Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Legacy Of Howard Hunt

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Lots of secrets have gone to the grave with the recent death of Howard Hunt. Some of the readers may have been too young to have lived through the assassinations of the '60's, Watergate and later Iran-Contra. Each of these events were elements of an authoritatian attempt to steer and control the fragile Democracy we feel slipping away today. There was an attempted coup against Franklin Roosevelt, an actual coup against John Kennedy, and near coups with Watergate, Iran Contra and the 2000 presidential election. Howard Hunt was deeply involved in a thrity-year slice of deceptive government. Here's a polite summary from Bloomberg news:

E. Howard Hunt, Spy Who Organized Watergate Break-In, Is Dead

By Vivek Shankar

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- E. Howard Hunt, who organized the Watergate break-in that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon, has died. He was 88.

Austin Hunt said his father died today in Miami after a long battle with pneumonia, the Associated Press reported.

Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy were members of the so-called White House plumbers, the secret team formed to stop government leaks after defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg sent documents that became known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.

Besides Hunt and Liddy, the plumbers included Cuban exile friends of Hunt's. They ransacked and bugged the Democratic Party office at the Watergate apartment complex in Washington, D.C., in May and June of 1972, as well as the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist.

Hunt was convicted of conspiracy, wiretapping and burglary and served 33 months in prison. He said he preferred the term ``Watergate conspirator,'' AP reported.

Hunt served in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army Air Force and the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the CIA, during World War II. He then spent 21 years with the CIA, during which he wrote several books, mainly spy novels under pseudonyms.

Guatemala, Bay of Pigs

Operating in Latin America in the 1950s and 1960s, Hunt orchestrated a U.S.-backed coup in Guatemala that toppled democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954. He said he was involved in the botched Bay of Pigs attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro in 1961.

Hunt's first wife, Dorothy, was killed in the crash of United Airlines Flight 533 in Chicago on Dec. 8, 1972. The National Transportation Board, the FBI and Congress investigated the crash because $10,000 was found in her handbag, money that some believed was paid to Watergate defendants to keep them silent regarding White House involvement in the break-in. The crash eventually was ruled an accident.

In 1981, Hunt was awarded $650,000 in a libel lawsuit against Liberty Lobby for publishing an article in its newspaper, The Spotlight, that accused Hunt of involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. The award was overturned on appeal in 1985. Lawyer Mark Lane defended Liberty Lobby, and in his 1991 book, ``Plausible denial,'' outlined his theory about Hunt and the CIA being involved in Kennedy's 1963 assassination.

The Cuban Issue

Hunt had expressed bitterness about the Bay of Pigs operation's failure. In his semi-fictional autobiography, ``Give Us This Day,'' Hunt wrote: ``The Kennedy administration yielded Castro all the excuse he needed to gain a tighter grip on the island of Jose Marti, then moved shamefacedly into the shadows and hoped the Cuban issue would simply melt away.''

``I found out the CIA was just infested with Democrats,'' Hunt told Slate magazine in 2004. ``I retired in '70.''

After that he served as a consultant for the White House. Later, Nixon's special counsel Chuck Colson asked Hunt to work for the administration.

``I greatly respected Nixon,'' Hunt said.

He told Slate he didn't hold anyone responsible for Watergate and said Nixon shouldn't have resigned.

Nixon resigned under the threat of impeachment on Aug. 9, 1974. He was later pardoned by U.S. President Gerald Ford.

Hunt said he applied for a pardon but no action was taken.

``I thought I'd just humiliate myself if I asked for a pardon,'' he said.

Born Oct. 9, 1918, in East Hamburg, New York, Hunt is survived by his second wife, Laura Martin Hunt, and six children, AP said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vivek Shankar in San Francisco at .

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