Welcome to the second part of my ongoing examination of the CIA's mysterious Office of Security (OS). The OS is one of the most overlooked components of the CIA despite having appeared in a host of the Agency's biggest scandals, most notably the Operation CHAOS, the Watergate break-in and the behavioral modifications experiments conducted under the heading of Bluebird and Artichoke. Part of this omission is likely due to the rather contemptuous attitude the more "refined" elements of the CIA had towards the OS. In The Money and the Power, Sally Denton and Roger Morris nicely sum up the broader CIA attitude to the OS: "... the 'glorified Pinkerton service' that was the CIA's Office of Security... Fired or planted by Hoover – murky record suggest either – they were in any case disdained by their Ivy League bettors at the agency. 'You can see their lips move when they read,' a CIA man from Yale noted" (pg. 208).
Unlike the far more storied Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) and its successor, the Directorate of Plans/Operations, OS personnel had spent World War II in intelligence agencies other than the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and did not have the ties to Wall Street and the Ivy Leagues that the OPC-OSS network did. As was noted above, much of the OS had cut their teeth in either the FBI and/or military intelligence in the years leading up to the creation of the CIA. It probably goes without saying, but the OS crowd came from far more humble backgrounds than many of their OPC-OSS counterparts.
This divide was addressed in much further depth in the previous installment. Also noted there were the political leanings of the OS, which tended to be much further to the right than the "Old Boys" (a label often applied to Ivy League-connected OSS veterans and their successors). Indeed, at least one notorious OS member (Watergate Plumber James McCord) was known to rail against conspiracies involving Henry Kissinger, the Rockefellers and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) that was not out of line with the ideology promoted by the John Birch Society and, later, Alex Jones. McCord's long time boss, Paul Gaynor, was a veteran Red hunter who saw Communist conspiracies everywhere and had close ties to the notorious American Security Council (ASC, a far right defense lobby group and private intelligence network that has been considered at length on this blog before here).
With this installment and the following one I would like to consider the OS' involvement in the Watergate scandal. In many ways, Watergate constitutes the end of the OS' story for it seems that the powers of this department were seriously curtailed in the wake of the Senate investigation probing the break-in. For our purposes here, though, I think addressing it early will help put some of the material that will be presented later on, especially concerning Project Artichoke, in perspective.
I should note, however, that this is in no way, shape or form meant be a conclusive examination of Watergate. Like the Kennedy assassination, Watergate is a Byzantine labyrinth with numerous interrelated events and interests. For our purposes here, I am primarily concerned with the second Watergate burglary (the one that ended in the arrest of the participants) that unfolded on June 17th and how it related to operations and agendas of the OS. This installment is also written with the assumption that the reader at least has a passing familiarity with the mainstream account of Watergate. For those of you unfamiliar with this narrative, it is strongly advised that you consult Wikipedia or some other source before beginning this installment.
With that said, let us start with the most obvious connection the OS had to Watergate: James McCord himself. McCord had spent the bulk of his CIA career in the OS:
"... A former FBI agent, he joined the CIA in 1951 after handling counterespionage assignments from the bureau. His first task with the agency was in a 'rearguard' capacity, identifying CIA employees whose left-wing pasts might prove embarrassing should Senator Joseph McCarthy learn of them. As a part of that assignment, McCord came into daily contact with the inner circle of Cold War Red hunters, including two men who would play crucial roles in the Watergate affair: HUAC's Lou Russell and the American Legion's Lee R. Pennington.
"For most of the 1950s and early 1960s McCord was attached to the Security Research Staff (SRS), a component of the Office of Security, whose mission was to combat Soviet attempts to penetrate the CIA. Becoming deputy chief of the SRS in about 1960-61, McCord played a disputed (and apparently ancillary) role in the Bay of Pigs invasion. Shortly afterward, he was placed under cover as a civilian employee of the Department of the Army and issued an official passport for an overseas assignment that was to last two years. Already a GS-15 (as he would be at his retirement nine years later), McCord left the United States in October 1961 to take undercover command as the CIA's senior security officer in Europe. Returning to CIA headquarters in late 1963, he became involved with Hunt in an operation code-name 'Second Naval Guerrilla.' In that operation, anti-Castro Cubans, including Bay of Pigs veterans whom Castro had released in return for medical supplies, were trained in guerrilla tactics at bases in the United States, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The plot is believed to have included Hunt's recommendation that Castro be assassinated prior to a military invasion, but the scheme never reached fruition. In the ensuing years, McCord continued his rise through the clandestine ranks of the U.S. national security bureaucracy. In 1969 he distinguished himself by the brilliance of his debriefing of American pilots who had returned from Russia after crash-landing there. By then McCord had reached his highest position within the CIA, becoming director of the technical and physical security sections of the Office of Security. In those jobs, McCord's boss was Howard Osborne (coincidentally, a high school classmate and close friend of E. Howard Hunt)."
(Secret Agenda, Jim Hougan, pgs. 9-10)
McCord's potential involvement in plots to assassinate Castro is also interesting. As we shall see, the Office of Security was active in another plot to assassinate Castro shortly before McCord was detailed to Florida. But for now let us return to Watergate and McCord's total bungling of the break-in:
"At 10:50 p.m. McCord gets things rolling. Under the pretext of delivering a typewriter to the Federal Reserve, he signs in at the Watergate security desk and takes the elevator up to the eighth floor. Then he walks down the stairwell, taping the locks open as he goes – on the sixth floor, where of course the DNC is located, on B-2 and B-3 in the basement, and finally, the underground garage. The burglars will enter the stairwell from the garage.
"After McCord finishes the taping, he stops by Liddy' and Hunt's command post – Liddy has also rented a room in the Watergate for the occasion – and says he'll let them know when the coast is clear. Then McCord returns to the listening post at room 723 in the HoJo.
"Another hour goes by, and someone's still working in the DNC. As it turns out, it's just an intern named Bruce Givner, taking advantage of the office's prepaid long-distance phone line to call friends back home.
"Shortly before midnight, a new Watergate security guard, Frank Wills, checks in for the graveyard shift. When Wills makes his rounds, he discovers the tape on the B-2 and B-3 basement doors. He removes the tape, then calls his supervisor, who tells him to check the other floors, too. If there's tape on any other doors, there might be a burglary in progress. Otherwise, it's probably just something left earlier in the day by a maintenance worker. The supervisor tells Wills to call back and let him know.
"At 12:05 Givner, having finished with his phone calls, turns out the lights in the DNC and take the elevator to the lobby – where, who should he run into but Frank Wills, the security guard. The two of them strike up a conversation, and Wills – obviously figuring that any further door-checking can wait – goes with Givner across the street to get a cheeseburger at the HoJo.
"Everybody, it seems, is going to the HoJo restaurant. About this time, Alfred Baldwin, who's been listening to the phone intercepts for McCord in room 723, heads down for two hot fudge sundaes. When he returns at about 12:45, according to a subsequent FBI interview, McCord is on the phone with the command post, telling them the lights are still one in the DNC.
"Clearly, that's a lie. The lights have been off for about forty minutes now.
"Finally, at about 12:50 p.m., McCord calls the command post again to say the coast is clear and that he'll be right over. It takes about five minutes to walk from the HoJo to the Watergate, so when McCord doesn't show up for about fifteen minutes or so, Liddy asked him why.
"McCord says it's because he stopped by the underground garage to make sure the basement door locks were still taped. Everything's fine, he says. Everyone wishes everyone else good luck and the burglary team departs on its mission.
"Once again, McCord is lying. There is now no tape on the basement doors – Wills having removed it more than an hour ago – and McCord would have known this if he'd stopped by to check.
"When the burglars – Barker, Sturgis, Gonzales, Martinez, and McCord – arrive at the basement door and find the tape gone, McCord has some explaining to do. What he says is it must have been removed in the last ten minutes.
"McCord, Barker and Martinez then head back to the command center to find out what to do next, while Gonzales stays behind to pick the lock. Sturgis stays with Gonzales to stand watch.
"Back at the command post, Liddy confers with Hunt and McCord. Hunt, unsettled to hear about the missing tape, thinks the mission should be aborted. McCord says he wants to get it over with. In his opinion, the tape was probably removed by a repairman. Liddy sides with McCord, and McCord, Barker and Martinez had back to the garage to try again. As they do so, however, Barker and Martinez lose sight of McCord. Somehow he just disappears.
"When Barker and Martinez arrived back at the basement entrance, Gonzales and Sturgis are gone. Gonzalez has already picked the lock and the door has once again been taped open. So Barker and Martinez walk up the stairwell to the sixth floor, where Gonzales and Sturgis are trying to open the door to the DNC. For some reason, Gonzales is having trouble picking the lock.
"When McCord arrives about five minutes later, Martinez asked him if he remembered to remove the tape from the basement door on his way up. Obviously, if the night watchman finds the doors taped again, it'll be a dead give-away. Yes, says McCord, he removed the tape.
"Gonzales is still having trouble with the lock. Finally, he and Sturgis simply take the door off its hinges. Flashlights on, the burglars enter the DNC.
"About this time, security guard Frank Wills remembers he's supposed to check the basement doors again – and of course when he does, he discovers that they've been re-taped. Once again, he calls his supervisor. At 1:47 a.m., Wills calls the police. At 1:52 a.m. the police dispatcher is on the radio, asking for a unit to respond to a possible burglary at the Watergate.
"As luck would have it, there is an unmarked car just a block and a half away. Inside the car, a young undercover cop by the name of Carl Shoffler... grabs the handset. 'We've got it,' he says, and he and the two other undercover officers also in the car hightail it for the Watergate."
(White House Call Girl, Phil Stanford, pgs. 125-126)
Not long after the Watergate burglars would be wearing handcuffs. Clearly, this was in no small part due to McCord's inexplicable behavior. As an almost twenty year CIA veteran who had spent ample time in the FBI prior to joining the Company, it is impossible to believe that McCord could have been so totally inept in directing a break-in. What's more, he clearly told several outright lies to his co-conspirators that further compromised the operation. It seems clear that McCord wanted the break-in to fail.
This notion is further strengthened by the arresting officer: Carl Shoffler. A Washington D.C. vice cop, Shoffer had quite a deep background of his own by the time of the Watergate break-in:
"Adding to the suspicion surrounding Shoffer is the fact that he is no ordinary cop. Prior to joining the police department in Washington, he had served for years at the Vint Hill Farm Station in Virginia. This is one of the NSA's most important domestic 'listening post.' Staffed by personnel assigned to the Army Security Agency (ASA), Vint Hill Farm is thought to be responsible for intercepting communications traffic emanating from Washington's Embassy Row. By itself, this proves nothing, but it is ironic that the police officer responsible for making the most important IOC (Interception of Communications) bust in American history should himself have worked in the same area only a few years earlier.
"Shoffer's work at Vint Hill Farm was mentioned in passing in the staff interviews of the Ervin committee. This occurred as the result of an allegation against Shoffer that was made by his former commanding officer at Vint Hill Farm, Captain Edmund Chung. According to Captain Chung, he had occasion to dine with Shoffer in the aftermath of the Watergate arrest. Chung claimed that Shoffer told him the arrests were the result of a tip-off, that Baldwin and Shoffer had been in contact with each other prior to the last break-in, and that if Shoffer ever made the whole story public, 'his life wouldn't be worth a nickel.'
"Shoffer, however, denied making those statements that Chung attributed to him. According to Shoffer, Chung attempted to 'bribe' him with a $50,000 'loan' on the condition that Shoffer 'confess' to prior knowledge of the break-in. Chung, of course, categorically denied having made such an offer, and the truth of the matter is impossible to ascertain. Questioned by the Senate, Chung did not seem to have any special knowledge of Watergate (other than his recollection of the dinner conversation with Shoffer), and neither did he seem to have any partisan political interest – he was, it appeared, a very ordinary sort of person. On the other hand, it was Shoffer – and not Chung – who first went to the Senate to report the disputed conversation. Shoffer told the Senate that he thought Chung had attempted to bribe him, and suggested that perhaps Chung was a CIA agent. To some, however, this suggestion had the appearance of the pot calling the kettle black. Shoffer himself had assisted the CIA in the past, and was personally acquainted with General Paul Gaynor. In the end, the Senate was unable to reconcile the accounts of Shoffer and Chung, and neither was it able to decide which, if either, of them was lying. The incident was therefore codified and buried as a 'misunderstanding,' though no one could say just how two friends could 'misunderstand' each other so thoroughly."
(Secret Agenda, Jim Hougan, pgs. 320-321)
"... General Gaynor worked closely with the deputy chief of the Washington Police Department, Captain Roy E. Blick. According to every account, the late Captain Blick was sexually obsessed. A source for both J. Edgar Hoover's FBI and the CIA under Allen Dulles and Richard Helms, Captain Blick maintained exhaustive files on the subject of sexual deviance, files that are said to have included the names of every prostitute, madam, pimp, homosexual, pederast, sado-masochist, and most points in between, of whatever nationality, who came to the attention of the police in the country's capital. Inevitably, because of the seizure of 'trick books' during police raids, those files also contained the names and sexual preferences of many of the prostitutes' clients, including those of congressman, diplomats, judges and spooks. According to Blick's subordinates, the captain, not content with mere dossiers, also maintained (presumably at public expense) a 'sex museum' in his offices until the time of his death...
"The working relationship between Blick and Gaynor was useful to the CIA in a number of ways. As columnist Jack Anderson has reported, 'Through field offices scattered around the country, the Office of Security maintains close ties with state and local police. In each field office, a "black book" is kept of the males and females who can be safely recruited to entertain the CIA's visitors. The black books contain names, telephone numbers and details, gleaned largely from local vice squads. In Washington, for example, CIA agents paid regular visits to the police department's vice squad to photograph documents. The late Deputy Chief Roy E. Blick, who headed the "sex squad" for years, kept exhaustive records on "perverts" and "miscreants" around the country. He had a close, backroom relationship with the CIA....' "
(Secret Agenda, Jim Hougan, pgs. 13-14)That the OS would be in contact with the vice squads of local police departments in major cities to acquire the names of "Johns" is hardly surprising. As was noted in the first installment, General Paul Gaynor kept an enormous amount of files on suspected homosexuals and even their family members. Vice squads in major cities would have provided an idea source for such files.
|General Paul Gaynor|
Shoffer had spent a lot of time working vice for the Washington police and apparently grew close to Blick to the point that other members of the department began referring to Shoffer as "little Blick." And both men seem to have had a relationship with James McCord's "former" boss, General Paul Gaynor.
Thus, it is easy to see why many have questioned Shoffer's presence at Watergate on a night in which he had already worked one full shift and had volunteered for a double. Besides his former superior in the Army, Captain Chung, others have alleged that Shoffer was tipped off about the Watergate burglary.
"For the rest of his life, Shoffer would maintain his being there was simply a coincidence. There are many, however, who believe he was tipped off that night. And that list includes not just a former snitch of his who's written a book about it, but two of Shoffer's former partners on the D.C. intelligence squad. One of them, Karl Milligan, is also aware that Shoffer knew Lou Russell, who, of course, is the leading candidate here for whistle-blower. James Rothstein, the former NYPD intelligence cop who sometimes worked with Shoffer, says Shoffer once told him he was tipped off about the burglary – although when pressed, Shoffer only hinted at his source."
(White House Call Girl, Phil Stanford, pg. 131)
As for James Rothestein, the NYPD officer who indicated that Shoffer was tipped off, here is the full extent of his "hint" as to the tipster's identity:
"... Shoffer told him that he had known in advance about the Watergate burglary. However, when Rothstein asked him who tipped him off, Shoffer would only say, 'It was the one who got religion.' Rothstein believes that would be Watergate wireman James McCord, who wrote a strange, almost indecipherable Watergate book entitled A Piece of Tape, full of apocalyptic biblical references and prophecies."
(White House Call Girl, Phil Stanford, pg. 175, 98n)
So, to recap: McCord seems to have totally bungled every aspect of his role in the break-in and his crew is arrested by a D.C. cop with a background in military intelligence and who (along with his boss) is friendly with General Paul Gaynor, McCord's longtime SRS boss. What's more, this cop is alleged to have been tipped off about the burglary by either McCord's employee, Lou Russell, or McCord himself.
Naturally the Ervin Committee, which made McCord one of its star witnesses, did not find anything especially concerning about these series of "coincidences." But the evidence against McCord, and by default the OS, is even more damning when one considers McCord's efforts to cover-up the break-in as well as the target of the burglary. Let us then consider these two aspects, beginning with the target of the Watergate break-in.
|R. Spencer Oliver|
"... as the cops are lining up the burglars to search them, feet spread, hands against the wall, one of them does a very strange thing – and he's lucky he doesn't get himself killed over it.
"From behind, Shoffer can see Eugenio Martinez slipping a hand inside his jacket. For all Shoffer knows, he's going for a gun.
"Shoffer slams Martinez in the back, shouting at him not to move. When Martinez persists, Shoffer grabs him and wrestles him to the ground. Then he searches him to see what the burglar could have considered important enough to risk his life for.
"In the breast pocket of Martinez's suit, Shoffer finds a notebook with a small key taped to the back of it. As the FBI will later determined, the key fits the lock to Maxie Wells's desk."
(White House Call Girl, Phil Stanford, pg. 130)
"... Maxie was back at work by June 12, and on that day received at the DNC a visitor who announced himself as 'Bill Bailey.'
"He was actually McCord's man Alfred Baldwin, and he bore a strong physical resemblance to Phil Bailley. He had been sent into the DNC, he later told the Senate investigating committee, by McCord, in order to get the layout of the place. He knew before he entered that both Larry O'Brien and Spencer Oliver were out of town. To receptionist Clota Yesbeck he expressed disappointment, and was passed on to Maxie Wells. Later, in her own debriefing by the Senate committee, Yesbeck said that she believed Baldwin had been in the DNC to see Maxie many times before – but she may well have been confused by the name he gave her on entering and his physical resemblance to Phil Bailley, who had been in and out of the DNC more than a few times. Then too, the Bailey name was one to conjure with inside the Democratic stronghold, for it was borne by an important Democrat from Connecticut; Baldwin has at time said that he claimed to have been that Bailey's nephew, though at other times has not pressed this notion.
"But why would McCord have sent Baldwin to get the lay of the land, if there had already been a break-and and the burglars already knew the setup? There must've been another reason.
"Baldwin made sure that he saw Maxie Wells by telling Yesbeck that he was a friend of Spencer Oliver's. Yesbeck passed him on, and returned to her duties in the reception area. Then something happened either between Baldwin and Wells, or while Baldwin was in proximity to Wells's desk. We can't say precisely what, but we do know that after the burglars were caught, the key to Maxie's desk was found in the possession of burglar Rolando Martinez.
"The presence of the key was one startling thing. Another was the absence of any in-place bugs or transmitting device. Just a day or two before the second break-in on June 17 – but after Baldwin's visit – the telephone company swept the DNC phones for bugs and found none. And just after the break-in, the police and the FBI made their own sweeps and found no in-place bugs. In other words, the bug that had been installed during the first break-in, on the frequently used phone in the office of the chairman of the State Governors, the bug from which Baldwin overheard conversations and passed on logs about them to McCord and Liddy – that bug was not found at all. It seems likely, though we cannot prove it, that Baldwin either somehow obtained a key from Wells, or stole one; and just as likely that while in the DNC on June 12 he removed whatever bugs McCord had placed there. If McCord had shown him the location on a diagram, the removal of a bug would have taken Baldwin only a few seconds."
(Silent Coup, Lee Colodny & Robert Gettlin, pgs. 148-149)
In short, because Wells was far more than a mere secretary and was effectively the key to another intrigue McCord was directing at the same time he was superficially working with the Plumbers. The other Plumbers likely had no idea of this operation until after their arrests, when the actual reason for the bungling of the Watergate break-in slowly became apparent. In the next installment we shall consider this operation and the motive for the break-in as well as the OS role in the Watergate cover-up. Stay tuned.