The White House Plumbers, sometimes simply called the Plumbers, were a covert White House Special Investigations Unit established July 24, 1971 during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Its task was to stop the leaking of classified information to the news media. Its members branched into illegal activities working for the Committee to Re-elect the President, including the Watergate break-in and the ensuing Watergate scandal.
Members[edit | edit source]
The Plumbers came to include several Watergate figures. E. Howard Hunt was recommended by Charles Colson, and G. Gordon Liddy was recommended by Egil Krogh. Liddy coined his own sensitivity indicator for the group in the form of "ODESSA" for "Organization Directed to Eliminate the Subversion of the Secrets of the Administration".
Another member of the group was its liaison to the CIA, John Paisley. In recent years Paisley's involvement has led to speculation the CIA had a far greater hand in the operations of the Plumbers than originally thought at the time. What is known is Paisley was assigned to the CIA's Office of Security (OS), of which Hunt was once a member. On August 9, 1971, David Young's memo indicates he met with Paisley and OS Director Howard Osborn in which Paisley provided a list of objectives for the Special Investigations Unit.
Operations[edit | edit source]
The Plumbers' first task was the burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg's Los Angeles psychiatrist, Lewis J. Fielding, in an effort to uncover evidence to discredit Ellsberg, who had leaked the Pentagon Papers. The operation was reportedly unsuccessful in finding Ellsberg's file and was so reported to the White House. However, Fielding himself stated the file was in his office; he found it on the floor on the morning after the burglary and quite clearly someone had gone through it. In a September 1971 conversation, Ehrlichman advised Nixon, “We had one little operation. It’s been aborted out in Los Angeles which, I think, is better that you don’t know about." Eventually, the case against Ellsberg was dismissed due to government misconduct.
Aside from the Fielding burglary there are few other activities the Plumbers were known to have been engaged in. Hunt reportedly looked into the Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick incident and Liddy reported purported Kennedy administration involvement in the assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem.
After the California break-in, Liddy was recruited by White House Counsel John Dean to perform an intelligence gathering operation for Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP). Liddy was transferred to CRP and involved Hunt in the operations which would later include the Watergate burglary.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Liddy. Will, p. 147-149.
- Jim Hougan. Secret Agenda, p. 38-40.
- Jim Hougan. Secret Agenda, p. 47.
References[edit | edit source]
- Hougan, Jim. Secret Agenda. Random House (1984). ISBN 0-394-51428-9.
- Liddy, G. Gordon, Will. St. Martin's Press (1980). ISBN 0-312-88014-6.
[edit | edit source]
- The Watergate Files presented by The Gerald R. Ford Museum & Library
- G. Gordon Liddy deposition in Maureen K. Dean and John W. Dean v. St. Martin's Press et al., United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Case No. 92 1807 (HHG), December 6, 1996.