Friday, December 3, 2010

Watergate: Part Seven

The Role of Robert Bennett and Mullen Company

Robert F. Bennett, now a US Senator ( elected in 1992) representing Utah, played a significant role in the Watergate scandal. His father was Senator Wallace Bennett, who was sitting then, and his family was well connected in Mormon society. It is clear that his main role was that of hiding the involvement of t he C.I.A., and it is likely that he knew in advance about the second Watergate break-in and had something to do with another planned operation. Watergate burglar James McCord testified to this and Jack Anderson, though a Mormon, established this.

Tosh Plumlee, a C.I.A. contract pilot for many years, said that Bennett was one of his C.I.A. instructors who sent him to Dallas as part of a team to abort the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Robert Bennett bought the Mullen Robert F. Company in 1971. The company did legitimate public relations work, represented the Mormon Church, and was a C.I.A. front. Firms that it represented often provided covers for the C.I.A.. Bennett brought the Hughes Tool account to Mullen, and Hughes was very closely tied to the agency. Bennett also ran the Supporters of the American Dream, an outfit that raised $10 million for Nixon in 1972. He refused to tell where the money came from but admitted from 75 to 90 committees that raised money where phony .

E. Howard Hunt became a Mullen employee the day after leaving the agency in 1970. C.I.A. director Richard Helms personally asked that Hunt be hired. Hunt shared an office with his close friend Douglas Caddy, co-founder of Young Americans for Freedom. Caddy was alleged to have C.I.A. ties. Caddy was to serve as lawyer for McCord and the four who ere arrested. (Remember that three others were never found.)

The firm was located at 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue; across the street was the Committee to Re-Elect the President at 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue. Watergate burglar James McCord, Jr. says the Watergate break-in was planned in a meeting at Hunt’s office there. At that time, Hunt had two jobs, one with Mullen and one with G. Gordon Liddy’s White House special investigative unit.

It seems that Liddy and Hunt did not work together on all the various black bag jobs of the period. Bennett worked as the liaison and contact person for the two. Liddy represented the White House and Bennett looked after the interests of the C.I.A. and Hughes.

Mullen coordinated some spying and dirty tricks against the Democrats in the 1972 campaign. The firms telephone records show twelve calls to trickster Donald Segretti. Bennett testified in secret that he had worked with Charles Colson in playing dirty tricks on Dita Beard, who was offering information about the ITT contract scandal. Wearing a garish red wig and using a voice alteration device, extracted from Beard a statement that she was wrong in saying bribery was used by ITT to get a Justice Department contract.

Charles Colson grew suspicious that the C.I.A. planted Hunt in the White House to spy on Nixon, and he greatly resented all the information Bennett gave Woodward, claiming that the C.I.A. gave Woodward the Pulitzer Prize. In the end, Colson , and apparently Nixon’s family, thought that the C.I.A. brought Nixon down. But they provide no good reason for this belief. H.R. Haldeman and Rose Mary Woods thought Alexander Butterfield was a C.I.A. plant. Some think Nixon’s endorsement to the Huston Plan, a new surveillance operation, was seen as a threat by the C.I.A.. True, Nixon had intimate knowledge of the C.I.A.-mob alliance and many of its other questionable activities. It is known that the Pentagon thought Nixon should be out of office. They thought Kissinger had given the Soviets too much in respect to nuclear submarines, and there was a fear that the US would leave the POWs behind, especially thous captured in Laos out of uniform.

Bennett gave Howard Hughes a price for bugging the home of Clifford Irving but we do not know if it was done. The transcripts of the Nixon White House describe the device to be used. It was an ultra tiny device that would be placed on the arm of a chair and was voice activated.

It seems that Bennett probably planned the burglarizing of the office of publisher Hank Greenspun in Los Vegas. It was believed that he had records that would destroy the Muskie candidacy. This was because James McCord testified that John Mitchell told him that Greenspun had documents that would damage one of the Democratic candidates. In 1986, Hank admitted he had information about Muskie that Nixon wanted. He added that Nixon was unhappy because he had printed a piece about a $100,000 campaign contribution that Howard Hughes had delivered to Beebe Rebozo. It is far more likely that they wre after Hughes-Mahue memoes on Hughes’ gift to Donald Nixon. He was a World War II hero who had been publicity director for Bugsy Siegel’s Flamingo Hotel. He eventually owned some media outlets and the Los Vegas Sun. He published a famous story that Senator Joseph McCarthy was a homosexual, which resulted in McCarthy marrying his secretary and adopting a daughter. In 1961 , President Kennedy granted him a felony pardon. Hank was allied with Robert Mahue, a former F.B.I. man with C.I.A. ties, who had been Howard Hughes’ right-hand man. Former C.I.A. agent Carl Oglesby said that the plumbers were really after some information Greenspun had on Nixon. Greenspun told Nixon aide Herb Klein tht he had evidence that Nixon used the Hughes money to furnish the San Clemente estate.

Bennett said there was some idle talk about it but that nothing was done because it became clear that the Maine Senator would not be the Democratic nominee. However, the Watergate transcript makes it clear that Nixon, Haldeman, and Ehrlichman thought the burglary had come off and that Greenspun’s office was also bugged. Greenspun said his aluminum windows and safe showed signs of having been jimmied. Hughes Tool people assisted Hunt and his crew. The C.I.A. referred him to a retired agent to act as “lockkey.” It was also to loan him cameras and a disguise.

It is also known from secret Senate hearings that Bennett obtained a price from Hunt for bugging Howard Hughes and Clifford Irving.

Bennett admitted to his case officer, Martin J. Lukoskie, that he held back information from Watergate investigators. He used a friend to persuade Chairman Sam Ervin not to look into C.I.A. ties to the Watergate scandal. Bennett also worked with DNC lawyer E.B. Williams to kill off the C.I.A. part of the story and to remove that aspect from the DNC litigation. When Edward Bennett Williams was called before a Watergate grand jury, the C.I.A. paid half his legal expenses. According to Lukoskie, Bennett fed Robert Woodward good information in return for not looking into the C.I.A.’s role in the affair. Bennett testified at a secret hearing that he , on behalf of Hughes Tool, gave the Nixon campaign a check for a huge amount of money.

Bennett also planted stories with the Washington Post to the effect that the Watergate burglary was tied to other black bag jobs on behalf of the White House. Bennett wrote to his case Martin J. Lukasky, his case officer, that he had made friends with Bob Woodward so that he could feed the reporter stories about Charles Colson.

A young, 25 year old, Brigham Young history major, Thomas Gregory, was hired through Mullen to spy on the Democrats. At first he worked in the youth division of the Muskie campaign. Then he was transferred to the McGovern campaign. There he helped the Hunt team bug the McGovern headquarters by leaving a door unlocked. However, he got cold feet and left the operation. He had been a spy for the Brigham Young administration in 1967, entrusted with keeping track of liberal professors. That spying operation became public, and the young spies were expelled to deflect criticism from the provost, who hired them. When Gregory’s role became known, Bennett came forward to try to shield him and attest to his high character. After Richard Nixon resigned, the Justice Department sent the Mormon Church leadership a letter warning it to avoid close ties with the intelligence community.

Many BYU professors were C.I.A. research contractors, and BYU students frequently were summer interns at Langley. The church denied that it ever permitted young missionaries to work for the agency while they were on mission, but the LDS church admits that the agency recruited many of these young men after their missions were finished. These clean cup fellows were loyal and valued obedience to authority.

Bennett was very close to Apostle Mark E. Peterson, who was famous for an anti-Negro speech and his role as enforcer for the Council of 12. He coordinated spying on members who had developed dissenting opinions. It is known that sometimes tapes of their conversations were used in church trials, and the Justice Department warned that bugging for this purpose could present legal problems.

Bennett was also behind the famous and damning interview of Benjamin DeMott on Senator Edward Kennedy’s role in the Chappaquiddick. Given Bennett’s long tenure with the C.I.A., one cannot be blamed for wondering if the agency was behind DeMott’s research.

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