A previously classified document that the Central Intelligence Agency provided to Congress during the investigation of the Watergate affair shows that G. Gordon Liddy used papers that the Agency had provided - without authorization - while traveling to California to break into the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. This newly released document shows that CIA’s Inspector General report on Watergate left out key details, and exposes CIA’s Deputy Director Vernon Walters’ claim that the assistance was provided in response to a “duly authorized extra-Agency request” as false.
Files recently released to MuckRock include the transcripts of phone calls the Central Intelligence Agency received from Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Washington Metropolitan Police Department in the immediate aftermath of the Watergate arrests. Previously unavailable, the only apparent reference to the tape is Congress’ request for a copy of it. According to the request, “it is not known what is contained in the tape, but its importance is obvious.”
One of the more persistent, but less well-known, conspiracy theories surrounding Watergate is the crash of United Airlines flight 553 that killed Dorothy Hunt, a former government employee who was transporting $10,000 in hush money on behalf of her husband and Watergate burglar, E. Howard Hunt. Recently released Federal Bureau of Investigation files, however, tell a different story - one of pilot error, unfortunate coincidence, and an utter lack of foul play.
While the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s track record with FOIA has never been good, it’s hard not to argue that it has recently gotten exponentially worse. In just the last few years, the Bureau has thrown out thousands of FOIA requests because there were too “burdensome,” investigated FOIA requesters, redacted the names of fictional characters and engaged in questionable fees practices. However, just last month, the FBI hit a new low and declared that - contrary to all statute and case law - the dead have an expectation of privacy.
The National Archives and Records Administration’s recent announcement that there will be no Barack Obama Presidential Library was met with understandable outrage from historians and transparency advocates, who saw it as a blow to a functioning democracy. However, as the National Security Archive’s Nate Jones was quick to point out, this discussion needs to be understood in the larger context of NARA’s current failings in the presidential library system, where FOIA requests can take years, even decades.