News Release

Watergate at 50: The Hidden Hand of the CIA

Scorpions' Dance

JEFFERSON MORLEY,, @jeffersonmorleyMorley’s book Scorpions’ Dance: The President, the Spymaster and Watergate was just released Tuesday. The 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in is June 17.

The book focuses on the relationship between President Richard Nixon and then-CIA Director Richard Helms and relies on documents that have since been partly released and a reexamination of overlooked portions of Nixon’s tapes. Morley said today: “We can now say with confidence what the CIA denied: that Howard Hunt was a CIA asset at the same time he was a Watergate burglar.”
In his recent piece “The [Redacted] Truth About the CIA’s [Redacted] Role in Watergate” for the Daily Beast, Morley writes: “A redacted FBI memo from May 1973 conceals details about Hunt’s role in breaking into the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense Department analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. The memo was addressed to Acting FBI Director Mark Felt who was serving as a confidential source, known as Deep Throat, for Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.”

Morely also just wrote “Nixon’s Plan to Threaten the CIA on JFK’s Assassination” for Politico. Nixon’s obsession with “the whole Bay of Pigs thing” has intrigued many for decades. A largely overlooked tape provides answers.

Morley recounts a Nixon conversation with then-CIA director Helms. Morley writes: “‘The “Who shot John?” angle,’ he [Nixon] said quietly, 17 minutes into the conversation. Nixon did not dwell on the phrase. He didn’t need to. In the context of his long-standing demand for the CIA’s records, the invocation of ‘the “Who shot John?” angle’ can only refer to one thing: Kennedy’s assassination. The ambush in Dallas was the first thing on Nixon’s mind as he pressed the director for the agency’s Bay of Pigs files. The president intuited a connection between the failed invasion in 1961 and JFK’s assassination two years later.

“Nixon had no desire to expose what Helms called the agency’s ‘dirty linen.’ Rather, he wanted to use the Bay of Pigs issue against presumed rival Ted Kennedy while defending the CIA from recent allegations that the CIA’s plots against Castro had led to JFK’s death. Nixon knew the Agency was vulnerable to JFK’s assassination, which he presumed gave him leverage over Helms.”