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Len Colodny
Len Colodny
Silent Coup:  The Removal of a President
ISBN: 0312051565
Silent Coup: The Removal of a President
In a controversial new book on the Nixon resignation, Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, the authors said that White House aide John Dean was responsible for the cover-up of the 1973 Watergate break-in, that General Alexander Haig was attempting to unseat President Nixon, and that General Haig was also "Deep Throat." The authors say that their book has been rejected by some critics because it "cuts too close to the bone of what's been accepted for 20 years." Mr. Colodny is a former Maryland politician and Mr. Gettlin was a reporter for Newhouse Newspaper in Washington.
Silent Coup: The Removal of a President
Program Air Date: August 11, 1991

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Len Colodny, co-author with Robert Gettlin of the "Silent Coup: The Removal of a President," give us a brief synopsis of what you found.
LEN COLODNY: , CO-AUTHOR, "SILENT COUP: THE REMOVAL OF A PRESIDENT": Well, the major points that were made in the book start with the beginning of the Nixon administration when he came in and formed a secret government. That, in itself, spawned a spy ring which we talk about in some depth -- how it was uncovered and what the president did with it. We also talk about John Dean as being the mastermind behind the break-in at the Watergate -- actually ran the coverup, unbeknownst to anyone, was running his own rogue intelligence operation. Finally, we deal with Bob Woodward and Alexander Haig and we show that not only did they have a relationship in 1969 at a time they both claim not to know each other, but beyond that, in book three, which we call "Exit the President," we show how the two men interacted through the entire Watergate thing. Not only was he writing material which was damaging to the president of the United States, but they were also writing stories that they knew to be untrue, that covered up Al Haig's role in things like the wiretapping.
LAMB: Mr. Gettlin.
ROBERT GETTLIN, CO-AUTHOR, "SILENT COUP: THE REMOVAL OF A PRESIDENT": Well, Len has laid out the essential revelations in the book. We spent a better part of seven years working on this book and it's really rich in detail. We were lucky to have a 20-year record to go over. We looked at all the memoirs that have been written. We looked at the Senate Watergate Committee testimony, the House Judiciary Committee testimony. We looked at the White House tapes in a way which really no one's looked at before. We went to the archives. We had a whole array of documentary evidence, all of which is listed in the back. The other thing that I think is interesting is that we never really started out intending to write a book about Watergate. Our original premise, our original project was a look at Bob Woodward the journalist, post-Watergate when he was metropolitan editor of the Washington Post during the famous Janet Cook affair. It was only once we learned about Woodward's military background, which Len talked about, his relationship with Haig, that the whole of string began to unravel, and we found this incredible story about what was really happening during the Watergate period.
LAMB: Why did you care about Bob Woodward?
GETTLIN: Well, we had known from the early 1980s that Woodward's journalistic practices, his role as an editor at the Washington Post did not hold up to the kind of standards that, at least, I felt as a journalist and Len felt as someone who'd work with the journalists for a number of years. So we never really intended to look at Watergate. We were looking at Woodward and how he operated at the Post and how reporters reacted to him as an editor and so forth, and the Janet Cook affair was in the middle of that. We had some other instances of behavior which was less than ethical.
COLODNY: He said some strange things during that period. When they uncovered the Janet Cook mess and they did an in-house ombudsman thing, Bill Green looked at it and he said something very strange to Green. Now it's all been exposed and they've had to return the Pulitzer, and Woodward says, "Fake and fraud that it was, it was a great story." I don't think journalists talk that way. The more we talked to reporters at the Post or the more we talked to reporters who left the Post -- there was a Mobil Oil suit in the middle of all this -- all that sort of made for an interesting Woodward-after-Watergate type of a thing. Then, lo and behold, there's the secret job. There's the job that makes sense. How does a guy that's nine months at the Washington Post city section have a source at the highest level of our government who trusts him with this damaging information on the president of the United States. That's what led us down the trail.
LAMB: You know that there's been a lot written around this town about both of you and your own motives. Let's deal with those upfront. You used to be out in Montgomery County which is out in the suburbs of here. What and why is that a source of some controversy?
COLODNY: Well, that is not the sum and substance of my life. I was a businessman in Prince Georges County in Maryland. I was a public official in Maryland, and I was involved in Democratic politics in Maryland, including the McGovern campaign of '72. When I got to Montgomery County to do a consulting job for the government over there, the Post covered it. If anything, I was partial to the Post. They had covered me through my entire political career, and I knew the reporters and trusted the reporters. I learned through that process what pressures Woodward was putting on them to produce a story that was in many instances not true. One of those reporters eventually left the Post after winning a Pulitzer, just having had their fill of it. That's the Montgomery connection, but it really wasn't central to anything. It was just a question of seeing how it worked. Here was Woodward, who I had admired in Watergate because he had knocked off a man I disliked greatly, Richard Nixon, and I could believe the things that were said about Nixon. So I went into Woodward thinking he was Robert Redford.
LAMB: And, in your case, you had met Bob Woodward where, first?
GETTLIN: Oh, I first met Woodward when I was in college, right at the height of Watergate when Woodward and Bernstein had become household names. I was a young reporter, just starting out in my own career. I was working for a weekly newspaper in Santa Barbara, California. Woodward came there to give a speech. I interviewed him. I wrote a story about it. Subsequent to that, I had applied at the Post for some jobs, talked to Woodward, didn't get a job there. I worked at the Star, which was where Len and I met when I was a Star reporter. Once the Star folded, myself, as did many other Star reporters, interviewed at the Post for possible jobs. I ended up working somewhere else and had a career in Washington at the Newhouse Newspapers. So, I've dealt with Woodward in the past, and it's funny, in the early part of our project, Woodward refused to talk to us. He eventually did grant an interview, but he initially said, "You know, the only reason you're writing this book is because you never got a job at the Post," which was obviously untrue. I mean, this book is so well sourced, so well documented, and goes far beyond the issue of Bob Woodward. But that sort of gives you a picture of Woodward's reaction to us. There's very little of us in this book. This book is based on documentary evidence, on-the-record interviews -- as I said before, a rich array of sources that haven't anything to do with Len Colodny and myself, but everything we feel to do with the record that's sitting out there.
LAMB: When you read the book, you're constantly coming across quotes from other books that have been written. How many other books were written on Watergate?
COLODNY: We did something that I didn't think was so unique if you look back at investigative reporting pre-Bob Woodward -- a fellow named I. F. Stone, who I think is one of the giants of this field. That's how he did it. He didn't go out and meet people in garages. He sat and compared, and that's all I was doing. I was looking at what each one -- just like they had testified in court. I said, "This book said this," and I took it by like subject matter. I didn't read the books right through. What did they say about this? What evidence is there to support that? And constantly doing that. That's the way we built the book so that's why we're always referring to that. When we did interviews, we did them the same way. If somebody told us something, that didn't mean it was true. I, in many instances, interviewed people over years. Jeb Magruder took a full year. I would deal with, "Why did you say this in your testimony, and it's different than you said it in your book?" Now, Dean is the one who told me how to find his crime. He was very interested in Deep Throat. He himself had been looking for Deep Throat in a book called "Lost Honor" in 1982. John Dean, when we got to 1987, even wanted to write the forward to "Silent Coup." He said, "You know, it would be great if I did the forward." I started to move into Watergate, and he said, "Len, it's too painful. I've been through this. I don't want to talk about it anymore. It's over. Read everything that I've said in the courts, in the Senate Committee, what I wrote in "Blind Ambition" and the White House tapes." For the next year, that's all I did, was sit there and read everything he said -- not verbatim, but by subject matter. Lo and behold, in four different venues, sometimes five different venues, he never told the same story twice. By the time that he got to his book "Blind Ambition," he would actually drop the lies -- some of the most important material. So, when I came back to confront him, he had no answers. But, that's the way it was done. There was no black magic here. Just compare stories and look for evidence to support or to not support what a person was saying.
LAMB: Let's again go back to your findings. In Bob Woodward's case you found what?
GETTLIN: We found that Bob Woodward, before he was a Washington Post reporter, was in the military. Actually, he came out of a very conservative background in the Midwest. His father was a naval officer. Woodward has long said he was sort of an outsider as long ago as high school. In fact, we found that he was almost the top of his class, a student body president, and he went to Yale on a very competitive scholarship, went into the military, had a fast-track career in the Navy, served under some powerful admirals, and he had some good jobs working in communications and related matters. He ended up, in 1969, working for the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Thomas Moorer. In that job at the Pentagon when he worked for Moorer, Woodward had a special briefing assignment so sensitive it's not even listed on his official service record. He would go from the Pentagon over to the White House and in the basement at the National Security Council offices, brief officials, among them Alexander M. Haig. This is a relationship, I think as Len said earlier, that was formed at that time -- perhaps even earlier than that, but we can take it as far back as '69. These two men trusted each other. Haig trusted Woodward and as Woodward himself said about Deep Throat in All the Presidents Men, Deep Throat hated the press, distrusted newspapers and yet he talked to Bob Woodward, his former briefing officer.
COLODNY: Now, Bob Woodward locked himself in. I was amazed he gave us an interview to start with.
LAMB: When did you interview him?
COLODNY: We interviewed him in March of 1989 when he was well underway in "The Commanders." Of course, there was no Panama and no Iraq at the time, so he was writing something else at the time. We met in his home. It was all tape-recorded, and we've made the transcript of that interview available through St. Martin's for anyone who wants to read the total interview.
LAMB: St. Martin's is your press?
COLODNY: Yes. What he did was, he drew a line in the sand. Bob didn't think he'd do it. "I didn't meet Al Haig until 1973." Now, if there's nothing going on here, folks, why not just say, "Yes, I briefed the guy. This is no big deal. A lot of guys briefed Al Haig. I was one of those guys," and we move on. But they've both drawn the line. They've both decided to conceal that early existence. So Woodward is now flat-out lying about the relationship. The Washington Post -- it's now over four weeks -- the last story they wrote on this book they said we didn't interview Admiral Moorer. They've been sitting with the transcripts in which Admiral Moorer clearly says, "In 1969, I sent Bob Woodward to brief Alexander Haig." Mel Laird clearly says, "Alexander Haig was being briefed by Bob Woodward."
LAMB: Hold on just a second. Admiral Thomas Moorer was who at the time?
COLODNY: He was Chief of Naval Operations at the time Woodward did the briefing. What's interesting about that job is Woodward had the title of communications duty officer. He didn't have the title of a briefer, which would indicate the job was even more sensitive than we've been able to unearth to this point because why in the world would you even have a cover job for something that's so openly being done? It appears he was some sort of a back channel -- a very sensitive back channel between the White House and the Pentagon. So, there's a lot of things going on here. Not only that, but Haig conceals from Richard Nixon that he knows Bob Woodward. At the height of Watergate, the best Nixon can figure out is that somehow David Gergen is the way to get to Woodward. So there's something very important going on here. We first establish the '69 relationship. We have four -- and this for Woodward is a blow, because we use four on-the-record sources. We use Moorer, we use Laird, we use Roger Morris, who actually saw Woodward enter Haig's office in '69. The briefer job, which Woodward said, "I defy you to find a single person that said I was a briefer," Jerry Friedheim, who was Laird's assistant at the time, press assistant, also has confirmed that he was a briefer. So, it's there. It's in the book. It's not a "Commanders", "Final Days", 400 people on background, whatever. I mean, Woodward has this remarkable talent for doing that.
LAMB: Let me read you a quote out of the Washington Times by his partner at the time, Carl Bernstein. He says, talking about your book, "It's a lunatic piece of work -- reckless, fast and loose with the facts." He adds, "I know who Deep Throat is, and it's not Al Haig."
GETTLIN: Well, Bernstein's just not telling the truth. You know, Bernstein made a number of statements about "Silent Coup" early on which are just blatantly false.
LAMB: Did you talk to him?
GETTLIN: Well, I attempted to, and I'll explain to you why Bernstein's credibility on this issue is very thin. When we had a news conference when the book was published on May 20, a reporter stood up at the news conference and reiterated that quote which he had gotten from Carl Bernstein and Bernstein claimed, "As a matter of fact, these two authors didn't even contact me until two weeks ago." Well, that itself was crazy because the book was being printed. In fact, I had letters, certified letters, I had sent to Bernstein from months and months earlier in which he asked to have questions posed to him that he would answer. He never did answer the questions. So Bernstein didn't have his facts straight. Bernstein was on an effort to really discredit the book, as have others who have a motive for doing so. In fact, the book is not fast and loose with the facts, and Bernstein knows that.
LAMB: This is so hard to follow in conversation if you don't read the book. I only say that for our audience's sake because we're going to be all over the place, and I want to try to get some concrete things down here because the story is quite difficult to follow in conversation, as I just said. It's easier to follow in the book, but even after you've read the book, it appears that it's going to take a long time for you to really get to the bottom. I mean, there's so many loose ends.
COLODNY: Well, we've had a lot of people in town. I was in town yesterday and one of the staffers of the Watergate Committee went to lunch with me. He said, "You know, I've read it once. I now know I have to go back and reread it." You see something different because it's so information-packed that one thing builds on another thing. You can't just skip around or excerpt or whatever. It's really very difficult.
LAMB: Let's see if we can get some basics out. How many people that you tried to reach of importance did not talk to you?
GETTLIN: Nixon is one. Kissinger is another. Alexander Haig did not. There were very few others.
LAMB: Who did you interview that you felt was the most useful?
GETTLIN: Well, you have to look at which part of the book we're talking about. I mean, there were different parts of the book in which different people were more useful than others.
LAMB: John Mitchell.
GETTLIN: John Mitchell was very useful on the issue . . .
COLODNY: I want to qualify that because I've heard the charge that this is Mitchell's book and his version of events. As you know, John Mitchell was offered $50,000 by Simon & Schuster to write his own book. John Mitchell was helpful in the early stages because he believed that Haig was the rat in the woodpile. Had nothing to do with the Watergate break-in. We didn't even get to the Watergate break-in until '87, and the interviews with Mitchell start in '85. John Mitchell and Nixon were in the middle of a fight between he and the former president over Alexander Haig. They had fought in 1980, very vehemently, when President Nixon successfully tried to get Al Haig appointed secretary of state. This is the one issue these two men fought over. So when he saw us putting the Woodward-Haig relationship together, he got very interested. His helpfulness, though, as far as I could tell, was basically getting us interviews or people to talk to us. When we got to 1987 and we moved toward Watergate itself, John Mitchell tried to tell me that Chuck Colson was behind the break-in, and he gave me his version of those events. As it turned out, he was dead wrong. That's the only version. If you read Silent Coup and the middle part which is about John Dean, book two called "Golden Boy," there's very little of Mitchell there because Mitchell didn't know what the heck happened to him. That was true of almost all the other Nixon people. Interviewing Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Colson and reading the White House tapes, the confusion was just obvious. Even Dean confirmed to me that he read the tapes the same way and was amazed at how little they really knew.
LAMB: I just showed the audience the list, Appendix A, of all the interviewees in the back. Why did you do that?
GETTLIN: Because we wanted people to know who our sources were, and I think it was important for historical purposes as well as just for the general readership that others can go behind us and check who we talked to, where we got the information from.
LAMB: What are you going to do with all those tapes?
GETTLIN: We're not sure what we're going to do with all the tapes. I think they're important for historical purposes.
LAMB: Are they available for anybody to listen to?
GETTLIN: Well, what we've said is that when there is a matter of dispute and someone allegedly is disputing what they said, the record is irrefutable and available to answer that charge. We're not about to just open our notebooks to everybody and open everything up for general perusal. If an issue comes up, and I think this is a basic standard journalistic and historical practice, that if someone disputes what was said, we have the evidence to show that what's in Silent Coup is accurate.
COLODNY: I don't think there's a quote in that book that isn't taped and in context. If somebody even questioned the context of their quote, we would be in a position to do that. But let's take the Mitchell tapes, which are the ones I've been asked about the most. There's 82 hours of tape with John Mitchell. There's a lot of personal. You know, there's not a Q and A going on here. There's a lot of conversation going on here. Things are said about individuals that weren't ever going to be in the book, never intended to be in the book. So, just on that alone -- and Mitchell certainly didn't give those interviews, the only ones he gave. I didn't know that until he died. I didn't realize I was the repository of John Mitchell at this point. But, that's just an example. I don't think anybody gave us interviews where they've said some things about people that aren't very nice and aren't germane to the book and really are irrelevant. But, on point, if we're talking about something Dean said or something Magruder said -- I mean, Magruder has totally done a 180 on major parts of his testimony. He's now saying, "I perjured myself," in effect. It's there. Everything is there. Somebody told me that Mr. Garment was running around saying he wasn't quoted properly. Len Garment. I can assure you that every word that's in there in context Len Garment said. Now, Garment hasn't said that to me. That came through a third party who said Garment had said that. Garment, when I did talk to him, when I talked to Len, he said he was really looking forward to the book and thought it would be a great addition to history.
LAMB: Who else did you talk to anywhere close to 82 hours?
COLODNY: I think John Ehrlichman ranks close in that.
GETTLIN: Roger Morris, we spoke with -- not for that long, but for . . .
LAMB: Who was Roger Morris? He writes the forward to your book.
GETTLIN: Roger Morris was a young National Security Council aide during the Nixon years. Actually, he had worked in the Johnson White House previous to that. Kissinger had kept him on. He resigned over the bombing of Cambodia during the Nixon period and has gone on to become a noted historian, biographer of Nixon, Kissinger, Haig. In fact, his first volume of his three-volume work on Nixon was nominated for a National Book award.
COLODNY: He was a finalist. Let me tell you how we got to Roger. We were shocked at was coming. How would you like to be sitting there watching this material come across your desk every day and you're saying, "Wait a minute. This is a cold story. Where is this all coming from? Here's two guys who've never written a book before. We're going to tell the American public that something they've been told for 20 years" -- and we're not fools. We understood that this book was not going to be accepted overnight. We understood that. We understood what we call the five-year test. We believe Silent Coup will be there. It's not the definitive work on Watergate, but it turns it in the right direction. We begin to get the players in their right place. Others will follow us and I'm sure they will be able to expand. So what do we do? We called people like Morris up who were in that White House, who knew the players, and said, "Please evaluate the evidence." On the Dean side, we went to Benton Becker who was President Ford's private counsel and we said to him, "Benton, please come on over to Tampa." He's an old childhood friend of mine. "Would you please come on over and evaluate the Dean material for me because this is serious. Are we really talking the kind of massive perjury and so on?"
LAMB: This is Benton Becker right here.
COLODNY: Right. Benton Becker secretly negotiated the pardon for Richard Nixon -- or thought he had without the help of Al Haig. As this book points out, he did have some help he didn't know he had. But the point being that we really had Becker's help in crafting the entire center part of the book. He's a former prosecutor. He understood full well the legal ramifications of what we were writing and helped us craft it in such a way that we got it right and we got the thing on point. What's interesting is we're now a number of weeks into this book and you can bet that if the Washington Post assigned three reporters to this book to just find the holes -- nobody has found the hole in this book yet. It's been smeared. You get the smear jobs. But anybody who's read the book and reports on its facts has not refuted a single fact in "Silent Coup."
LAMB: It's going to be hard for us to solve that problem here, but there are a lot of things that we can learn about the two of you. Seven years. How did you live for seven years?
GETTLIN: Well, I was fortunate enough to work part time for part of those years. I was then a national reporter in the Newhouse Newspaper Washington bureau, reporting on Washington, some investigative work. Part time I was working with Len, who was down in Tampa -- I was here in Washington -- on the book doing research, putting our proposal together. Len was then working full time on the book. It was only until late '88 when we signed our contract that I went full time in working on putting the book together, writing it and so forth.
LAMB: How did you survive seven years?
COLODNY: I've had a wonderful wife and she believed in the project, believed in me, and we had savings. God knows why -- looking back, I knew that it was going to be published and it was going to be an important book. It's a book without heros, but Sandy is a hero and Sandy believed in the project and financially helped us through the tough years of getting it off the ground. Then, of course, in 1988, we had a contract, and it went for a lot more money, obviously, than even Bob and I dreamed. That's how it happened.
LAMB: Go back to the beginning of this. What were you doing then?
COLODNY: I had left Washington. I had sold my business. I had gotten out of politics.
LAMB: What was your business at the time?
COLODNY: I was in the wholesale liquor business. I had a wholesale liquor distributorship in Maryland and I had had a brokerage in D.C., and that mixed with my political activities. That's what I did for most of my adult life.
GETTLIN: Just to add, your investigative skills in working on P.G. County with the Police Department.
COLODNY: In Prince Georges County, Maryland, I oversaw for the Human Relations Commission the Police Department, and I learned a lot of investigative technique in that job. I had a natural curiosity about investigating. I mean, I've read things about various historical events, and they do read differently in different books. So I had a background for what we were going to do. I didn't dream we were going to do it.
LAMB: Who is Tom Shachtman?
COLODNY: Tom Shachtman came in the last stages. We were having difficulty finishing book two, and Bob was swamped with book three.
LAMB: You mean basically book two of this book?
COLODNY: Yes, which is "Golden Boy," which is the Dean section. Since I had done most of the investigating in developing Dean, they sent Tom Shachtman down to Florida. He was an absolute master at what he did, and we finished the eight chapters of the Dean section.
GETTLIN: You know, this was our first book, and as a writer of newspaper stories never having written a book before, Shachtman came in and really helped me as a writer to be able to put this into book form. He's a masterful writer. He's got a lot of experience. He's written a lot of books himself. So he really kind of came in and served as sort of a super editor and helped pull together this massive array with the rewriting at the very final stages when we were ready to go.
COLODNY: This is a complicated story, and he helped uncomplicate it. Becker helped uncomplicate it. Because we know certainly the type of viewers that you have -- it's like an inside baseball book for them. They're going to be looking at this and they're going to say, "My God -- Oh, I knew this was going on all along." The Nixon people, if they should be credited for anything because they didn't know a heck of a lot about Watergate, they did let us see the Nixon White House the way it really was.
LAMB: You end your little piece in the acknowledgments by saying, "Last but not least, we acknowledge our old antiwar friends now residing in Maine, Irene and Ben." Why did you do that?
COLODNY: Well, because during part of the book they were helpful. They are old and dear friends of mine. Henry Oberman, who is Ben, was, in fact, in military intelligence and there were times I went to him, not only as a friend but as an expert to help me with some of this book, to understand some of the military side of what we were looking at. Strangely enough, when you live in Tampa, people do return your long-distance phone calls. They may not call you in Washington, but they'll call you in Tampa. I came in one day, and I had called Mitchell, left a number, and my daughter said, "Oh, by the way, John Mitchell called you back." So I returned the phone call and we started to chat and I said, "By the way, Mr. Attorney General, you were not my favorite Attorney General." I remember being gassed on at least two occasions as I marched in an anti-war march, so it was sort of a turn back to my roots. I'm a liberal Democrat. There's three of us in Florida, I think, now. We meet in a phone booth once a week and discuss the good old days.
LAMB: You're still a liberal Democrat?
COLODNY: Absolutely. I've never traded in the ...
LAMB: Robert Gettlin, what's your politics?
GETTLIN: I, again, grew up in the era of the antiwar movement and voted for McGovern and voted for Jimmy Carter and voted for Democrats most of my life, but I don't cast myself as a Democrat or Republican. I look at myself as somebody who's kind of in the middle as an independent who leans a certain way, but doesn't belong to any political party.
LAMB: Let me go back to your book and ask you if the three biggest losers in this book, as you portray them, are Bob Woodward and Al Haig and John Dean.
GETTLIN: The biggest loser in the book -- and it's unfortunate that we're in the Haig-Woodward mess because John Dean is the important story in this book.
LAMB: Why?
GETTLIN: Because John Dean pulled off an incredible hoax. He pulled it off on the Watergate Committee and he pulled it off on the courts and he pulled it off on the American people, and in a sense he erased the election. If you take John Dean out of the story, it doesn't matter what Woodward and Haig do because it will be a series of leaks that will mean nothing. There's no Watergate. It will be traditional Washington leaks that may nick the president a little bit, but it's not going to drive him out of office. It is the John Dean story that is just absolutely the most important story in the book.
LAMB: Who is this man?
COLODNY: Phillip Mackin Bailley.
LAMB: What did he have to do with the story?
COLODNY: Phil Bailley was an attorney who represented criminals and prostitutes and pimps and assorted people here in Washington in the late '60s and early '70s. One of his clients was a woman named Cathy Dieter who set up a call-girl ring after another ring had been raided on 18th Street in the Columbia Plaza. Mr. Bailley, working with her, knew that there was a connection between the Democratic National Committee and her call-girl ring. She did not own the call-girl ring. She was running it for another gentleman, but she was a key figure. Bailley knew all about the pictures of the girls and how the Democrats -- what phone they used and so on. When he told us this story at first, I thought, "Oh, come on." I called Becker again. I said, "Becker, we've got a tough one now. If this is true, this is an incredible story." Sure enough, it turns out -- and I was able to interview Mr. Martinez, the burglar -- that the target was in fact the desk with the photos, number one, and, number two, the phone that was tapped at the Watergate was the phone used to make the dates. If you look in Silent Coup, you'll see that the lookout thing looks right into those offices. You can't see Larry O'Brien if you tried. He was then Democratic Party chairman and up until now thought to be the target of the break-in. G. Gordon Liddy is out on the coast, I believe, as we speak. He has rewritten a portion of his autobiography Will, and he now says that in fact the target was this. He was the cut out. The real orders were going directly from Dean to Hunt. Mr. Martinez was given a key and was arrested with the key that fit that desk, and he was arrested with a floor plan with that X mark. He then told us himself in his own words that was the target. Her desk and that phone were in fact the target of the Watergate break-in.
LAMB: You actually have charts in here.
GETTLIN: The chart shows the location of the desk and the telephone that was the target -- right below where your finger is pointing -- which is the real target. The long perceived target of the break-in was Lawrence F. O'Brien, the chairman.
COLODNY: That's the target.
LAMB: Where's Mr. O'Brien's office?
GETTLIN: He's down over here.
LAMB: Show me again. Put your finger on it.
GETTLIN: Right in here.
COLODNY: Now if you turn it the other way, for the other page, you will see that this is the Howard Johnson where the lookout room is, and this is Mr. O'Brien's office all the way over here. You couldn't even see it and you couldn't get a bug from there. It looks right into the three-office complex.
LAMB: We're now into the middle of something that's very complicated and I'm not so sure if you're listening to this for the first time that you understand what we're talking about. Let me see if I can sort through all of this. Watergate happened when?
GETTLIN: I think the way to understand it is you have to follow John Dean to understand what happened and why the break-in had to do with the call-girl ring and not Larry O'Brien.
LAMB: Just give us a date. When did Watergate happen?
GETTLIN: June 17, 1972.
COLODNY: This is the second break-in. The first break-in was May 28, and that break-in was where they put the tap on the phone to get the sexual dirt.
LAMB: Tap on the phone at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, you say to get the sexual dirt.
GETTLIN: You have to understand Dean. John Dean came into the White House in July of 1970 as a young Republican attorney in his early 30s, very flashy. He wore Gucci shoes and he drove a Porsche. He understood that the ticket to the top in the Nixon White House was gathering dirt on the Democrats and the opposition.
LAMB: Let me ask you about this picture. Do you know when this picture was taken?
GETTLIN: That was taken during the time of the Watergate coverup, I think.
LAMB: But you say that he cut his hair and put on owlish looking glasses but here he's got on contacts and had a different appearance when he met the American people.
GETTLIN: Went before the committee.
COLODNY: Nobody should underestimate the role of Richard Nixon in this. Let's understand that President Nixon when he became president not only formed a secret government, but President Nixon hired a private investigator to do off-the-books jobs. The way he ran those jobs was he had Ehrlichman given the order. The order would be passed to an aide named Jack Caulfield who would pass it on to Tony Ulasewicz from the payoff days. When Dean entered Ehrlichman's old job, he found Ulasewicz there and began to run a rogue intelligence operation using Ulasewicz. Again, it's another outgrowth of the Nixon personality. That's what you really needed to understand. Dean just didn't come in and say, "I'm going to do it." Dean found this private investigator.
LAMB: This is Tony Ulasewicz.
COLODNY: Right. Ulasewicz went, at Dean's direction, to the West Coast to spy on Tunney and Kennedy. It wasn't like this was the first time. This is 50-some jobs into it. You can see there's the key, by the way, to the secretary's desk.
GETTLIN: On the far right.
COLODNY: That's what was taken from Mr. Martinez at the time of the arrest. There's no question what the target of the break-in is now. The target of the break-in is, in fact, that complex, that desk, and that phone. To understand that, Cathy Dieter is really Heidi Rikan, who was Maureen Biner's old girlfriend from Texas who she was staying with here in Washington. That's how Dean found out the sexual dirt was there to get.
LAMB: We can get real lost in this so easily. This picture is of whom?
GETTLIN: Maureen Dean, who is John Dean's wife. They were married in October of '72 at the height of the cover-up. She had been his girlfriend Maureen Biner previous to the marriage. As Len said, the ticket to understanding all this is that Dean knew that at the Democratic National Committee, and specifically at the desk that we discussed earlier and the telephone, the call-girl ring was being facilitated. How did Dean know that? He knew because Maureen Biner, his then-girlfriend, had a roommate, Heidi Rikan, who went by an alias, Cathy Dieter. In her own book "Mo: A Woman's View of Watergate", Maureen Biner Dean describes her good friend Heidi Rikan. There's even a picture of Heidi Rikan in there. We were able to confirm through law enforcement sources, U.S. attorneys, the people working on the case, that Heidi Rikan, in fact, had this Cathy Dieter alias. As Cathy Dieter, she was a madam, so to speak, in this call-girl ring. Dean knew Heidi Rikan as well as Maureen did. Dean knew that this operation was going on, and he wanted to get sexual dirt out of that operation to use to feather his own nest at the White House.
LAMB: Against the Democrats.
GETTLIN: Exactly.
LAMB: Let me read a line in your book. This particular line isn't being criticized, but this kind of a thing is being criticized. On page 132, "We do not know, but we have been informed by another source who agreed to speak only if not identified that Dean and Heidi Rikan were great friends." I mean the point of that is that the source stuff we'll never know.
COLODNY: What fascinates me about that is here we have -- you just did "The Commanders" and you talked to Woodward about sources and Woodward made a point in the clip you showed the other morning that if you don't do it this way, you're not going to get people to talk and I'm not going to be able to tell my story. Well, "Silent Coup" got hundreds of people, 150 people to talk, who we named. We proved you could do it. This was a very sensitive source and I gave them, for one of the few times -- 10 people we gave this to -- that we wouldn't say who that person was. But I will tell you this: The person was very close to Maureen.
GETTLIN: More to the point, which is very interesting, is that when we were on the "Larry King Live" show the day after the book came out, Dean had been asked to come on. Instead he declined that, and he sent in a fax letter criticizing the book and so forth, and I think this was put up on the screen when we were on. At one point he said, "This book discusses an old friend of mine and my wife, who has since deceased." And Cathy Dieter/Heidi Rikan died within the last year or so of cancer. Dean himself has acknowledged that he knew this woman, OK? There's no question that Maureen knew Heidi Rikan/Cathy Dieter. It's in her book. There's no question that John Dean's girlfriend was Maureen Biner. We had this source, again, that Len said we couldn't put on the record.
COLODNY: We couldn't name.
GETTLIN: Right, couldn't name, exactly -- one of the small sliver of sources that couldn't be named. Dean, himself, has acknowledged it, so I don't think there's much dispute about it at this point.
LAMB: Let's go back to the kind of coverage your book has gotten in Washington through the Washington Post. How would you characterize it?
COLODNY: The first shot out of the box they used their so-called media critic, Howard Kurtz. The idea was to poison the well. They put it in the Style section, they trashed the book, and then they sent it to all the wire services that they service around the country in order to poison the well. That was the whole purpose of that.
LAMB: You think that was all planned?
COLODNY: Well, let me put it to you this way. Every part of that story has now been refuted. It started out by saying Time dropped it for credibility reasons. Then he said "60 Minutes" dropped it for credibility reasons. That night we were on the Larry King show. Mike Wallace calls up and refutes that charge on the air on the Larry King show. The next day Time issues a statement saying something similar to what you said. "It was tough to excerpt. We tried, we couldn't do it. This is in no way to show the credibility of the book." But the worst part of that story was when Woodward was asked about Haig and he says, "Well, if I'd known him, I'd be glad to admit it." Now Kurtz writes that and then to bolster it, he takes a Moorer quote which says, "It's a pack of lies. They never interviewed me."
LAMB: Thomas Moorer.
COLODNY: Thomas Moorer.
COLODNY: We sent him the transcripts. We're now four weeks into it. You don't see Howard Kurtz printing the truth or telling the readers, a) that we did interview Admiral Moorer, and, b) that Admiral Moorer named Haig and Woodward as knowing each other.
GETTLIN: Let me ask something about that because Howard Kurtz and I were friends for years. I mean, we met 14 years ago when I first came to Washington. We worked together at Jack Anderson's office. I've known him for many years and Howard knew I was working on this book, that it was a serious effort, that is was as a well-documented effort. He actually had called me even before the book came out, and I had told him that we got this nailed and the stuff is irrefutable and so forth. He never bothered to call me back after he printed his story. I had called him originally and said,"I will offer you to listen to the tapes of Admiral Moorer to hear for yourself that what you said was untrue." He never returned my call. They've never, as Len said ...
COLODNY: Worse than that, he would not take Roger Morris's positive quotes. He cut them from the story. First he blamed his editors for it. So here's the media critic, the guy who's criticizing the media -- his entire story has been discredited, and the Post has never changed or reported to its readers the truth of the story, which again tells you the importance of the Haig-Woodward relationship.
GETTLIN: I want to say, too, Brian, that we're not really surprised. The Post is Bob Woodward's paper, of course, and the Post's reputation has risen largely on the Watergate story. To the extent that "Silent Coup" overturns much of the mythology about Watergate -- because that's what it does -- the Post has a vested interest in the old established version. We're not particularly surprised that the Post was unfriendly, but we felt that the Howard Kurtz piece, which again is the only piece that they've done on the book, was really not intended to give a fair hearing to the issue but really intended to knock the book down before it came out. It hasn't worked. We're on the bestseller list, and people are reading it around the country. Len and I have been doing interviews all over the United States and Canada. People are endlessly, endlessly fascinated on the subject of Watergate and Richard Nixon.
LAMB: I've got a piece that you had with you when you came today that you just picked up from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, and the headline on this is "Noisy Critics Inadvertently Tout Silent Coup." Is that what's happened? All the critics have helped you?
COLODNY: No. You know what's happened. You know, everybody's looking at this book. It's been out for a month now. It's on the New York Times bestseller list since it came out. It's been moving up. We found out something you knew. See, you did a show a number of months ago on radio talk shows, and you brought them in from all over the country and you began to show the kind of power these guys had. It's really at the heart at what C-SPAN is all about -- talking directly to the people, unfiltered through the journalistic, analytical eye. That's the basis for this kind of a network. That's what happening. The talk show hosts have read the book. They love the book. They give it hour commercials. We're number three in L.A. this week. How could you be number three in L.A. when the L.A. Times hasn't written about it, when it hasn't been anywhere but in the talk shows? That's what's happening. They're reading it, they're loving it, they're telling their readers how good it is. That's happening throughout the country. In Miami, it's number seven. It's just amazing what's going on.
GETTLIN: Even those people who haven't read it and take issue with some of what they've heard about it, who are skeptical -- that's fine. We don't mind skeptics because what's in between the two covers of the book speaks for itself. People can read it and come to their own conclusions. But the point is that people are endlessly fascinated in this subject of Watergate. We were asked when we first wrote this book, "Well, who wants to read another Watergate book?" Again, not to belabor the Post issue because we've really dealt with it, but the Post and, I must say, other media organs in the New York/Washington corridor, have been silent about Silent Coup. They haven't touched it. The problem is that Silent Coup cuts too close of the bone of too much of what has been accepted over 20 years, and it's going to take a while for the media establishment so to speak, out of which I consider having come as a print journalist and Len is familiar with as well, to accept it. The American public is far ahead of the press on this issue.
LAMB: Appendix B.
COLODNY: That is a still-classified document. You can't get it out of the archive. It can't be found, I understand, at the Pentagon. It's Admiral [Robert] Welander's confession to the spy ring. We decided to run it verbatim because, while we allude to it in the book and quote from it in the book, we thought the American people were entitled to the document. Here you've got an admiral sitting in John Ehrlichman's office, over the Oval Office, talking into a tape recorder and admitting to the entire spy ring -- what they stole, who was involved, and many, many times mentioning Alexander Haig as a facilitator.
LAMB: I have to stop you because we don't know who Admiral Welander is. Let me ask you this first of all: How did you get this particular transcript of a taped conversation between David Young, John Ehrlichman and Admiral Welander?
GETTLIN: We can't tell you who gave it to us, but what we can tell you is this: Once we got -- and we got it from someone who had direct authority and access to retrieve it -- we went to the principals involved. I went and personally interviewed Admiral Robert Welander, the person who was interviewed on that tape, met with him at his home in Maryland, and he read it and authenticated it as the real McCoy. We went to others including John ...
COLODNY: I think what Brian's asking is -- first of all, the ring, the way it was set up is Yeoman Charles Radford was the yeoman doing the stealing. Yeoman Radford -- there's a picture of Yeoman Radford -- would steal the stuff, break into Kissinger's briefcase, go into burn bags, whatever he had to do to get this material, and then he would pass it to Admiral Welander who ironically also happens to be Bob Woodward's former commanding officer on the USS Fox. He would then pass the documents directly over to Admiral Moorer, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. So that's the significance of what we're hearing here.
LAMB: Let's go back because we've left a lot out. Has anybody read this transcript? Who in the world has read this transcript before you published it?
COLODNY: Obviously we asked John Ehrlichman to authenticate it. But I will tell you under whose authority we got it. We got it under the authority of President Richard M. Nixon. Now, he doesn't know how that happened, and I've tried to explain to John Taylor out at the library that I can't tell him who under his authority, but it didn't walk out of there. Nobody stole it.
LAMB: What day was this transcript made?
GETTLIN: December 22, 1971.
LAMB: December 22, 1971, which was prior to Watergate.
GETTLIN: Six months prior to the burglary, correct.
LAMB: Admiral Welander was at the time working for ...?
GETTLIN: He was working in what was called the Joint Chiefs of Staff Liaison Office at the National Security Council. He was a military man who was working at the National Security Council.
LAMB: So he had an office in the White House.
GETTLIN: He had an office at the NSC at the White House and also an office at the Pentagon. Basically, the liaison office was supposed to be the funnel that handled information between the Pentagon and the NSC, just to facilitate the flow of information. What in fact was happening once Admiral Moorer became chairman of the Joint Chiefs in July of '70 is that he turned the liaison office into, in effect, an operation that enabled Radford to steal documents. Nixon had cut out the Joint Chiefs, and this get to the point Len made early on when we began the program. Nixon came into the government and decided that he was going to carry out foreign policy successes with Kissinger, but he was going to do it secretly by cutting out not only the Democrats and the liberals on the left, but the Pentagon on the right.
LAMB: Who is this man again?
GETTLIN: Charles Radford.
COLODNY: And you want to hear this? He's still in the Navy and still has a top-secret clearance. It goes on.
LAMB: I read that in your book and I wondered how this man -- first of all, was he ever prosecuted?
GETTLIN: No, he wasn't. I'll tell you what happened to Charles Radford. Charles Radford was a young man who came out of a difficult background. He went into the Navy and was loyal to the Navy. When he got to the White House, he was handpicked to go there and to be an aide to Welander, the admiral we talked about before, and a previous admiral, Admiral Robinson, the predecessor to Welander.
LAMB: And Mr. Radford talked to you?
GETTLIN: Oh, yes. Over many hours we interviewed him.
LAMB: And Admiral Welander talked to you?
GETTLIN: Correct.
LAMB: And Admiral Robinson is dead.
GETTLIN: He died in '72, so we couldn't talk to him.
COLODNY: And Admiral Moorer talked to us.
LAMB: And Admiral Moorer talked to you.
COLODNY: But I think for your viewers it's important to understand that before Richard Nixon ever assumed office, he sat in his hotel in New York with Mitchell and Kissinger and drew up these NSDDs that they write at the White House, special orders and changes for the National Security Council, so it became a government unto itself. It is the precursor of Iran-Contra. There's no question it's the model for the events of the Iran-Contra. Nixon understood how to use that office in a way nobody before him ever understood. It was a non-confirmable post. He didn't have to tell the bureaucracy what he did. When we first got that document, we were shocked. We were saying, "My God, there's a military spy ring."
LAMB: When did you get the document?
COLODNY: In 1986. When we got the document, as we did the book, we began to realize, "Hey, wait a minute. These guys really had some reasons to know what he was hiding from them." They didn't know about troop withdrawals and why he was withdrawing troops. They couldn't find the intelligence. The Paris Peace talks, the China opening, the SALT -- it was all hidden from them. That's what this document produces.
LAMB: What you're saying then was that Admiral Moorer, when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spying on President Nixon right under ...
GETTLIN: Well, let me explain. You brought up Radford before. I want to make it clear that Radford was loyal to his commanding officers, and he was working at their instruction. He was not doing this on his own. He was their eyes and ears. He was gathering documents, turning it over to them and they loved it. They appreciated, needless to say, the intelligence he was providing to them.
LAMB: Was he taking orders from Admiral Welander?
GETTLIN: Correct. And before that from Admiral Robinson.
LAMB: And there's no question in your mind that he was just taking orders?
COLODNY: It's all here. It's in the confession.
GETTLIN: Absolutely not. Absolutely no question at all.
LAMB: What was the reason for John Ehrlichman calling Admiral Welander into his office and to make this tape?
GETTLIN: What happened was the way this whole thing was uncovered was by accident, just like many other things in history. Jack Anderson, the columnist, was a much hated enemy of the Nixon White House. Anderson had his own sources in the Pentagon. He was writing about the famous tilt to Pakistan in the India-Pakistan war. He revealed some conversations that Henry Kissinger was involved in. An investigation ensued into who had leaked it, and the prime target became Radford because they believed that he had the documents and had turned it over to Anderson because Anderson was a Mormon and Radford's a Mormon and they thought there was a connection there and so forth. In the course of polygraphing Radford, they asked him, "Were you Anderson's source?" He said no. We have the polygraph test, and he passed that. He was also asked, "Have you ever turned over classified documents to unauthorized persons?" As we describe in the book, Radford got nervous and he told the truth and said, "I have." It was at that point that the investigators involved found out about his activities of spying for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was after that that Admiral Welander, then Radford's boss, was called in and asked about what Radford had admitted in the polygraph exam, and it was at that point that the taped confession was made.
LAMB: Let me ask you to deal with a criticism by Steven Ambrose who has written a New York Times review of your book in which he basically says, "This Radford-Moorer thing is old hat. We all know about this."
COLODNY: The Moorer-Radford thing surfaced in 1974 publicly and there were hearings, but they were a sham. Mel Laird admitted to us they were fixed, and the truth did not come out.
LAMB: Who held the hearings?
COLODNY: Senator Stennis and the Armed Services Committee held the hearings at the same time the Watergate hearings were going on.
LAMB: These were done in private, the hearings?
COLODNY: They were done in private, but the transcripts came out. You could read them and the results of their interrogations. But what's really important here is that the Plumbers uncovered Moorer-Radford. As you know, the Plumbers became an issue in Watergate. So every time the Plumbers surfaced, that tape threatened to be surfaced.
LAMB: Who were the Plumbers?
COLODNY: They were David Young and Bud Krogh and Liddy and all the people.
LAMB: All working in the White House?
COLODNY: All working in the White House. Remember, they broke into Ellsberg's psychiatrist office. Hunt was involved in the Watergate matter as well. So the two matters got linked. What happened was that the president buried Moorer-Radford and never read that transcript. Never once did he read the transcript or try to find out what really happened in Moorer-Radford, very similar to what he'd do in Watergate. So he never saw the references to Haig, so he didn't understand even what Haig's role was at that point. That could have changed history immensely at that point.
LAMB: You're saying that Al Haig was involved in the Moorer-Radford-Welander connection.
GETTLIN: Correct. Absolutely.
COLODNY: We're saying when you read that transcript and the many references to Haig's facilitating that spy ring and then there's a second confession that's taken after the president buries it, which is also completely in the back of this book, which eliminates all reference to Haig. That's the one they were offering to the Senate committee.
GETTLIN: That's the issue with Ambrose. Ambrose said it's an old story. It's clear from our book we rely on the past sources. Seymour Hersh wrote about the spy ring known as the Moorer-Radford affair we've been talking about. What we discovered and showed for the first time in "Silent Coup" is that Nixon, in fact, did bury the issue rather than really uncover what had happened and that Alexander Haig, as you pointed out, was right smack dab in the middle of it. That's what's important and that's what's new. We got the Welander transcript which proves that the spying occurred, and, while it's been an issue that's been around, we uncovered the new evidence.
COLODNY: Ambrose has the same problem. As a historian who's already written a book, he wrote me a letter in 1989. He was getting ready to put his second volume out, and he knew that if we were right, he had a problem. So he called and offered to trade with me information. I said, "I can't do that. We have a confidentiality clause." So as a result, the trade never took place and at some point in that conversation he said, "Please reconsider. I'm a historian. I can make or break a book like this." He never told the New York Times about that exchange and now the Times says they shouldn't have assigned him to do "Silent Coup." That's what's happening. There are vested interests who have to protect them. He's got a book coming out in three months which is totally obsolete as a result of "Silent Coup." That's not the kind of person that you can deal with or take seriously in his criticisms of this book. In fact, he even said we didn't name our sources when he was looking at a list of 150 of them.
LAMB: We've got such little time left. For people who have joined even at the top of the hour, let's go back over your principal findings.
GETTLIN: Our principal findings are that Richard Nixon came into the office intending to run a secret government, cut out the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others. This caused an angry reaction which caused the military spy ring which Alexander Haig, long considered loyal to Nixon, was involved in. Haig had a secret relationship with Bob Woodward that continued through Watergate, leaked information to Woodward in an effort to tarnish Nixon because of distress over the foreign policy. A separate leg of our story is John Dean. Working independently, a young ambitious guy running a rogue intelligence operation in the White House ordered a break-in at the Democratic National Committee and when it failed, covered it up and tricked the president, who never bothered to find out the truth, into the coverup as well.
LAMB: Is there another book from all the material you've got?
COLODNY: No, not from me.
LAMB: No book at all? You have 82 hours of John Mitchell?
COLODNY: At this point, having been under fire and everything else, I want to see Silent Coup take root. I want to see other journalists -- because I think that's the way it should be done, independent of us -- see what they can find as a result. There are no heros. I hope nobody gets the misimpression here. There are no heros in Silent Coup. Absolutely no heros -- maybe a little guy, Don Stewart, down in Miami who uncovered the spy ring. But the victim of "Silent Coup" is important. That's the American people. This is what they ended up with -- an unelected president, an unelected vice president. They had no impeachment, they had no trial and no guilty finding. There's a lesson to be learned from this. We can't drive presidents out of office in feeding frenzies. There shouldn't have been a Watergate Committee where Dean could perjure himself to death and where there was no way to check it. We have a way in this country to get presidents out of office. It's called impeachment. Had they filed their charges before the House Judiciary Committee, which is the appropriate way to go, we wouldn't have the situation we have right here. We wouldn't have had President Ford. We may not have had President Carter. Those are the lessons from "Silent Coup", and they're of major import.
LAMB: What's next for you?
GETTLIN: That's a good question. There's still a lot to do on "Silent Coup" because there's, again, Len talks about the interests who don't want to see the book succeed. After that, I'd like to do more book writing.
LAMB: Another book on this?
GETTLIN: I think Watergate and me and Len have sort have run our string, but hopefully there's another important historical story to deal with.
LAMB: Len Colodny, what are you going to do next?
COLODNY: I don't know. I'd like to teach a little bit. I'm very fascinated by government and how government works. I use C-SPAN for background music everyday. It helped me get the book through, just watching the players. I'm fascinated by them, and I like young Americans to understand how the government really functions.
LAMB: Was this worth it?
COLODNY: Absolutely. I think it's one heck of a story. It was beyond my belief when it was finally done as to how well we had nailed it.
LAMB: Was it worth it?
GETTLIN: No question about it. It absolutely was. Having a chance to set history right is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
LAMB: Robert Gettlin, co-author with Len Colodny, of "Silent Coup: The Removal of a President", thank you for joining us.
GETTLIN: Thank you, Brian.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1991. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.