Friday 20 February 2004

How and Why Al Haig Torpedoed Richard Nixon as "Deep Throat"

by Trowbridge H. Ford

Like all important spies and covert agents of the Cold War - Richard Sorge, Peter Wright, Donald Maclean, William King Harvey, Kim Philby, Richard Helms, and Oleg Penkovsky - Watergate's "Deep Throat" has experienced the familiar fall from glory, once the coup had been accomplished, and the crisis avoided. What was originally seen as a threat to the American Republic's very existence, a consitutional crisis which the public-spirited official somehow managed to prevent, has been reduced to a rather minor episode whose source is increasingly doubted even to exist. Fred Emery, in Watergate: The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon, did not consider "Deep Throat" even worthy of mention.

In considering these actions as a form of spying, one must appreciate that on the American scene, it was often employed to enhance or destroy domestic competitors rather than to fix any Soviet agents. For "Deep Throat", this meant using The Washington Post's news managers so that Nixon's runaway administration could finally be brought to heel before "DT's" role in the process was exposed. His identification was compounded by the fact that the newsmen promised not to reveal their source until he died, a commitment threatened by the real "Deep Throat" outliving all the other candidates. This was apparently settled by The Post's CEO Katharine Graham, the sentimental choice, recently dying, and historian Arthur Schlesinger indicating in his eulogy for her that they might be burying "him" too.

When the bitter President was finally forced to resign in August 1974, the most likely candidate for "Deep Throat" was Nixon Chief of Staff, General Alexander Haig, the source who permitted the research of reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to see the light of day. Haig's feeble attempts in Inner Cricles to deny the charge - e. g., he was in Pittsburg when "Deep Throat" informed Woodward by phone or in person in Washington that E. Howard Hunt was involved in the Watergate break-in, as if leaving for the steel town at 3:55 p.m. would somehow give him an alibi for not talking any time during the day (pp. 323-4), or that he was giving a lecture at Fort Belvoir when "Deep Throat" informed the reporter of Attorney General Mitchell's and Nixon Special Counsel Charles Colson's role in the scandal, as if the lecture was given after midnight when the meetings took place. When Haig got a second chance to explain who "Deep Throat" was in Nixon: An Oral History of His Presidency, he said he was anyone but himself, a coherent person, like David Gergen or Leonard Garment, who knew the big picture, information only the FBI possessed. (p. 498)

The reason why more people did not suspect Haig is that they just considered him another faceless bureaucrat who had been dragged in from the Pentagon to assist National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger as his military aide. Actually, Haig was much like Lt. Col. Oliver North of Iran-Contra fame, a military professional who amassed great power while working with SOD Robert McNamara and Army Secretary Cyrus Vance during the Kennedy Administration. As the showdown with the Soviets shaped up during the Missile Crisis, Haig, as a planner of actions against Cuba, had organized Operation Fraternity, a naval armada by Central American despots which would force JFK's hand over an American invasion, what the President failed to do during the Bay of Pigs fiasco. "His duties with the Department of the Army and the Office of the Secretary of Defense included policy affairs with special emphasis on Cuba and the Dominican Republic." (Current Biography, 1973, p. 161)

Operation Fraternity involved armed forces from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Colombia taking part in Inter-American maneuvers in the preparation of leading officers played an unprecedented role in staff planning. Of course, these regimes were classic banana republics - ones with an obsession for getting rid of the communist one in Havana - and had all been invovled in various ways in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. These countries constituted the vulnerable southern flank in the Caribbean if Castro's Cuba was to expand his revolution, and their military juntas were most desirous of getting rid of him before he got rid of them. Of course, they were noted for their death squads for eliminating leftists, criminal connections with American Mafias through various fruit companies, dictatorial control, covert relations with Washington, and drug dealing for financing their operation. This pattern, as Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall have written in Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America, went unchallenged until the mid-1970s.

When JFK again copped out of having a showdown with Khushchev - saving us all apparently from nuclear annihilation - Haig, while officially responsible for relocating the anti-Castro veterans in American life, plotted to make it look as if the communists were using Lee Harvey Oswald in another powerplay at Washington's expense. The Defense Intelligence Agency was persuaded to put together a report which stated that the ex-Marine had visited the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City in October, and had been seen with Cuban intelligence agents in Havana a few days before the Dallas assassination. To make it look as if Castro was on the move, the Pentagon arranged for Captain Joe 'Glenn' Hyde's U-2 plane to go down on a routine mission over the island on Nov. 20th, apparently the result of unfriendly fire contrary to the terms of the Missile Settlement. For good measure, Cuban-armed guerrillas, it seems, in Venezuela kidnapped US Army Lt Col. James Chenault. To stop the apparent communist coup, Haig organized Operation Americas, an expanded version of Fraternity which Pultizer prize-winning reporter Hal Hendrix was covering, and was coordinated with Hunt's Second Naval Guerrilla Operation, to finish off Castro's regime.

The next day, the nation's newspapers, especially The LaGrange Daily News - Hyde's hometown in Georgia - were filled with stories about the disappearance of his spy-plane while on a reconnaisance mission over Cuba, reminiscent of how the shooting down of Major Rudolf Anderson's U-2 on October 22, 1962, and his killing had sent the Missile Crisis into free fall. "It was a camera in a sleek black U2," the Daily News reported in a front-page story, "described by Allen W. Dulles, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), "as the most important espionage of the 20th century, that first spotted missiles in Cuba in October, 1962." Current flights were continuing to make sure that the missiles had been withdrawn, and not returned. While the Strategic Air Command was looking for wreckage of the plane, and the whereabouts of the pilot around where an oil slick had been spotted, the Navy and Coast Guard were conducting an intensive sea rescue in the area known as the "Ten Fanthom Curve" in the hope of finding Hyde alive.

The only trouble with all the plotting against the President was that the wounding of John Connally - hitman Richard Cain had not test fired the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, and, consequently, when he shot at JFK, he hit the Texas Governor - prevented the assassination from being blamed on the communists. Connally thought that he had been double crossed, and was demanding to punish the real perpetrators. Haig, consequently, had to make preparations for the President's funeral rather than orchestrate America's response to his assassination from the White House. He destroyed the DIA report on Oswald; covered up as best he could Hyde's fate, the "deceased" apparently given a new identity like a Mafia informer, and persuaded, it seems, the nice terrorists to release Chenault unharmed. While Hyde's body was never recovered, even from the plane's wreckage on the sea floor, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and a Fifth Oak Leaf Cluster to his Air Medal for flights - what his smiling family survivors happily accepted six months later at Greenville Air Force Base, Mississippi - which did not include the apparently fatal one.("Hyde Obtained Vital Data in Spy Flights," LaGrange Daily News, May 4, 1964, p. 1) If Hyde had actually been killed, one would have thought that he at least would have picked up a Purple Heart too. Operation Americas was hastily changed by Haig into defensive maneuvers off Colombia's Atlantic coast.

To make up for all the military missions which had fizzled out in the Caribbean, Haig helped give America's renewed commitment to South Vietnam's defense teeth by making the most of the so-called Tonkin Gulf incident. Thanks to continued briefing of hawkish General Harold Johnson, Haig, along with fellow planner Lt. Col. DeWitt Smith, helped initiate a course of action which replaced inept South Vietnamese juntas by a fully engaged America, committed to preventing a communist takeover. They drew up a long list of possible options for America, culminating with an all-out ultimatum to Hanoi and Moscow, to cease and desist their insurgency or face all-out war. Under the circumstances, the Army's Chief of Staff settled for what Washington finally committed itself to - full mobilization, mass introduction of American troops into South Vietnam, and deployment of naval and air force units to conduct a sustained bombing campaign of the North, including the mining of its harbors, and the interdiction of its supplies, in preparation for its invasion. (Inner Circles, p. 137)

When Nixon won the Presidency in 1968, he had not forgotten what Haig had done, especially his efforts in November 1963 to help make him the front runner in the upcoming election by achieving a settlement of the Cuban problem at JFK's expense. The former Vice President had gone to Dallas when Glenn Hyde's U-2 was "shot down" despite receiving threatening postcards apparently from Oswald, and had advertised his vulnerability at the President's expense by making public appearances, especially on the floor of the Bottlers' Convention right across from the Trade Mart where JFK would speak the next day, a process culminating in the "Guard not for Nixon" story in The Dallas Morning News on the fatal day. It was this which led to the Secret Service celebrating in Fort Worth the night before because of the apparent lack of any serious threat to the President, and had it in a most relaxed mode when the fatal shots whizzed down in Dealey Plaza - what some conspiracy theorists have used to make it part of the plot. The problem with Connally, however, had prevented LBJ's and America's humiliation by either doing too much or too little in the face of the apparent communist power play. Still, Nixon wanted Haig to be Kissinger's military assistant, and he was hired on the spot when he assured him that he could lead the revitalization of the NSC.

Haig, while preparing and soon delivering the President's daily intelligence briefing, was responsible for making sure that NSC acitivities were leak proof. Concerned that the Pentagon Papers, what he was asked by McNamara to assist in the preparation of but declined, would expose the covert operations which did in JFK, especially since maverick Daniel Ellsberg had joined the project, Haig became alarmed when NSC secrets, especially the bombing of Cambodia, started leaking to the press. First Kissinger prevailed upon Mitchell and Director Hoover to tap Morton Halperin's home phone, and a few days later, Haig visited Assistant Director William Sullivan to make sure that the phones of Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Winston Lord, and the Pentagon's Colonel Robert Pursley were included. Of course, Kissinger officially ordered the taps, but upon Haig's advice. In the end, 17 wiretaps were installed, and while they never revealed the source of any leaks, the logs Haig read in Sullivan's office provided all kinds of targets for White House covert operations.

In June 1970, Haig became one of Nixon's official men, replacing Lawrence Eagleburger as Deputy NSA, and when the Bureau persuaded the White House to drop the taps in February 1971 because of recent Supreme Court decisions, Kissinger's Deputy was obliged to find other men - The Plumbers - to do the tasks. Hired in July, and headed by Howard Hunt, who both Nixon and Haig wanted to compensate for his anti-Kennedy efforts, they ran their operations, starting with the leakers, out of the Executive Office Building where the Deputy NSA was also located. In September, the Plumbers broke into the Beverly Hills office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis Fielding, to find out what work he was doing, especially since the publication in June of The Pentagon Papers had proved, despite all the worry, so unrevealing, and what his psychological profile was. Then Hunt, using a CIA-supplied wig and disguise, tried to persuade Dita Beard in a Denver hospital to denounce a memo which claimed that International Telephone and Telegraph, the cover company for all kinds of Washington covert operations, had donated $400,000 to Nixon's reelection campaign in return for favorable treatment in an antitrust suit.

The trouble with the Plumbers, though, was that so many intermediaries were increasingly involved - Colson, Presidential Assistant John Ehrlichman, campaign director Jeb Stuart Magruder, former CIA "Executive Action' director William King Harvey, and Presidential Counsel John Dean - to protect Nixon's and Haig's role that they began free-lancing operations for almost anyone and for almost any reason. While Watergate stands out in this regard, there were plans against Las Vegas newspaper publisher Hank Greenspun, columnist Jack Anderson, Hoover, and Alabama Governor George Wallace. Greenspun's safe was thought to contain all kinds of information about Nixon dirty tricks, but the Howard Hughes organization refused to supply the getaway necessary for the break-in. Hunt assistant Gordon Liddy wanted to assassinate Anderson over the Beard matter, but was finally restrained. The neutralizing drugs that CIA's Dr. Edward Gunn discussed with Hunt and Liddy for Anderson might well have been used on the uncooperative Hoover who died of an unexpected heart attack right after Nixon told him late at night on May lst that he was finished as Director. Then there was the incapacitating assassination of Wallace by Arthur Bremer on May 15th, what had all the hallmarks of Harvey's Manchurian Candidates, and what the Plumbers had relocated in the house that their secretary Kathleen Chenow had rented in Bremer's Milwaukee to effect.

Little wonder when the Watergate fiasco joined the list, Haig immediately went into action to stop the rot, and prevent threatening blowback. Even by Haig's standards, a sitting President could not guarantee his re-election by assassinating loyal Americans. Consequently, when the case against the arrested burglars started to fizzle out two days later, Woodward called "Deep Throat", "an old friend and sometimes source who worked for the federal government" (All The President's Men, p. 23), who explained that Watergate was about to "heat up" with the discovery of Hunt's White House employment, a claim that the reporter immediately established by talking to him at the Mullen Company, thanks to a transfer by the White House switchboard. Then Bernstein called Haig, "a former official of the Nixon administration ... who knew the inner workings of the White House" (p. 27), who implicated Colson as being behind the break-in, former Attorney General Mitchell for being responsible for the hiring of burglar James McCord, and his right-hand man Fred LaRue for ordering any wiretaps. By this time, the Deputy NSA was a Nixon appointee, though the reporters still tried to maintain the myth that Haig was not one of all the President's men. (See "Cast of Characters", pp. 9-11.)

In sum, "Deep Throat" was well in evidence by even Haig's admission before he made his official entry, with each reporter using him to help build upon what he had told the other, and Nixon's White House was already in the deepest trouble. No sooner had the burglars been indicted than Haig said that Mitchell, now the former manager of the Committee for the Re-election of the President, had a slush fund to finance all the dirty tricks, indicating that the conspiracy went far higher than the accused. His White House colleagues, including the President, had been doing politically dirty tricks - "ratfucking" - with all the information which had been gleaned from the FBI national security wiretaps, and it had all been captured on tapes of conversations in the Oval Office. "Deep Throat's" revelations explained how Hunt's silence was procured, and why his Gemstone Files of dirty tricks had to be destroyed. Finally, Haig, who had seen to the installation of Nixon's taping system, revealed that some of the Oval Office tapes had been deliberately erased.

In sum, "Deep Throat" had laid the foundation of the President's removal from office. The only misstep Haig had apparently made was to implicate Bob Haldeman in the conspiracy after he had left the NSC in October to become Army Deputy Chief of Staff, a post he used to see that the Pentagon's remaining bits about Oswald in the JFK assassination were destroyed. Actually, gratuitously implicating Haldeman was a clever ruse which made it seem that the White House-free Haig was certainly not "Deep Throat", and that he definitely was not part of the conspiracy. "If you shoot too high and miss," "Deep Throat" explained with self-satisfaction for Woodward after the screwup, "then everybody feels more secure." (p. 196) Little wonder that Haig replaced Haldeman as Chief of Staff to preside inexorably over Nixon's removal from office after Hunt's burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist was revealed at his trial in April 1973.

As further confirmation of this thesis, I wrote a "Letter from Washington" for Private Eye in November 1982. I hoped that it would revive interest in the fading House inquiry into the JFK assassination by inducing Haig to sue the magazine for libel - what people like Sir James Goldsmith had done for rich awards. While the article repeated some of the earlier claims, it went on to discuss his role in the Pentagon after the JFK assassination: "Haig was more successful in his planning against the Dominican Republic where he encouraged officers to overthrow Juan Bosch's regime in 1963, and to prevent its return in 1965 by another coup which was carried out so as to justify direct American intervention." (Nov. 20, 1981 issue, p. 11)

To increase pressure on Reagan's Secretary of State, I also wrote the following letter to Haig, hoping that its allegations would whet his appetite for a suit:


Dear Secretary of State Haig,

Enclosed is a copy of an article that I had published on you in Private Eye, dated November 20, 1981. While I would have preferred to have had it published in a better known, more respected journal, I shall take advantage of what facilities I can when it comes to your enormous crimes and dangerous activities. In my estimation, you are much more than just a disgrace to our country: you are a threat to mankind because of your will to power, redoubled desire to succeed because of a sense of guilt for previous crimes, and a perversion of all standards of morality and political behavior.

In future articles, I plan to discuss your leadership in trying to prevent, quite unnecessarily except for your sense of guilt, diclosure of The Pentagon Papers; in ending Howard Hunt's runaway crimes out of fear of exposure; in undermining Nixon's re-election chances as "Deep Throat" for the same purpose; in dragging out the investigation of Watergate to save yourself at the expense of the President and his men; in engineering Nixon's resignation; and in helping get him a pardon out of the basest self-interest.

I look forward, of course, to any court challenge that you may choose to make over what I have published or shall publish. Regarding the enclosed article, I would like to expose further your role in trying to railroad Lee Harvey Oswald two different ways; the arranging the "downing" of Captain Joseph Hyde's U-2 plane for your own strategic purposes; in collaborating with the CIA's Helms and Hunt to make it appear that Castro had a motive, capability, and opportunity for killing President Kennedy; in having a contrived explanation of the murder at communist expense which was ruined by Governor Connally's wounding; in arranging with the CIA, as you are currently, the demise of Castro's regime for your own purposes; in fogetting about both Hyde and his U-2 plane, etc., ad nauseam.

I can assure you that I find no pleasure in dealing with your disgusting behavior. I am writing a political biography of a reasonable English politician. I am only taking time out because of the enormity of your crimes, and the threat they represent to world security.

Sincerely yours,

Trowbridge H. Ford

cc., various interested parties.


The only thing the letters apparently achieved, as I never heard anything from Haig, was to speed his resignation/firing a few months later. Little did I realize that by this time, the former NATO commander was far less dangerous than the other occupants of The White House. During Watergate and its aftermath, he became committed to de´tente, finally having become convinced of the dangers of nuclear annihilation in any showdown with the Soviets - what the strategists now in its Situation Room and at the Pentagon still had to learn for themselves.