Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Military Spy Ring in t he Nixon White House

Admiral Thomas Moorer, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, planted spies in Nixon’s National Security Council. This was known as the “Moorer-Radford Affair.”

There was much conflict between Lyndon Johnson and the Joint Chiefs and they began to use their NSC liason office to obtain information they could use in their bureaucratic turf battles. It is likely they also fed information to Republican Congressman Melvin Laird, an expert on defense.

When Moorer became chairman he replaced Army personnel with Navy men in the liason office. They were led by then- Captain Rembrandt Robinson. Robinson was then replaced by Rear Admiral Robert Welander. The brass feared Henry Kissinger and thought he believed that the dynamic of history was on the side of the Soviet Union. They wanted to observe his every move. The military disliked Nixon’s tendency to keep policy making confined to a small circle. They were not being informed about détente with China, aspects of SALT talks, or the dimensions of Nixon’s Vietnamization policy. Sometimes Nixon seemed reckless in military planning, and his shifts in Cold War policy, especially détente, seemed downright dangerous. They believe Nixon often followed’soft” policies toward North Vietnam. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt came close to saying in his book that Nixon’s shifts were downright treason.

The military came to rely on Yeoman Charles Edward Radford to learn what was being planned and to bring it useful documents. In all he copied about 5000 documents. Radford accompanied Secretary of State Alexander Haig and Dr. Henry Kissinger on trips. He had full access to their brief cases. On one trip, he even made notes on their conversations. While in Washington, he had access to NSC files, and by his own admission, photocopied “thousands, just thousands” of documents to be fed to Moorer. He would rifle briefcases and read documents. In 1971, Nixon began tilting toward Pakistan in the India-Pakistan dispute. Radford and his wife were sympathetic to India, and some think he started feeding columnist Jack Anderson information. The Radfords were social friends of the Andersons, who were fellow Mormons. Mrs. Anderson helped the radfords with genealogical research that was vital to the practice of their religion.

One famous Anderson column, on December 14, 1971, revealed Nixon”s “tilt” toward Pakistan and matters that suggested he had access to several very sensitive documents. Nixon asked John Ehrlichman to find the leak. Admiral Weander assumed that only Radford had access to all the documents in question and informed Ehrichman of this. Radford was polygraphed and was surprised when the questions went beyond the Anderson matter. The yeoman was sure he could pass questions on that matter. He was asked if he was gathering information for anyone outside the White House, and he had to tell the truth. In this way, the Navy’s spying operation was revealed. nd Radford was found. It turned out that Anderson’s main source was an Army communications specialist who disagreed with administration policy.

Nixon got the details on December 21, 1971. Nixon closed the liason office and had Radford reassigned and kept under surveillance. Admiral Wealander refused to sign a confession, perhaps because it would have admitted to political spying. He did agree to permit Ehrlciham to tape his confession. Moorer was not punished and returned documents to Haig. He was then reappointed chairman of tue Joint Chiefs. Though confessing, he tried to shift most of the blame toward the yeoman. He hinted that Haig must have understood what was going on, but Ehrlichman only came to see Haig’s likely role later. When Kissinger learned what had occurred, he fired Admiral Wealand and shut down the liason office. He unsuccessfully demanded Moorer’s head
Whether the military had any role in bringing down Nixon cannot be established.

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