Thursday, October 30, 2008

Planning a Gestapo

One last quote from John Dean's Blind Ambition:

[Walter Minnick] and [Egil "Bud"] Krogh had run the government's anti-narcotics campaign from the White House, once [John] Ehrlichman has wrested control from [John] Mitchell.

The only time I'd met Minnick before was at an odd meeting a few months earlier when Krogh had called me in and treated me to a mysterious denial that the White House narcotics office had been involved in the assassination of drug traffickers in Latin America. I had puzzled over what this bit of theater meant. No such story had appeared in print, and none ever did. But the episode piqued my curiosity about the drug program. Krogh has described to me how, when he was bored with his desk work, he had carried bars of gold bullion through Asia's "Golden Triangle" in CIA planes and bargained with drug chieftains. There were rumors of bombing poppy fields, and once Bud had asked my office to resolve a dispute among the Pentagon, the State Department and the Bureau of Narcotics over the legality of kidnapping drug traffickers abroad. If the goal was worthy, the means were secondary, the thinking went, and there was a firm conviction that agencies outside the White House could not be trusted.

Gordon Liddy had received his White House indoctrination in this very drug program, and he had read the signs clearly. Years later I would learn that the remarkable intelligence force he had described in Mitchell's office was only a part of his dream to build a clandestine police force for the White House. He and Hunt had recruited hundreds of operatives -- most had had CIA training -- and had promised them service after the election.