L. Patrick Gray 3rd., the acting director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said today that he had originally resisted making the bureau's file on the Watergate affair available to the White House, but that he had finally allowed a record of the investigation to be given to a Presidential assistant.
It's Gray's first day of confirmation hearings, and it's an utter disaster for the White House -- and for John Dean, the assistant mentioned above, in particular.
Here's Gray, questioned by Senator Philip Hart:
Senator Hart: This morning, when I was here, you did discuss with Senator Ervin the newsstory that indicated that, at or about the time of the Republican Convention in Miami, a report, or several FBI reports were shown to an individual who was a potential or did become a grand jury witness. This bears on the Watergate as it had developed up to that point.
You explained that, while you were not in position to say that this had or had not happened, you had asked John Dean in the White House whether the story was correct and that Mr. Dean said to you "I didn't show them to the subject and didn't have them with me." That is a fair summary?
Mr. Gray. That is correct; that is correct, Senator.
Senator Hart. Now, tell me again, help me to understand, why it would be possible that a Bureau file or files would be in the hands of somebody at the Republican Convention.
Mr. Gray. I don't know that I can explain that a Bureau file or files were in the possession of somebody at the Republican Convention, but I can start from ground zero as I did this morning and explain exactly what I had explained to Senator Ervin, which is essentially this: That at the outset of this investigation I resolved that the investigation would be very closely held. There were those contacts between the case agents working the case and the assistant U.S. attorneys who were also working on the case here in the U.S. attorney's office. There were also those contacts in the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the General Investigative Division which had cognizance of this case, with the office of the Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, where the information was also closely held.
Then I went on to say that at the very outset, and in accordance with standard FBI operating procedures, there was a memorandum prepared setting forth facts and circumstances of the case as of that date, June 19, 1972, and accompanying that memorandum was a letterhead memorandum, which is a type of writing that we have in the Bureau, and a letter transmitting this memorandum of facts and circumstances, one to the Attorney General, and one to Mr. Haldeman, and I nixed that. I said, "No, we'll not do this."
Then I went on to say that over the ensuing days there were reports dehvered to Mr. Petersen, interviews, you know, our FD-302's, our raw interview forms, and our teletypes, and I went on to say I would put a listing of these deliveries and the dates of delivery into the record as an exhibit.
Then I went on to say that on the 19th of July, it was requested by Mr. Dean, acting in his capacity as Counsel to the President of the United States, and in discharge of his responsibility, to inquire into the involvement of White House people on the staflF of the President in this matter and make a recommendation to the President, and that he wanted a full report in writing.
I then asked for an opinion of our Office of Legal Counsel, and the opinion came back that at our own initiative we had no duty to furnish such a report, but that the request of the head of the executive branch of the Government was certainly an entirely different matter.
Then, on the following day I ordered that a letterhead memorandum summarizing the investigation to date be prepared, and be sent to the Attorney General. I have every reason to believe, and I must assume, that in the normal course of events, although I cannot testify under oath as a fact, that this letterhead memorandum was delivered to Mr. Dean. I believe it may have been but I cannot testify as to the fact under oath that it was, because I don't know.
Then, following that, Mr. Dean made a request to me that I provide him with copies of our FD-302's, our interview reports, our teletypes, and those documents that had been made available to me in order to assist him in the performance of his duties, and I did.
Up to this point, the cover-up had been springing holes, but now, suddenly, the cover-up itself was headline news. And not only the cover-up, but the man who was the chief operative, John Dean. Dean was no household name; the Times story doesn't get around to identifying the "Aide of Nixon" by name until the 14th paragraph, well into the jump of the (page one) story.
Gray also offers Senators access to all FBI Watergate files. He tells them that he had discussed Watergate with Dean, and with Ehrlichman "on maybe a half dozen occasions." And more. Gray tells the Senators: "At the request of Mr. John W. Dean, Legal Counsel to the President, he, Dean, sat in on all interviews conducted with White House personnel."
That's all on the first day of Gray's confirmation hearings.