Ron Ziegler may have called it a third-rate burglary, but the men who broke in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters all had a connection to the president’s re-election campaign.
Ronald Ziegler’s characterization of the raid on the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters as a “third-rate burglary attempt” was no doubt meant to be humorous. The five men arrested in the darkened offices in the middle of the night were not burglars; they were either free-lance intelligence entrepreneurs or agents employed by persons not yet identified. They had $6,000 in their possession and the bills had not been taken from the safe in the office; as everyone knows, the Committee is broke. The five men had ransacked part of the office. They had an expensive kit of intelligence paraphernalia in their possession: microphones, transmitters, cameras, lock picks, rubber surgical gloves, walkie-talkie radios, and a Minox “spy” camera and other equipment for copying documents. Two ceiling panels had been removed near Lawrence O’Brien’s office. The five “burglars” gave false names when booked but were soon identified. All five have former connections with the CIA. One, James McCord, was employed as “security coordinator” for the Committee to Re-Elect the President and had also been employed by the Republican National Committee. The name of Howard Hunt was found on some papers in the possession of one of the men arrested. Hunt, who worked for the CIA from 1949 to 1970, has been an occasional $100-a-day consultant in the office of Charles W. Colson, special counsel to the President, whose office has the reputation of being the “department of dirty tricks” in the White House setup. Hunt had last worked for Colson as recently as March 29. He is regularly employed by Robert R. Mullen & Company, a Washington public relations firm which has been active in setting up various fake name committees to raise campaign funds for Richard M. Nixon. The walkie-talkie equipment found in the possession of those arrested had been leased by the Committee to Re-Elect the President and on May 7 McCord had been granted a temporary permit to use radio transmitters and trans-receivers by the FCC—rather odd behavior for a “burglar.” Of course McCord was promptly discharged by the Republicans and pro forma denials of any knowledge or authorization of his actions have been issued by the White House and by John Mitchell. Colson, like Hunt, has not been available for questioning. More important, a tight lid was promptly clamped on the whole affair— Kleindienst was confirmed just in time—and the known facts have mostly been leaked to the press. It will be interesting to see how thorough and prompt the pending investigation will be.