Thursday, October 23, 2008

Howie and Gordon's Grand Schemes

More from Will. First, Gordon Liddy lets Egil Krogh know exactly what he's capable of:

[Upon returning to D.C. after traveling to California to break into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist] Hunt went home and I went to the office to draw up notes for a report to Krogh... I showed him the Polaroid photographs [Bernard] Barker had taken of the damaged files to prove that they had indeed been entered and searched, and told him of the fact that we had to use an alternative entry method. Although Krogh was relieved that the operation had gone undetected, he was disturbed when I showed him the photographs of the damaged files and reacted somewhat like one unfamiliar with violence when combat scenes appear on television; he could accept it intellectually, but the harsh reality of what sometimes has to be done was something for which Krogh was not prepared. I was completely candid with him in my report showing him everything: the suitcase, tools, even the knife I had carried. He asked me, incredulous, "Would you really have used it -- I mean, kill somebody?"

"Only if there were absolutely no other way. But yes, I would, if necessary to protect my men. I gave them my word I'd cover them." Krogh was visibly taken aback by that...

Liddy had hoped that Krogh and the higher-ups would give him and Hunt permission to break into Dr. Fielding's (Ellsberg's psychiatrist) apartment (having already burgled his office), but in the end permission was denied on the grounds that it wasn't worth the risk. So Howie and Gordon worked on other schemes...

In September of 1971 I was engaged in a project attempting to bring a fresh approach to the federal drug enforcement effort when Howard Hunt approached me on the next Ellsberg neutralization proposal. According to Hunt, Daniel Ellsberg was scheduled to speak at a fund-raising dinner to be held in Washington, and Chuck Colson thought it an opportunity to discredit him. The dinner would be well attended by media opinion-shapers and the speech would get wide coverage. Could ODESSA [Liddy's group, named after the network established to extricate Nazis from the fallen Reich] drug Ellsberg enough to befuddle him, make him appear a near burnt-out drug case?

Hunt and I studied the matter and developed a plan to infiltrate enough Cuban waiters into the group serving the banquet to be able to ensure that one of our people would serve Ellsberg at the dais. One of the earliest dishes on the menu was soup. A warm liquid is ideal for the rapid absorption and wide dispersal of a drug, and the taste would mask its presence. Hunt was certain the he could provide men from the Miami Cuban community who'd worked at major Florida hotels; the drug, a fast-acting psychedelic such as LSD-25, he said he could get from the CIA together with a recommendation of the dose necessary to have Ellsberg incoherent by the time he was to speak.

After much delay, Colson, according to Liddy's account, green-lighted this operation, but too late for Hunt and Liddy to arrange it logistically.

[Miles Ambrose and I] discussed the power of the grand jury and how it could be used by the federal government to suppress the domestic illicit drug trade. From these conversations I developed a proposal for a new attack on the problem and presented it to the White House in a memorandum to John Ehrlichman call "Breaking the Connection." The proposal was not adopted as such, but it led, ultimately, to the formation of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

And what a success that has turned out to be.

I continued my close association with Howard Hunt, often lunching with him at his club in Georgetown, and it was again through Hunt that ODESSA received its next assignment. Daniel Ellsberg had been associated in the past with Morton Halperin and the Brookings Institution and, according to Colson as replayed by Hunt, either or both of them were believed to be using Brookings for storage of substantial additional amounts of classified documents at least as sensitive, if not more so, than the Pentagon Papers. Further, the Brookings security vault might have evidence shedding light on the identity of any of Ellsberg's criminal associates in the purloining of Top Secret Defense files; whether Paul Warnke and Leslie Gelb were among them; and whoever delivered the classified documents to the Soviet Embassy. Could we get into the vault, say, by using fire as a diversion, and retrieve the materials?

The problem appealed to me because I recognized it as one turned down earlier by Jack Caulfield. He had mentioned it to me, with much rolling of eyes and nodding of the head in the direction of Colson's office, as something to "far out" for his imagination and too risky for his nerve. I thought it could be done and so did Hunt. The problem was that the cover under which our men went in there had to be first-rate, and that meant costly. We devised a plan that entailed buying a used but late-model fire engine of the kind used by the District of Columbia fire department and marking it appropriately; uniforms for a squad of Cubans and their training so their perfomance would be believable. Thereafter, Brookings would be firebombed by use of a delay mechanism timed to go off at night so as not to endanger lives needlessly. The Cubans in the authentic-looking fire engine would "respond" minutes after the timer went off, enter, get anybody in there out, hit the vault, and get themselves out in the confusion of other fire apparatus arriving, calmly loading "rescued" material into a van. The bogus engine would be abandoned at the scene. The taking of the material from the vault would be discovered and the fire engine traced to a cut-out buyer. There would be a lot of who-struck-John in the liberal press, but because nothing could be proved the matter would lapse into the unsolved-mystery category.

Hunt submitted the plan for approval, but this time the decision was swift. "No." Too expensive. The White House wouldn't spring for a fire engine.