Nixon and the Watergate
It’s time for a little history lesson. We’re going to take a look back at one of the most famous cases of illegal eavesdropping in U.S history: President Richard Nixon and the Watergate Scandal. Nixon’s administration was not afraid to resort to those kinds of tactics to get what they wanted.
It seemed like a pretty typical morning in D.C. in March 1971 when Dave Mann, an Army counterintelligence agent was performing a check on the overnight files when suddenly, he found something that took him completely by surprise: a report that a standard nighttime bug sweep along the Pentagon’s power-packed E-Ring had discovered unexplained – and unencrypted — signals emanating from offices in the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
This was a sign that someone was trying to spy on the top guys in D.C.
Mann was very familiar with bugs and wiretaps. With all of the espionage of the Cold War, there was hardly an intelligence or counterintelligence expert who wasn’t caught up in the Spy vs. Spy games with the Russians. But during this time, as Mann and soon everyone else would discover, Nixon would take it one step further: Nixon didn’t just bug the Democrats, but he bugged people within his own administration. Before long, nearly all of the Watergate-era eavesdropping incidents were revealed to the public, including the shock that Nixon had even bugged himself. However, the bugs discovered by Mann in 1971 have remained completely hidden for all these years, until now.
In order to gain a better understanding of this era and the happenings that took place, it is important to remember that the Nixon administration would commonly resort to underhanded tactics and schemes. In 1969, just a few months into Nixon’s time in White House, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was so disturbed by the skullduggery of Henry Kissinger that he assigned a spy to the White House to steal documents from Kissinger’s briefcase. Kissinger was also bugging many members of his own staff, including a bug in the office of the Secretary of Defense.
And to think, this was a full two years before the world found out about Watergate, in which a team of spies were caught trying to plant bugs in Watergate hotel rooms of the Democratic National Committee. There was a team of over 50 people working on a way to discredit Nixon’s political opponents.
But “the White House horrors,” as they became known, were still only wisps of suspicion outside Nixon’s circle when Mann made his discovery.
The signals were eventually tracked to the offices of Gen. William Westmoreland, chief of staff of the United States Army. The guys on the Technical Surveillance Countermeasures team, or TSCM, wrote up a report.
Mann, now 67 and semi-retired in Tennessee, was on duty the next morning with the Pentagon Counterintelligence Force, a unit compartmented from the TSCM and so secretive that it has managed to escape public notice until now. He and his PCF partner, Tom Lejeune (who would later be killed while serving in Vietnam), undertook an investigation. Hopefully, it will be the last one of its kind that ever has to be performed in our nation’s capital.