Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"A Third-Rate Burglary"

On this date in history, five burglars were arrested in the offices of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters on the sixth floor of the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. Three of the men--Eugenio Martinez, Virgilio R. Gonzales, and Bernard L. Barker, were Cuban exiles who had taken part in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. The fourth man, Frank Sturgis, was described by DC police as a "soldier of fortune," who had led three three Cuban exiles during the Bay of Pigs incident. The fifth man gave police the name of Edward Martin; his real name, however, was James W. McCord, who was employed with Richard M. Nixon's Committee to Re-Elect the President, known by the acronym CREEP. Later, two co-conspirators, E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, were also indicted.

Hunt encouraged the men to plead guilty, as he planned to do, assuring them they would receive light sentences and that their families "would be taken care of." Hunt had readily supplied the Cuban exiles (whom he had led during the CIA-directed Bay of Pigs operation) with money, but had cut off funds when the men threatened to tell police what they knew. Hunt appealed to the men's patriotism, and promised that the money would flow again. Unfortunately for Hunt, however, his wife died in a tragic plane crash just days before with $10,000 in cash in a briefcase; this money is eventually traced back to CREEP.

Despite the scent of scandal wafting through the campaign, Nixon wins a landslide victory over the Democratic Party candidate, George McGovern, in the fall. The story of the attempted cover-up would not die, however, as two enterprising journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, kept digging for information and interviewing sources, guided in part by a source cultivated by Woodward known as "Deep Throat," after the adult movie popular in 1972. As the story "gained legs," it spurred investigations by the FBI, the US Senate, and the US House, culminating in this episode:

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