Colson: Agent in The White House

September 25, 2007

"Colson was too much of a politician to believe that anything could be learned of value at the Democratic National Committee. His own intel- ligence net was far more effective - but he would not share what he learned with anyone except Haldeman and Nixon."' [emphasis added] Intelligence Agent? Who hired E. Howard Hunt, dispatched the "plumbers" to Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, drew-up the infamous "enemies list," was instrumental in freeing former Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa from jail, masterminded over 30 secret missions against the president's "enemies?" Charles Colson, hired as a "Special Counselor" to the President in November 1969, is the man to whom all of the above acts, and more, can be traced. It was Colson who built an elaborate intelligence network through his "Attack Group," which met every morning at 9:15 in his White House office to plan sabotage against the Democrats and the left. The 41-year-old Bostonian has been called "King of the White House Hard Hats," "Super Loyalist," "Cold Bastard," and "Hatchet Man." However accurate these descriptions may be, there is growing evidence that the paunchy lawyer might be an intelligence agent of the highest order, either from the CIA or the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency). If this were true, it might help in explaining one of the mysteries of the Watergate conspiracy: Charles Colson alone is the only con- spirator close to Nixon who has escaped the Senate Watergate Committee. Besides his association with E. Howard Hunt, which stretches back at least to 1961-63 when both were officials of the Brown University Alumni Association, there are other factors that add credence to charges that Colson was more than a "special counselor" to the president: First, there are Colson's close ties to the military - in addition to his corporate/military links mentioned below: at the age of 22 he was the youngest Marine Company Commander in Marine Corps history and from 1955-56 he was assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Further, the nature of the missions Colson planned and had carried out by his various groups of agents, suggests that they could not have been initiated by a novice. The choice of targets and the diversity of tactics is strikingly similar to the way in which the CIA and US. military agencies have been operating abroad for decades: smear attacks, breaking and entering to gain evidence, forging documents, manufacturing phony propaganda, and estab- lishing front groups. (See accompanying box on Colson's Watergate acts.) Finally, a reliable source has told us that Colson led a workshop at the University of Virginia titled: "The Reorganization of Intelligence in the Military" which was part of the on-going Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation. After engineering Saltonstall's re-election in 1960, despite a Democratic sweep in Massachusetts, Colson became a partner in the Boston law firm of Gadsby & Hannah. The Gadsby in the name is the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. When Colson joined the firm, it had 22 partners and specialized in "jungle law"--its clients were mainly corporations that had problems with the federal government's regulatory agencies. Colson also lobbied for such giants as Investor's Diversified Services, the nation's largest mutual fund complex (see Nixon-Mitchell Law Firm); Uniroyal, the giant rubber firm; Massachusetts Investors Trust; and Grumman Aircraft, one of the Navy's prime contractors and builders of the F-14 fighter. He remained a Senior Partner in the firm until Nixon appointed him "special counselor" in November 1969. In the wake of the spring 1973 Watergate revelations, Colson resigned his "special counselor" post and quietly slipped into his new Washington, D.C. law firm, Colson & Shapiro. It was Colson who was the prime mover behind former Teamster Boss Jimmy Hoffa's release from prison. In return, the Teamsters switched their $100,000 (annual) legal account from Edward Bennet Williams' Democratic law firm to Colson's. Corporate Military Ties Colson strengthened his links to the military during the mid-'60s through his corporate directorships of the Specialty Electronics Development Corp. (Spedcor) and the Loral Corporation. Colson was a director of Spedcor from 1964-68. According to its 1969 prospectus, the firm made between 84% and 97% of its sales through Defense Department contracts during Colson's last year as a director. Loral Corp., of which Colson was also a director, is a New York-based firm special- izing in the production of electronic systems for the military.16 "Chief Ass Kicker Around the White House" Colson once described his job as special counselor to the President as being "chief ass kicker around the White House." One of his functions was as chief White House liason man with outside groups, including Hard Hats, wildlife societies, the League of Women Voters, homebuilders, Veterans, and an assortment of labor groups. It is Colson who is most credited with being the architect of Nixon's '72 campaign strategy that molded a new GOP majority by winning over Democratic constituencies: the coalition of ethnic-Catholic-Wallacite groups that Nixon exploited through his appeals to racism and super-patriotism. In a recent Village Voice article ("How's Charles Colson's Grandmother These Days," October 4, 1973), Martin Nolan gives an insight into how much power Colson exerted within the White House: Colson also swallowed-up the empire of Herb Klein, another long-time Nixon chum. Klein was dis- patched to make speeches at Sigma Delta Chi luncheons while Colson took direct charge of communications and Klein's staff.... He ... hired Ken Clawson of the Washington Post to become director of communications, theoretically under Klein but in reality lieutenant to Colson's com- mand in 1972 of the Attack Group.... Clawson is reportedly the one who fabricated a letter to the editor of the Manchester Union Leader (N.H.) contending that Sen. Edmund Muskie condoned a slur on Americans of French-Canadian descent in which they were called "canuks." The letter was one of the factors that led to Muskie's politically-damaging crying speech outside the newspaper's offices. Colson vs. Mitchell: No Contest However, one series of incidents helps illustrate the "ass kicking" Colson did around the White House: the battle he waged against former Attorney General John Mitchell. Their rivalry and friction centered around a common problem in the Nixon White House: competition between aides for the Presi- dent's ear. However, there is evidence to suggest that the Colson-Mitchell tug-of-war was more complicated. When John Mitchell resigned as Attorney General and took over the job as chief of CREEP, he reportedly laid down two conditions: first, that Kleindeinst be appointed his successor as Attorney General; and second, that Colson be kept out of his way. The first request was simple; the second out of the question. Part of the reason Mitchell hated Colson so much may have been that they ran competing intelligence oper- ations. Judging from the quote at the beginning of this article, it appears that Colson viewed CREEP's operations as ama- teurish, and thought that his Attack Groups were much more effective in destroying Nixon's "enemies." A friend of Mitchell's tells the story: "Normally, John [Mitchell] could call the President directly about anyone, and if John didn't like the guy, he would be gone the next morning. Not with Colson, though. Colson was there to stay."' Stu Bishop Footnotes 1. Theodore White, The Making of the President, 1972 (N.Y.: Atheneum, 1973), p. 293. 2. White, op. cit., p. 292. Colson vs.the People The following Watergate acts are directly attributable to Colson's Attack Groups and plumbers. They are interesting not only for the acts themselves, but also for what they indicate about the way in which the Nixon administration operated. They help show how Watergate and the Indochina war are inseparable dynamics and how Nixon, though re-elected by a landslide, felt so insecure about his political position as to manufacture grassroots support for his domestic and foreign policies. Although the testimony of the Senate Watergate Hearings has credited Colson with being the architect of over thirty secret missions in the course of the conspiracy, we have chosen the ones that best illustrate the objectives and methods of operation of Nixon's far-reaching campaign of sabotage and espionage against his opposition. -- Colson was responsible for the drafting of the "Enemies List" which contained the names of 200 Nixon critics. -E. Howard Hunt testified at the Senate Watergate Hearings that it was Colson who mapped out and put into motion "Operation Gemstone," the code word for actions against Nixon's enemies. -- Colson ordered a group of Cuban exiles, led by Bernard Barker, to attack Daniel Ellsberg and other demonstrators at J. Edgar Hoover's funeral in Washington, D.C. -Colson played a key role in the commutation of two prison sentences: former Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa and Florida builder Calvin Kovens. At the suggestion of former Senator George Smathers (see section on J. J. Wilson), Colson arranged Kovens' release in the hope of winning more of Florida's Jewish vote for Nixon; in return for Hoffa's release, Nixon not only garnered the Teamster endorsement, but later Colson's new Washington, D.C. law firm received the Teamster's lucra- tive legal account. -Colson planned the plumber's mission that broke into Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office. -Colson and Nixon accepted $300,000 in Teamster Union funds and unreported campaign contributions to expedite the release of Angelo "the Gyp" DeCarlo from a New Jersey Prison. DeCarlo is one of the key figures in the National Crime Syndicate. -Colson and Nixon, through then Attorney General Kleindienst, had fraud charges dropped against Richard17 Fitzsimmons, son of Teamster president Frank Fitzsimmons. -Colson dispatched the plumbers to a Las Vegas pub- lisher's office, not to obtain evidence that would "blow Muskie out of the water," as reported, but to retrieve potentially dangerous papers summarizing Nixon's San Clemente land deals in which he utilized $350,000 of campaign funds and $300,000 of Syndicate money. -Colson ordered Hunt to Milwaukee to break into Arthur Bremer's apartment in an attempt to link Wallace's accused assailant to the left. Colson thought evidence could be obtained in the apartment that would substantiate such a link, thus discrediting the left. -Colson suggested the break-in and firebombing of the "liberal" Brookings Institution as a diversionary tactic for breaking into Leslie Gelb's Brooking's office to try to locate the source of the Pentagon Papers leak. His subordinate, John Caulfield, refused to carry through the plan. -When Nixon ordered the mining of Haiphong, tele- grams running 6 to 1 in the president's favor began pouring into the White House. However, there was one small catch: the favorable telegrams were sent by CREEP's November Group which was another of Colson's ideas. -Colson dispatched E. Howard Hunt in disguise to a hospital to visit the ailing Dita Beard. Beard was the ITT lobbyist who broke the story that ITT and Nixon had reached a settlement on an anti-trust action in which the GOP would receive $400,000 to help finance its 1972 convention in San Diego. Colson wanted Hunt to get a confession that her allegations were false. -Colson doctored up a photograph that showed McGovern standing with what looked like a group of "weirdo, longhairs" as part of the campaign tactic to link the Democrats with the "extremist left." -When members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) were peacefully demonstrating in Washington, D.C., Colson quickly established a phony front group called "Veterans for a Just Peace." -Colson attempted to influence the Securities & Ex- change Commission by placing a law partner of his, King Mallory, in a key SEC post. The scheme fell through. -Colson worked closely with other government agencies in their operations against Nixon enemies. One was the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which audits tax returns. Colson implied to the IRS that Teamster vice- president Harold Gibbons' returns might be out of order. Gibbons was a McGovern supporter. Colson also at- tempted to do the same to chief McGovern fundraiser Henry Kimmelman. Sources: The principal sources for this article include: "-"How's Charles Colson's Grandmother Doing These Days?" Village Voice, October 4, 1973. -"Charles Colson: President's liaison with the outside world," National Journal, August 8, 1970. -"Reputed Dirty Tricks Man Colson Finds Career on the Line," Washington Post, September 25, 1973. -- "Political Aide for Nixon is Tough, Loyal," Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1972. "--"The White House, the Teamsters and the Mafia," Miami Herald, June 3, 1973. "-"Nixon Aide Allegedly Wrote Ad Backing Haiphong Mining," Washington Post, April 27, 1973. "--"Two Aides Say Colson Pressed for Bugging," Washington Post, April 30, 1973. "-"Nixon and the Funds," A 1968 Evans and Novak column. "-"Colson: Nixon's Go-Between," Washington Post, February 28, 1971. "-"Colson Firm Tried to Influence SEC," Miami Herald, May 23, 1973. "--"Nixon's Secret Weapon," San Francisco Chronicle, December 17, 1972. "-"Colson: Power Mechanic," Washington Post, December 5, 1972. -- Ex-Counsel to Nixon Is Sought as Lawyer," New York Times, March 29, 1972. -- "Nixon, Colson and the Teamsters," The Real Paper (A Boston underground publication), August 8, 1973. "-"E. Howard Hunt's Testimony in The Watergate Hearings by The New York Times (N.Y. Bantam Books, 1973), pp. 651-669. E, HOWARD HUNT COLSON'S BRAZILIAN CONNECTION Is it possible that Charles Colson is a linguist in addition to his other various talents? In 1967 he became vice-chairman of the Brazilian-American Cultural Devel- opment Institute, a non-profit organization which claims to teach Portuguese and English to U.S. and Brazilian businessmen. We do not know much about this group and would appreciate hearing from readers who have more Information.

Tags: Nixon, Charles Colson, intelligence network

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