Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Men Who Spied on Nixon

Glancing through the news, I came upon this startling item: The Men Who Spied on Nixon. Amazingly, I found it on a Fox News website. A search in Google News reveals only this entry, but a general Google search on Moorer Radford (rather than Moorer-Radford) returns numerous hits.

One of the hits is from website. On closer look the site seems, well, weird. But the point here is Moorer-Radford. Still, this is what I mean by weird: a search on the name Len Colodny, who seems to be the force behind the site, returns this: Len Colodny is a journalist. In 1992 he co-wrote with Robert Gettlin Silent Coup: The Removal of Richard Nixon. In the book the authors claim that John Dean ordered the Watergate break-in because he knew that a call-girl ring was operating out of the Democratic headquarters. The authors also argued that Alexander Haig was not Deep Throat but was a key source for Bob Woodward, who had briefed Haig at the White House in 1969 and 1970. Weird.

And how about the military spying on the President? Weird in a very different way.

A Navy stenographer assigned to the National Security Council during the Nixon administration "stole documents from just about every individual that he came into contact with on the NSC," according to newly declassified White House documents.

From whom did he steal?

The two-dozen pages of memoranda, transcripts and notes – once among the most sensitive and privileged documents in the Executive Branch – shed important new details on a unique crisis in American history: when investigators working for President Richard Nixon discovered that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, using the stenographer as their agent, actively spied on the civilian command during the Vietnam War.

Quite a twist on history: Nixon being spied on, and by his own military.

The affair represented an important instance in which President Nixon, who resigned in 1974 amid wide-ranging allegations that he and his subordinates abused the powers of the presidency, was himself the victim of internal espionage. In adding to what has already become known about the episode, the latest documents show how the president and his aides struggled to "get a handle on" the young Navy man at the center of the intrigue and contain the damage caused by the scandal.

Eventually the stenographer, Charles Radford, admitted to pilferage.

Radford's espionage took many forms: making extra photocopies of documents entrusted to him as courier; retrieving crumpled drafts from "burn bags"; even brazenly rifling through Kissinger's briefcase while the national security adviser slept on an overseas flight.

Some nerve, eh? Looking through Kissinger's briefcase. Which, of course, begs the question: what about security?

the young stenographer did eventually break down and tearfully admit to Nixon's investigators that he had been stealing NSC documents and routing them to his Pentagon superiors. Radford later estimated he had stolen 5,000 documents within a 13-month period.

"Radford has admitted that he stole documents from just about every individual that he came into contact with on the NSC," wrote Young.

Security, anyone?

Now, here is an interesting point: David R. Young, an Ehlichman aide, who led the Plumbers's investigation into Radford's activities, wrote a memorandum to his boss in advance of Ehrlichman meeting with Radford boss; one point he made was to urge Ehrlichman to determine the extent to which Kissinger's top NSC deputy – Alexander Haig, who had personally selected Radford to accompany Kissinger on his overseas trips, and who later went on to become secretary of state in the Reagan administration – was "aware of Radford's activities."

An interesting point that Haig selected Radford.

Nixon and his men eventually concluded that Haig had been complicit in the Pentagon spying, but opted not to take any action against him.

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