Latest read: The Emperor’s New Clothes: Exposing the Truth from Watergate to 9/11

Richard Ben-Veniste’s book The Emperor’s New Clothes: Exposing the Truth from Watergate to 9/11 is a unique look at the political coverups that have engulfed Washington and the country. I find his approach to understanding the facts of highly publicized events to be a lesson in approaching internal reporting.
The Emperor's New Clothes: Exposing the Truth from Watergate to 9/11Ben-Veniste proves in The Emperor’s New Clothes that time will not and cannot alter Washington’s presidential change of power and the implications when tragic mistakes lead to institutional change.

It is clear to Ben-Veniste that established, solid governance can actually alter the accepted, institutional approaches in seeking important answers to events that bring organizations to the edge of collapse.

Clearly lessons from Watergate still ring true today. Since The Emperor’s New Clothes was published in 2009 Ben-Veniste‘s experiences as a commissioner on the 9/11 Commission have been given time to understand his successful, seasoned approach in dealing with the Nixon Administration and the conflict over Archibald Cox and the Saturday Night Massacre provide lessons in dealing with Condoleezza Rice and Attorney Generals (John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales) under W. Bush regarding executive privilege, another throwback position to Nixon and his defense of the White House taping system.

It would not be pressing to understand how Ben-Veniste is an accomplished lawyer, Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District service from 1968 to 1973. And then from 1973-1975 serving as the lead prosecutor on the Watergate Task Force. He was also a presidential appointment to the US Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group in 2000.

CIA torture report: The role of enhanced interrogation methods

Enhanced interrogation is simply today’s political spin to a torture technique used for over 500 years. Waterboarding as a method of torture dates back to Spain in the 1500s. The Senate’s declassified report regarding the role of the CIA’s use of torture in the war on terror after 9/11 has been a most revealing so far. I wonder if the full report will ever be declassified. Maybe to further strengthen our democracy it should take less than the 40 year wait for the Pentagon Papers.


In today’s instant twitter-world of “news” the world has learned of CIA techniques as abhorrent as rectal rehydration and a technique — so innocent at first glance — prolonged standing until you realize how this form of torture, as written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago is hideous to a human under interrogation.

Torture is simply inhumane. I am respectful of US Senator John McCain’s address on the floor of the Senate indicating his view that the CIA’s torture was wrong. The US can be better by not torturing prisoners. Proven, established interrogation methods (not torture) firmly established provide information needed in the war on terror. Senator McCain himself was tortured as an American POW during the Vietnam War. He speaks from a point of view that most Americans cannot fully understand. I applaud his service to our country during the War in Vietnam and more importantly his personal survival as a tortured prisoner of war. As outlined in the Pentagon Papers the US military used waterboarding in Vietnam.

In just reading the Senate’s executive overview the most chilling issue is that the CIA specifically withheld their acknowledgement of torture to the President. The second most important, but seemingly forgotten is the destruction of videotapes by the CIA of prisoners under torture. Clearly the CIA learned from Nixon’s Watergate.

I am beginning to feel again, after reading the Pentagon Papers that our democracy and leader of nations in today’s complex world has taken a temporary step backward.

Remembering Watergate’s Leonard Garment

Leonard Garment passed away this week.  He was President Nixon’s special legal counsel as Watergate became more than just headlines.  Garment and Nixon were close friends in the New York law firm of Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander. Nixon joined after serving as Eisenhower’s Vice President.
Leonard Garment
President Nixon appointed Garment to replace John Dean who was fired by Nixon the same day John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman resigned due to mounting evidence that crimes regarding Watergate were committed within the White House by members of CREEP.

With the amazing impact the White House taping system had on the Watergate investigation it was Garment who successfully urged Nixon not to destroy the recorded tapes.  This was the critical issue regarding Congress’ power to investigate Nixon.

Garment would actually outlast all of Nixon’s advisors and stay to serve President Ford immediately following Nixon’s resignation.  As a liberal Democrat he was really swimming upstream against Nixon’s conservative inner circle.

Garment eventually left but thrived as a Washington DC attorney more many years representing many future Republicans caught in legal cases – even as a close friend to fellow law partner Scooter Libby.  He was also very influential in the New York jazz community.

Maybe most impressive was Garment’s music ability that led him to play in a jazz band with Alan Greenspan before entering law school.  Yes, that Alan Greenspan. Small world back then in Brooklyn.

Nixon’s final act of treason revealed

The Atlantic has picked up an article from the BBC who released audio tapes of President Johnson regarding GOP candidate Richard Nixon’s sabotage of the October 1968 Peace talks in Paris regarding Johnson’s bid to end the US involvement in the Vietnam war.

Nixon Johnson
Johnson ordered FBI wiretaps on the GOP’s candidate that actually caught Nixon manipulating the South Vietnamese Government to boost his own Presidential aspirations in coming the November Presidential election.  Those wiretaps caught Nixon dispatching a GOP supporter Anna Chennault to meet with South Vietnamese President Thieu to promise Nixon would offer the South a better deal if he rejected Johnson’s invite to Paris.

The LBJ tapes were initially released in November 2008. History shows us (again) that Nixon was committing treason against the United States.  This release was even picked up by Slate’s Political Gabfest, but gained no real traction in the media.  Simply put – Nixon is dead.
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Robert Bork’s Saturday Night Massacre

Robert Bork died this week. While many recall his failed US Supreme Court nomination I will always remember his actions as Nixon’s hatchman during the infamous Saturday Night MassacrePlease jump to the 4:43 mark of this video:

At the time Nixon’s Watergate affair was spinning out of control. Archibald Cox, appointed as the Watergate Special Prosecutor demanded access to newly revealed White House tapes after Alexander Butterfield, the President’s Deputy Assistant acknowledged a taping system was installed by Nixon.

Nixon refused to comply with a court ruling that indeed he turn over his tapes and then ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refused and was fired. Nixon then ordered Richardson’s Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox but he also refused and was also fired by Nixon. Next in line was Robert Bork, then Solicitor General. He did comply with Nixon’s order and fired Cox.  Within hours Nixon ordered the FBI to seal off the offices of the Special Prosecutor, The Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General.

It was a clear and last act the Imperial President and it was a watershed moment in our constitutional.  The next day tens of thousands of Western Union telegrams flooded Congress by the American public insisting on impeaching Nixon.

Bork’s role in the Massacre, firing Cox sealed his fate fourteen years later when President Reagan nominated him for the Supreme Court.

Watergate’s Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson died Saturday. I think he will be remember more for his post Watergate actions than the Un-American acts he managed in Nixon’s White House. Regrettably today’s short attention span media will focus on the last years of his life rather than painfully share again with America the lessons of those in control of power in the beltway.

Chuck was a member of the Watergate Seven and will be forever tied to the illegal actions of breaking into the private offices of psychiatrist Dr. Lewis Fielding and stealing files relating to patient Dan Ellsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers. We should not look past his role of authoring Nixon’s Enemies List and his role in the Vietnamization of the war in SouthEast Asia.

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Latest read: In Nixon’s Web

Of all the books written about Watergate and the domino effect those crimes left upon the federal government comes a rather late entry:  In Nixon’s Web: A Year in the Crosshairs of Watergate.

This was is a rather interesting read since L. Patrick Gray wrote his first hand account leading the FBI as Watergate unfolded.

Gray was a political appointment to the FBI by Nixon following the death of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s only Director who served over 48 years as the top federal law enforcement officer to appointed by President Calvin Coolidge.

To many inside the FBI his appointment was considered a shock since he was not a career FBI agent, but rather a former Navy officer who left the armed services to campaign for Nixon.

Gray’s son Edward has authored a website regarding the book.  There are interesting segments not only about Gray’s life before the FBI but also his management style that came from his Navy background as a skipper of subs during WWII and the Korean War.  Nixon appointed Gray Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division in the Department of Justice.

Gray’s biggest lesson from Watergate was, as a life long Republican he was ultimately sacrificed by Nixon’s WhiteHouse over his confirmation hearings with the Senate.  He was lead astray by John Ehrlichman and John Dean.  As Director of the FBI he reported to Ehrlichman and not Nixon.  Nixon’s men controlled access to the President.

Terrorist Attack at Chicago O’Hare
One of the surprises is Gray’s revelation of the terrorist attack planned for Chicago’s O’Hare following the 1972 Olympic tragedy.  It was a rather unique peak into history, to understand how the FBI managed the threat and to learn about Gray’s actions to lead the FBI’s response.

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Latest read: Integrity

What can you learn from a Nixon staff lawyer who pleaded guilty to approving the break-in of Dr. Lewis Fielding’s office in 1971?  Plenty to my surprise.  Egil Krogh‘s Integrity: Good People, Bad Choices, and Life Lessons from the White House is a story of how ‘national security’ and political zeal triggered Watergate.  Krogh even closes the book with an open letter to W. Bush’s illegal wiretapping to demonstrate that our nation’s politicians and their staff have forgotten Watergate‘s 40th anniversary is just a couple years away….clearly the lesson has been forgotten as well.

Krogh joined Nixon’s White House team after working in a Seattle law firm with John Ehrlichman.  Ehrlichman served Nixon as a senior consultant in the 1968 Presidential campaign and was rewarded with the role as Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs. Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman dominated the Nixon White House like no other executive staff.

Krogh was responsible for approving the break-in at Fielding’s office in order to dig up damaging evidence against Daniel Ellsberg who had leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.  Ellsberg served on Kissinger’s staff.  This event was the first of many illegal break-ins designed by G. Gordon Liddy‘s Operation Gemstone.

Ellsberg wrote the introduction to Integrity.

Shortly thereafter Nixon’s men would invent a Special Investigative Unit, a Nixon/GOP “police force” known as “The Plumbers” to fix the leaking of government documents to the media.

It was not a total surprise to learn Liddy was willing to kill during the Fielding break-in.  Thankfully that did not happen but proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the zealots who were working for Nixon. Even Howard Hunt‘s team from Miami did not ask to be paid to break into Fielding’s office — they saw it as a patriotic act.

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Latest read: Nixon Triumph of a Politician, 1962-72

Just finished noted historian Stephen E. Ambrose second volume on Nixon: Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972 and it’s quite a task.


Ambrose as at his best walking the reader from Nixon’s failed run in the California gubernatorial campaign where he famously stated to the press “Your not going to have Nixon to kick around anymore” to his landslide re-election in 1972 with Watergate just beginning to explode.

The details of Nixon’s inherited war in Vietnam are the most revealing. Vietnam cast such a long shadow on Nixon’s Presidency. However all things begin equal he could not escape the shadow of Johnson’s role escalating the war in Vietnam. Nixon himself destroyed the “Imperial Presidency” he so hungered to achieve. Continue reading “Latest read: Nixon Triumph of a Politician, 1962-72”