Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26, 1971

Everything is in motion now on the break-in to learn more about Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg by looking at any files about him held by his psychoanalyst, Dr. Lewis Fielding.

Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy fly out to California to case the joint, first stopping at the CIA to get disguises,  phony IDs, and a camera out of Get Smart -- although they pay for their flight to LA with a government travel voucher. Once in LA on August 26, they take photos...for some reason with Liddy on camera, in disguise, posing as a tourist. Then Liddy (no longer in disguise, apparently) and Hunt wound up going into the building at night and eventually engaged in a conversation with the woman cleaning the place. You'll note that everything with Hunt and Liddy winds up as a comedy of errors; Erlichman had approved the break-in on the condition that it would not be "traceable", but Hunt and Liddy were busy leaving a trail of evidence all over the place. Also, by the way, annoying the CIA -- the CIA wasn't happy that Hunt brought Liddy in for a disguise, and they were even less happy that Hunt was treating the agency as his personal secretary. They would complain to Ehrlichman about it, but also a copy of the photos winds up at the CIA.

Meanwhile, also on August 26, Plumber David Young wrote a memo to Ehrlichman including: "If the present Hunt/Liddy Project #1 is successful, it will be absolutely essential to have an overall game plan developed for its use in conjunction with the congressional investigation." Ehrlichman responded (the next day) with a memo to Colson, who subsequently would secure the money needed for the operation.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, so I better stop there. As long as I'm here, though, I'll link over to an op-ed that the fourth plumber, Egil Krogh, wrote in apology just a few years ago. And just remind you: we're talking here about midlevel WH staffers carrying out felonies with the direct approval of senior White House staff, who in turn are following orders from the President of the United States. There's a frustrating mismatch between the clear evidence showing that Nixon ordered certain felonies, and the actual felonies that were committed...we don't know whether Nixon personally approved in advance either this break in or the others the next year. Clearly, however, the president instigated the entire thing, and was very much pushing his men to do this sort of thing, if not (perhaps) the specific Hunt/Liddy Project.

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