Bob Woodward Looks at New CIA Documents Linked to Watergate

By: E&P Staff Among the many reporters examining the much-awaited release of previously secret CIA file from the 1970s today was Bob Woodward of The Washington Post. The CIA's involvement in the Watergate coverup has always been murky.

In an article for the Wednesday Post, he explores one document that has come to light, revealing that the CIA was indeed in on the suppression of evidence.

His article, available at, opens this way.

"Mr. Helms instructed me to restrict knowledge of the existence of the letter to an absolute minimum number of people." So said Howard J. Osborn, the CIA's director of security, in a sworn affidavit that sat for decades in the agency's secret files until it was released yesterday. The Mr. Helms in question was Richard Helms, the director of central intelligence during Watergate and a zealous guardian of his agency...

In this case, Osborn reported that James W. McCord Jr., the head of the Watergate burglary team and Osborn's predecessor as the CIA's chief of security, had written a letter in August 1972 to Helms. Osborn, according to his affidavit, said he "felt strongly" that it should be turned over to the FBI, which was supposedly conducting a rigorous investigation of Watergate. It was a critical moment in the Watergate probe, with Nixon seeking reelection that fall and desperate to keep the botched burglary from spoiling his chances.

McCord's letter to the CIA could have been important evidence; according to later testimony, he was seeking assistance from the CIA, where he had worked for decades, and was on the verge of blowing the whistle about Watergate, as he did months later in a famous March 21, 1973, letter to Judge John J. Sirica.

But Nixon would have no preelection problem with the CIA. "Mr. Helms, after some reflection, decided he would like to have a legal opinion on the matter and summoned Mr. Lawrence Huston, general counsel of the agency, to his office and had him read the letter," Osborn recounted. Probably not to the surprise of anyone who knew Helms, after a lengthy discussion "both Mr. Helms and Mr. Huston decided that there was no such obligation and I was told to hold the letter in a secure file in my office and take no further action on it."


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