesting comment; he did not respond.)
The question, Woodward wrote in 2007, was, “What could have Helms known?”
One possibility, he said, was that he knew Howard Hunt was carrying out burglaries for the president. Another document made public in 2007 showed that Hunt had sent a memo to the CIA two months before the Watergate burglary seeking to hire a former CIA employee “accomplished at picking locks.” Helms, Woodward suggested, might have gotten wind of what Hunt was doing.
The question of what Helms knew about Watergate still matters because, amazingly enough, after 40 years later, we still don’t know who ordered the burglary or why. As Shafer told the Poynter discussion, “I’ve read all the books, listened to all the lectures, and even eaten dinner in the Watergate and I don’t know why Nixon’s people broke into the DNC twice and bugged it.”
What is certain is that Helms knew Hunt was working for the White House as early as April 1971. In response to Nixon’s pestering, Helms had offered the president two CIA reports on the failed Bay of Pigs operation in 1961 and a report about the assassination of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963. Nixon was looking for facts that would impugn the reputation of President John F. Kennedy and thus harm the presidential ambitions of the martyred president’s younger brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy who was expected to run for president in 1972.
“Obviously, I’m going to hand this stuff over to the President,” Helms told Nixon aide John Ehrlichman, “but I’d be terribly glad if you would get his backing not to share it with a lot of the staff of there. For example, I know that Howard Hunt has been doing some work. There’s nothing he’d like better than, as an old Agency hand to run around in some of the soiled linen there is around here, in the garbage cans and so forth.”
Here you can almost hear the clench-jawed East Coast mandarin that Helms was — “terribly glad” and “soiled linen” and all that — doing his damnedest to suck up to the president. The Nixon-Helms collaboration deepened in October 1971 when Nixon summoned the CIA director to the White House. Before the meeting, Ehrlichman briefed Nixon why Helms’ was visiting: He had “dirty line” to share. He said the CIA director had told him
that his relationship with past presidents had been such that he would not feel comfortable about releasing some of this very, very dirty linen to anyone without first talking it through with you because he was sure that when you became a former president you would want to feel that whoever was at the Agency was protecting your interest in a similar fashion.
Ehrlichman also reminded Nixon of Helms’ concerns about Howard Hunt, the White House “consultant.”
“Helms is scared to death of this guy Hunt that we got working for us because he knows where a lot of the bodies are buried,” he said.
When Helms arrived in the Oval Office, Nixon wasted no time in assuring him that he would keep the secrets of the CIA, which he called without irony, the “Dirty Tricks Department.” Nixon said:
“I know what happened in Iran [CIA-sponsored coup in 1953] and I also know what happened in Guatemala [CIA-sponsored coup in 1954] and I totally approve of both. I also know what happened at the Bay of Pigs [the failed invasion to overthrow socialist Fidel Castro in 1961], which was planned under Eisenhower. I totally approved of it. The problem was not the CIA. …
Nixon wanted it to be known that he could be trusted to defend the agency.
My interest there is solely to know the facts in the event that as time goes on here, things heat up, and this becomes an issue. That is what I want you to understand regarding any information.I need it for a defensive reason … “
Then, in his abrupt, awkward way, Nixon launched into a soliloquy about what political controversies the documents might shed light on:
Who shot John? Is Eisenhower to blame? Is Johnson to blame? Is Kennedy to blame? Is Nixon to blame?
In the context of a negotiation over sensitive government records from the early 1960s, Nixon’s aside — “Who shot John?” — could only have been a reference to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963. But if Nixon was implying that the CIA might have something to hide on the question of who ambushed the liberal president in Dealey Plaza, he was also assuring Helms he would keep the Agency’s secrets.
“I need to know what is necessary to protect frankly, the intelligence gathering and the Dirty Tricks Department and I will protect it,” Nixon said. “I have done more than my share of protection, and I think it’s totally right to do it.
Helms sensed his opportunity and spoke for the first time. He had an offering.
“Sir, as a matter of fact the reason that I want to speak …” he began. Helms said he had found a previously unknown document about the assassination of Diem in South Vietnam in 1963.
“When I saw this document I thought to myself, ‘This is the kind of document that I would be rather irresponsible if I didn’t go to the president and tell him what this document was,’” Helms explained. “I’ve got it right here. It’s got extracts from State Department cables, Defense Department cables …”
Helms passed the documents to Nixon. Nixon didn’t get anything with “who shot John” but he get a lot of who shot Diem (rival generals) and he might be able to use that against the hated Teddy Kennedy. The meeting ending on a satisfactory note for both men.
Nixon then passed the Diem cables to aide Chuck Colson (whose recent death was another blast from the Watergate past) who gave them to none other than Howard Hunt. A veteran undercover officer and dirty tricks specialist who loathed President Kennedy, Hunt doctored the cables to create the impression that JFK was complicit in the assassination of Diem, a pro-American despot. The forged documents were then shown to a Life magazine writer in the hopes of creating problems for Ted Kennedy’s expected presidential candidacy. Life magazine turned down the story, perhaps because the animus behind the story was so transparent. Hunt moved on to other missions for the White House. The story of the doctored Diem cables was later uncovered by Watergate investigators but Helms’ supporting role remained obscure.
Helms and Nixon had forged an effective partnership. They spoke at least five more times in the coming months. On June 16, 1972, Nixon called him to tell about certain secret CIA operations involving Mexican President Luis Echeverria, the details of which are still secret. So when Hunt and other former CIA men were arrested at the Watergate the next day, Nixon simply assumed the CIA director would help him stonewall the investigation.
“We’ve protected Helms from a hell of a lot of things,” Nixon told his chief of staff H.R. Haldeman on June 23, 1972. He wanted to remind Helms that the investigation might lead to Cuba-related revelations that would harm the CIA.
“You open that scab and there’s a hell of a lot of things,” Nixon went on, “and we just feel that it would be very detrimental to have things go any further. This involves these Cubans, Hunt and a lot of hanky-panky that we have nothing to do with ourselves.”
Nixon could be sure Helms would know what he was talking about. He had been seeking sensitive CIA reports about the Bay of Pigs operations for more than a year; Hunt was a leading figure in that operation. In his 1979 memoir, Haldeman speculated that Nixon was tacitly reminding Helms of two extraordinarily sensitive issues: the CIA’s plots to kill Fidel Castro and the assassination of JFK. The Oct. 8, 1971, tape lends credence to the notion. If Nixon had offered to protect the Agency’s interests on “who shot John” then surely Helms would cooperate with the White House in smoothing over what his press secretary described as a “third rate burglary.”
Nixon assumed wrong. “This has nothing to do with the Bay of Pigs,” the normally calm Helms shouted at Haldeman, who was surprised as his rage. Helms was a canny bureaucratic operator who was sensitive about Cuba and assassinations. He knew he could not block the FBI’s investigation without risk to his own position and he saw no reason why he should. Hunt was a useful scoundrel whose screw-ups were legendary but whose loyalty to the Agency was assured. Publicly and privately, Helms maintained the fiction that the Agency knew nothing of Hunt’s proclivities — and he kept very quiet about his own back channel to McCord. As Nixon and his aides scrambled to cover up the White House’s “dirty tricks,” the FBI — and the young reporters at the Washington Post — began to unravel the story, albeit without much insight into Helms’ role as enabler.
The secrets that Nixon and Helms shared exerted invisible gravitational force on the unfolding scandal. From his jail cell, Hunt let it be known that he would talk about his knowledge of “highly illegal conspiracies” at the CIA unless he was paid off. To underscore his point, he then published a memoir of the Bay of Pigs operation, “Give Us This Day,” which opened with a denunciation of President Kennedy for his “shameful” failure to support the Agency’s anti-Castro rebels. His point was blunt and subtly ominous: if JFK had backed the CIA venture, he might not have been killed by an allegedly pro-Castro gunman in Dallas. Hunt was not one to get sentimental about the playboy president’s bloody end in Dallas. Like others in the CIA, he thought JFK was a contemptible weakling who had it coming. The “whole Bay of Pigs thing” was fraught indeed.
Amid such black intrigue, the spymaster proved more agile than the president. Helms avoided talking about what he knew of Hunt’s service to the White House while Nixon succumbed to the burglar’s blackmail, ordering aides to raise money to pay off Hunt for his silence. The CIA man cultivated Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham as a social friend. Nixon enmeshed himself further in the scandal.
Nixon and Helms parted ways in December 1972. Nixon forced the CIA director to resign; Helms extracted an ambassadorship so that his exit from Washington would not be tainted with Watergate or presidential disfavor. Besieged by investigators and the press, Nixon resigned 20 months later. Helms had to plead guilty to charges of lying to Congress about a CIA assassination conspiracy in Chile. But admiring colleagues rallied to his defense and, he was never held accountable for the Agency’s deeply suspicious role in the intelligence failure that culminated in the crime of Dallas. Thanks to the forgiving culture of Washington, both men outlasted their notoriety in the 1970s and lived out their lives as controversial but ultimately respectable statesmen.
The Shakespearean struggle of Richard Nixon and Dick Helms is central to the Watergate story. It speaks a volume about the covert workings of power in Washington and is still shrouded in official secrecy 40 years later. (For example, the JFK Assassination Records Collection at the National Archives contains 366 pages of CIA documents on Howard Hunt that have never been made public.) But the unfinished story of the CIA and Watergate fits awkwardly in the annals of the scandal. Its implications eluded the best journalists of a generation and its legacy is not reassuring to readers.
Read: “The Keeper of Secrets Earns His Reputation,” by Bob Woodward, Washington Post, June 27, 2007.
Listen: “Who shot John?” Richard Nixon and Dick Helms’ discuss CIA dirty tricks on Oct. 8, 1971; read a summary here. Courtesy of Nixontapes.org.)
http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index ... opic=19069
March 9, 2013
Special Report: New evidence continues to accumulate showing how Official Washington got key elements of the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals wrong, especially how these two crimes of state originated in treacherous actions to secure the powers of the presidency, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
A favorite saying of Official Washington is that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” But that presupposes you accurately understand what the crime was. And, in the case of the two major U.S. government scandals of the last third of the Twentieth Century – Watergate and Iran-Contra – that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Indeed, newly disclosed documents have put old evidence into a sharply different light and suggest that history has substantially miswritten the two scandals by failing to understand that they actually were sequels to earlier scandals that were far worse. Watergate and Iran-Contra were, in part at least, extensions of the original crimes, which involved dirty dealings to secure the immense power of the presidency.
In the case of Watergate – the foiled Republican break-in at the Democratic National Committee in June 1972 and Richard Nixon’s botched cover-up leading to his resignation in August 1974 – the evidence is now clear that Nixon created the Watergate burglars out of his panic that the Democrats might possess a file on his sabotage of Vietnam peace talks in 1968.
Shortly after Nixon took office in 1969, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover informed him of the existence of the file containing national security wiretaps documenting how Nixon’s emissaries had gone behind President Lyndon Johnson’s back to convince the South Vietnamese government to boycott the Paris Peace Talks, which were close to ending the Vietnam War in fall 1968.
The disruption of Johnson’s peace talks then enabled Nixon to hang on for a narrow victory over Democrat Hubert Humphrey. However, as the new President was taking steps in 1969 to extend the war another four-plus years, he sensed the threat from the wiretap file and ordered two of his top aides, chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, to locate it. But they couldn’t find the file.
We now know that was because President Johnson, who privately had called Nixon’s Vietnam actions “treason,” had ordered the file removed from the White House by his national security aide Walt Rostow.
Rostow labeled the file “The ‘X’ Envelope” and kept it in his possession, although having left government, he had no legal right to hold onto the highly classified documents, many of which were stamped “Top Secret.” Johnson had instructed Rostow to retain the papers as long as he, Johnson, was alive and then afterwards to decide what to do with them.
Nixon, however, had no idea that Johnson and Rostow had taken the missing file or, indeed, who might possess it. Normally, national security documents are passed from the outgoing President to the incoming President to maintain continuity in government.
But Haldeman and Kissinger had come up empty in their search. They were only able to recreate the file’s contents, which included incriminating conversations between Nixon’s emissaries and South Vietnamese officials regarding Nixon’s promise to get them a better deal if they helped him torpedo Johnson’s peace talks.
So, the missing file remained a troubling mystery inside Nixon’s White House, but Nixon still lived up to his pre-election agreement with South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu to extend U.S. military participation in the war with the goal of getting the South Vietnamese a better outcome than they would have received from Johnson in 1968.
Nixon not only continued the Vietnam War, which had already claimed more than 30,000 American lives and an estimated one million Vietnamese, but he expanded it, with intensified bombing campaigns and a U.S. incursion into Cambodia. At home, the war was bitterly dividing the nation with a massive anti-war movement and an angry backlash from war supporters...
http://consortiumnews.com/2013/03/09/re ... an-contra/
@froomkin: Theme emerging here that Watergate was, in retrospect, a triumph of oversight more than it was an ethical disaster. #watergate40
@Slate: Bob Woodward's troubling secret as revealed by his 1984 biography of John Belushi: http://slate.me/Yp1EqJ #correx
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