Showing posts with label Dean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dean. Show all posts

Friday, 26 September 2014

A Parliament of Whores - The Sexual History of Watergate

"There's a lesson to be learned from this. We can't drive presidents out of office in feeding frenzies. There shouldn't have been a Watergate Committee where Dean could perjure himself to death and where there was no way to check it."

Len Colodny, co-author of Silent Coup.

"Courts are a capricious venue for arguments about history.

Sometimes, as when a British court last year resoundingly rejected the Holocaust denial of "historian" David Irving, litigation can help protect established history from those who would maliciously rewrite it.  But conspiracy theorizing generally is better addressed in the public arena by rigorous confrontation with facts.  That's true both out of respect for freedom of speech---even wrong-headed speech---and because historical truth does not always fare so well in court.  A jury in Tennessee in 1999 embraced the looniest of conspiracy theories concerning the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  And this week, in a federal court in Baltimore, the commonly understood and well-founded history of the Watergate scandal took a hit as well.

        The forum was the defamation case of G. Gordon Liddy...  Mr. Liddy has argued that the burglary was not an attempt to collect political intelligence on President Nixon's enemies, but an effort masterminded by then-White House counsel John Dean to steal pictures of prostitutes---including Mr. Dean's then-girlfriend and current wife---from the desk of a secretary at the Democratic headquarters.  The now a community college teacher in Louisiana and was understandably offended by the implication that she was somehow involved in a call-girl ring.  She sued Mr. Liddy, and the battle has dragged on for four years.

        The jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict, but it split overwhelmingly in favor of Mr. Liddy; the majority of jurors felt that Ms. Wells's lawyers had failed to proved his theory wrong.  They found this in spite of the fact that Mr. Liddy relies, for his theory, on a disbarred attorney with a history of mental illness.  The call-girl theory "is possible," one juror (said)...  "It sure makes me more curious."  "We'll never know" what happened, said another.

        The danger of such outcomes as this one is that this sort of thinking spreads.  For whether or not Mr. Liddy's comments legally defamed Ms. Wells, we do know what happened at Watergate---and it had nothing to do with prostitutes. "

Washington Post Editorial, Feb. 4, 2001

"'Chuck, why do you figure Liddy bugged the DNC instead of the Democratic candidates?  It doesn't make much sense.  I sat in (Atty. Gen. John) Mitchell's office when Liddy gave us his show, and he only mentioned Larry O'Brien in passing as a target...'

"'It looks suspicious to me,'" Dean continues.  "'(I)t's incredible.  Millions of dollars have been spent investigating Watergate.  A President has been forced out of office.  Dozens of lives have been ruined.  We're sitting in the can.  And still nobody can explain why they bugged the place to begin with.'"

John Dean, 
Blind Ambition, 
Simon & Schuster (1976),
 pp. 388-91. 

Blind Ambition was written in 1975, while Gordon Liddy was in prison, refusing to talk about Watergate.  When Liddy published his own memoir, and when other books began to appear, Dean's inconsistencies and "errors" became as glaring as they were numerous.  Accordingly, Dean dismissed the book he had once embraced with pride, claiming that he hadn't actually read it before it was published, while insisting that much of the book was "made up out of whole cloth by Taylor Branch."  

A Pulitzer Prize-winner, Branch calls the allegation a lie. 

        In April, 1972 the seamy side of Washington was rocked when FBI agents raided the office and home of the Phil Bailley, a Washington defense attorney whose clientele included prostitutes.  Coded address-books, photographs and sexual paraphernalia were seized, and what began as a simple violation of the Mann Act, became a grand jury investigation with ramifications throughout the capital.
        Asst. U.S. Atty. John Rudy was placed in charge of the investigation.  Soon, Rudy found himself looking into the Columbia Plaza call-girl ring and its connections to the DNC---where a secretary was said to have "arranged for liaisons."
        It was at about this time that Lou Russell appeared in Rudy's office.  According to Rudy, Russell tried to divert his attention from the Columbia Plaza to another operatioon that serviced lawyers and judges on the other side of town.
        But it didn't work.  On June 9th, Bailley was indicted on 22 felony counts, including charges of blackmail, racketeering, procuring and pandering.  That same afternoon, the Washington Star published a front-page story, headlined "Capitol Hill Call-Girl Ring."  According to the article:

"Capitol Hill Call-Girl Ring."  

The FBI here has uncovered a high-priced call girl ring allegedly headed by a Washington attorney and staffed by secretaries and office workers from Capitol Hill and involving at least one White House secretary, sources said today.

Front Page Story,
Washington Star, 
June 9th 1972

        The article did not go unnoticed on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Within an hour of its publication, Bailley's prosecutor received a telephone call from the President's counsel John Dean, ordering him to the White House.  "He wanted me to bring 'all' the evidence but, mostly, what I brought were Bailley's address books," Rudy recalled.  "Dean said he wanted to check the names of the people involved, to see if any of them worked for the President." 


At least two high-ranking officials in the Nixon administration are among the people the Manhattan District Attorney's Office intends to question about the possibility that they were blackmailed because of their association with an East Side brothel.


New York Times

        In the weeks that followed, John Rudy had second thoughts.  After the Watergate arrests, his investigation of a link between the Columbia Plaza call-girl ring and the DNC might appear to be politically-motivated.  Worried about that perception, he asked his boss, U.S. Atty. Harold Titus, what he should do.  And the advice came back: Chill it (sic).

        And so he did.

        Bailley was remanded to St. Elizabeth's Hospital to undergo psychiatric tests.  This was an unwelcome and surprising development, inasmuch as he had been practicing law before that same court only a few weeks earlier.  Eventually, he was certified sane, and encouraged to plead guilty to a single felony.  When he did, he was bundled off to a federal prison in Connecticut where, ironically, he served on the Inmates Committee with Howard Hunt and other Watergaters.  The case-file, thick with interviews and evidence, was sealed and, soon afterwards, it became "lost."

        Which was unfortunate because, a few doors down the hall,  others in the U.S. Attorney's office were putting together a case in which sexual blackmail was said to be the central motive in the Watergate break-in.  Asst. U.S. Atty. Earl Silbert was convinced that "Hunt was trying to blackmail Spencer (Oliver)." The same point was made by Charles Morgan, who represented Wells and Oliver at the burglars' trial in early 1973.  Determined to block any testimony about the contents of the conversations that Baldwin overheard, Morgan said Silbert told him over lunch in December, 1972, that "Hunt was trying to blackmail Spencer, and I'm going to prove it." Morgan was skeptical.  Taking a page (or at least a metaphor) from John Dean's book, Morgan railed that "Mr. Silbert's blackmail motive had been woven from whole cloth." Accordingly, he asked the court to bar any testimony about the conversations Baldwin overheard.

        The court complied.

Heidi Rikan

        But what about "Cathy Dieter"?  Who was she?  According to Gordon Liddy, Dieter's real name was Heidi Rikan.  Liddy testified that he learned this from a seemingly authoritative source: Walter "Buster" Riggin, a sometime pimp and associate of Joe Nesline, himself an organized crime figure in the Washington area.

        Formerly a stripper at a seedy Washington nightclub called the Blue Mirror, the late Erica "Heidi" Rikan was a friend of Nesline's and, more to the point, of John Dean and his then-fiancee, later wife, Maureen.  Indeed, Rikan's photograph appears in the memoir that "Mo" wrote about Watergate.

        While admitting their friendship with Rikan, the Deans deny that she ran a call-girl ring, or that she used "Cathy Dieter" as an alias.  Beyond Buster Riggin's assertion to Liddy, evidence on the issue is slim or ambiguous.  One writer who attempted to verify the identification is Anthony Summers.  As the Irish investigative reporter wrote in his massive biography of President Nixon:

Before her death in 1990, Rikan said in a conversation with her maid that she had once been a call girl.  Explaining that a call girl was 'a lady that meets men, and men pay them'---the maid had grown up in the country and knew nothing of big-city sins---she added, tantalizingly: 'I was a call girl at the White House." 

"Liddy stated that the burglars' objective during the Watergate break-in was to determine whether the Democrats possessed information embarrassing to John Dean.  More specifically, Liddy asserted that the burglars were seeking a compromising photograph of Dean's fiance that was located in Wells's desk among several photographs that were used to offer prostitution services to out-of-town guests. "

Ida Maxwell Wells v. G. Gordon Liddy,
 No. 98-1962, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit,
 decided July 28, 1999.