Wednesday, October 29, 2008

From Another Point of View

Now for Gordon Liddy's presentation of his GEMSTONE scheme for John Mitchell. I've previously posted Liddy's version; now I'm posting John Dean's (from Blind Ambition):

"By the way, John," Liddy added, "I've been analyzing all these intelligence requirements for the campaign, and it's a big operation. What kind of budget do you think I should have? It's expensive to do it right."

"I don't have a clue what it costs, Gordon. But I know Haldeman wants the best. He's always bitching about intelligence." Thinking of [Jack] Caulfield's Sandwedge budget, I tossed out a figure idly. "Maybe half a million bucks, Gordon. Maybe more if you can justify it." Liddy, I soon realized, didn't take anything idly, and he returned to his calculations.

Soon afterward, he was back in my office complaining about the White House bureaucracy, which was threatening to take away his White House identification pass, and did. As he spoke, I noticed a bulky white bandage wrapped around his fist.

"What happened to your hand, Gordon?"

He shrugged. "Oh, nothing really."

"It looks serious."

"Well some might feel that way, but I don't. It was necessary, you see, that I prove my strength to the men I'm thinking of recruiting to assist me at the convention."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, in my business, John, it's important that those I work with understand I'm a man of strength. Macho, as they say. So to prove myself to them I held my hand over a candle until the flesh burned, which I did without flinching. I wanted them to know that I could stand any amount of physical pain."

"My God, Gordon!" I didn't really know what to say, so I told him I hoped his hand healed quickly, which he also shrugged off. After he left my office I called Bud Krogh and told him the story Liddy had just told me. "What's with this guy, Bud?"

Bud did not seem surprised. "Liddy's a romantic," he said. Then he offered some advice: "Gordon needs guidance. Somebody should keep an eye on him."

I was annoyed. "Bud," I said, "this guy is a strange bird. Why didn't you tell me this before? I can't watch him." It began to dawn on me that Bud might have touted Liddy to me to unload him from his own staff. It's an old trick, sell the bad apple elsewhere; I had done it myself. But this could be serious. "Listen, Bud," I said, "I think you should call Magruder and tell him to keep an eye on Liddy. He'd listen to you because you've worked with the guy." Bud agreed, and called Magruder too.

Jeb had heard the candle story. "Weird guy," he said.

On January 26, Jeb called with an invitation to sit in on a meeting the next morning at the Attorney General's office. Liddy was going to present his plans for campaign intelligence. I knew Magruder wanted me there for more than courtesy. I was still in the collecting point at the White House for demonstration intelligence. I had recommended Liddy for the job, and Magruder wanted an intelligence man from the White House at the meeting for protection. I was both curious and apprehensive. I knew this meeting was the culmination of a long series of demands coming down through the tickler. Campaign intelligence was important, and Liddy was our professional. But I had seen enough hardball at the White House to be worried, and Liddy's hand-burning incident stuck in my mind. The counsel's job, I thought, is to recommend caution before the fact and to work miracles afterward.

When I arrived at Mitchell's office, Liddy was arranging commercially prepared charts -- multicolor, three feet by four feet -- on an easel. He finished soon after I walked in, and everyone took a seat after greetings were exchanged. Mitchell sat behind his Bureau of Prisons and began his normal slow and unconscious rocking motion. the rest of us faced him in a semicircle, sitting in faded red leather chairs whose straight backs and narrow wooden armrests seemed designed to keep visitors in a state near attention, and we were. I sat on Mitchell's right. Magruder faced him directly, sitting in the center. And Liddy was on Mitchell's left, by his easel.

Jeb started the meeting, obviously nervous. "Mr. Mitchell," he said, "Gordon has prepared a presentation for you on what he believes is necessary for campaign intelligence, and handling demonstrations at the convention and in the campaign." Then he turned to Liddy, who was looking for a place to put his pipe. "Why don't you go ahead, Gordon?" Then a quick glance back at Mitchell. "If you're ready, Mr. Mitchell." Mitchell nodded his assent.

This was the first time I had ever seen Mitchell and Magruder together, and it was obvious Jeb did not have the easy rapport I had with him. Part of his discomfort grew out of political reality. Haldeman, not Mitchell, had hired Magruder to be Mitchell's deputy and run the day-to-day operations of the campaign. Mitchell, his influence waning, could do nothing about it. Jeb was Haldeman's man, or, more accurately, Larry Higby's man, since Haldeman never proclaimed a very high estimation of Magruder. Higby had put Jeb where he was, and Jeb had to walk on eggs. About the only thing Mitchell and Magruder had in common was an antipathy for Chuck Colson. Initially Jeb had been so frightened of Mitchell that he had dealt with him through me for weeks after joining the Re-election Committee. Finally I had told him that he must develop his own relationship with Mitchell, but I could see that Jeb was still uncomfortable.

Gordon Liddy, on the other hand, went to the easel and began his speech with authority. He seemed to enjoy the stage, and his speech was remarkably free of the normal conversational "uhs" and nervous pauses. He began with a brisk description of his own qualifications for handling the job and followed with a recitation of the names of specialists he had consulted, with appropriate security precautions, in the course of constructing his plan. I wondered how he could possibly have done all this at a time he was swamped in legal work.

Liddy explained that he had divided his program into components, which he would discuss individually before showing how it all fit together. This ended the preview. "If you have any questions, General, please interrupt and I'll address them," he told Mitchell with gallant deference, and then turned to his first chart.

The first component dealt with Mitchell's biggest worry, convention demonstrations. It had its own code name, Operation Diamond. Liddy told how he would set up intelligence liaison with the FBI, the Secret Service, and the CIA. Also, he would gather his own information by infiltrating antiwar groups with paid informants. All the incoming information would be professionally analyzed to determine which groups and which leaders posed the greatest potential for disruption.

"Now General," he went on, "this operation will be equipped with its own operational arm. It is my judgment that the local police and federal security forces will be of limited value. They all have their own fish to fry and their own political allegiances. They are not trustworthy, and in most cases they will not act until the situation is already out of hand. We need greater loyalty than they possess, and we need preventative action to break up demonstrations before they reach the television cameras. I can arrange for the services of highly trained demonstration squads, men who have worked successfully as street-fighting teams at the CIA. These men are extremely well disciplined, and they will have a history of engaging in such activities that will serve us well. They will appear spontaneous and ideologically motivated. These men carry their own cover and will not be traceable to us."

[Continued in next post.]