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.

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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The first wikileak: Pentagon Papers

Finally after 40 years the US Government will publish The Pentagon Papers for the very first time.

The Pentagon Papers

The study commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was officially titled: “United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense” and was a secret kept hidden from President Johnson. and American public for over 40 years.

The study traces US involvement in Vietnam beginning in 1945 just after World War II and ending in 1967 before the Tet Offensive.  The report, a scathing self-examination of U.S.-Vietnamese relations and the Vietnam War, led to one of the largest and most significant court battles ever concerning government secrets vs. freedom of the press.  Nixon’s demand to damage Ellsberg resulted in the Watergate scandal.

The Nixon Library has a copy in that was part of President Richard Nixon’s papers. It will be released at 9 a.m., June 13, 40 years to the day that leaked portions of the report were printed on the front page of The New York Times.

Most Dangerous Man in America ?

mdmiaWatching this documentary about Daniel Ellsberg reminded me of his rather extraordinary life that has not yet stopped. With the recent WikiLeaks sensation its worth reminding America how powerful documents can change people and governments.

I read Ellsberg’s book Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers back in 2006 (review here) and realize its better than the movie.

However for today’s Gen Y its more than enough to get them visually interested in events as old as Vietnam, Watergate and Nixon.

Movie Website

Latest read: On the Brink

A financial crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson faced the largest crisis in our country’s modern history with a great opportunity.  His first hand account of the near collapse of our financial economy is detailed in On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System.
on the brinkHis strongest writing are the 20 pages in the book’s Afterward, written one year after his departure from Treasury with the opportunity to look back and reflect upon the events and the solutions including TARP and the role of the G20.

Paulson was certainly the right type of person for the job having served as the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs.  He previously served in the Nixon administration as an assistant to John Ehrlichman during the Watergate scandal.

Although reluctant to accept the job as United States Treasury Secretary under George W. Bush, Paulson acknowledged upon his arrival in Washington a credit crisis was on the horizon.  Clearly Paulson notes he was naive of regulatory powers in Washington and any suggestions of financial reform in an election year were all dead on arrival.

It’s worth repeating that between March and September 2008, eight major US financial institutions failed — Bear Stearns, IndyMac, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Washington Mutual and Wachovia.  Six of them in September alone.
Paulson jumps right out of the gate on page 1 as all Americans would have wanted:

Do they know it’s coming Hank? President Bush asked me.  “Mr. President we’re going to move quickly and take them by surprise.  The first sound they’ll hear is their heads hitting the floor….For the good of the country I proposed we seize control of the companies, fire their bosses and prepare to provide $100 billion of capital support for each.”

Regrettably its not Wall Street but rather Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government backed lending institutions (GSEs) that Paulson is addressing.  Paulson should could have done the same for Lehman, Bear Stearns.and ALL the other institutions since they received taxpayer money to keep them afloat….on their yachts.
–When you learn that someone at a financial company made a 1 Billion bonus (yes a billion for one person) you can see where the ship was heading…right into the rocks.

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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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My latest read – American Spy

As most of the President’s men who served Nixon have released their own accounts of their roles in Wategate, Howard Hunt’s book American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond is no different.  Hunt spent his career in the CIA from the end of WWII to Watergate. I must admit Hunt lived quite a life.  He was also a respected writer having published over 45 books.

He will always be known for his role in the Bay of Pigs and his reported involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy however his book’s focus is Watergate.

I cannot honestly believe how stupid the Republicans were in dealing with Hunt’s team from Miami.  G. Gordon Liddy was the mastermind of Operation Gemstone and directed the overall planning with the White House while Hunt ran the team.   Its amusing to see the amount of detail Hunt provided regarding the planning to break into DNC offices in the Watergate building.

Many believe the break-in was a one time event.  In the last twenty years it has become accepted that Liddy directed four break-ins at the Watergate.

Why?  A member of Hunt’s Miami team, Virgilio Gonzàlez the lock picker actually forgot to bring the correct tools to break into the DNC office.  Hunt’s team had to cancel the operation while Gonzàlez actually fly back to Miami over a weekend to located a correct set of tools to successfully pick the lock.

This just proves how stupid Hunt and Liddy were regarding this group of clowns….the guy who is in charge of picking the lock to get you inside the DNC forgets to bring his lock picking tools?

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Holiday reading

holidayread Holiday reading arrived today via mail. Many selections have been referred in previous books so I started tagging them after realizing more than one book pointed to the following:
Cell, The: Inside The 9/11 Plot, and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It,

Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy,

Integrity: Good People, Bad Choices, and Life Lessons from the White House,

Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School,

Triple Cross: How bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI–and Why Patrick Fitzgerald Failed to Stop Him,

The Power of Impossible Thinking: Transform the Business of Your Life and the Life of Your Business,

One Day in September: The Full Story of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and the Israeli Revenge Operation “Wrath of God”,

American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond

and Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War
The holiday should be very interesting…I’m looking forward to every book.

Latest read: What the Dog Saw

I have been a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s writing.  Joining The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and Outliers: The Story of Success comes his latest work What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures which is a collection of his writings with the New Yorker.  I have enjoyed all of his books and this new release is no exception.

And to prove life again is all about timing the NYTimes has it’s book review hitting tomorrow’s Sunday paper.  The book’s title is from his writing about Cesar Millan, the noted animal trainer with the hit cable show The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan.

Gladwell breaks the book into three parts: Minor Geniuses, Theories – or ways of organizing experience and Predictions we make about people.  From these points Gladwell shares those articles that have stuck with him long after the New Yorker articles were published.

I was pretty amused in reading What the Dog Saw right after finishing SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance

To say the data and stories by Gladwell and Dubner & Levitt may overlap, it was nevertheless a lesson in looking beyond the regular story to take the opportunity to learn hidden lessons.

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Latest read: The Way of the World

Ron Suskind has written a revealing novel about the Bush Administration‘s attitude towards terrorism and American politics in The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism.  Suskind won the Pulitzer for A Hope in the Unseen and sets a pretty level playing field for the Bush Administration’s War on Terrorism revealing new insight to the strategy used by Bush/Cheney to “secure” war against Iraq.
The Way of the WorldSuskind brings many issues of concern to the forefront regarding the Bush Administration’s actions in taking the country to war.  I believe Suskind has clearly documented actions by Cheney as lessons learned from Nixon’s Watergate.  Cheney served Nixon as White House Staff Assistant in 1971 and Deputy Assistant to the President from 1974–1975.

During Watergate Nixon’s inner circle kept the President “in the know” but as Vice President Cheney has acted to deliberately keep W. Bush out of the loop for political and potentially legal reasons.  Suskind details the odd relationship developed by Bush in order to protect himself.

The 2% rule.
What does a sitting President do with a 2% approval rating with African American voters in a post-Katrina America?  With midterm elections on the horizon Bush simply extended (a bit early) the voting rights act.  That was the most strategic advice the GOP could offer?  Did they want to hit….say 4%?  This proves to be an excellent example of the political extremism underway in the Bush White House to show how the story and plans for war would be developed to further a political agenda.

Knifing the baby
Immediately following 9/11 Bush became accustomed to getting his political way with America, the mainstream media and government. History has shown this leads Presidents down dark paths.  When British intelligence (MI5 & MI6) notified the US that a plan was underway by Al Qaeda to blow up airplanes over the Atlantic Bush asked British PM Tony Blair to give up the terrorists to American authorities.  Blair refused saying British Intelligence had 2,000 operatives working this case for over a year.  They were eavesdropping on their ring of terrorists and looked to grab higher players within 30 days.
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