B A L T I M O R E, Jan. 30, 2001 -- It was a floor plan of the Democratic Partyheadquarters that led G. Gordon Liddy to believe the 1972 Watergatebreak-in was really about sex, not politics.
Liddy, 70, testifying Monday about the break-in for the firsttime in 28 years, said he spent more than four years in prisonthinking the burglary was an attempt to gather politicalintelligence for President Nixon’s re-election campaign.
Years after his release, a Watergate author showed him the floorplan in 1972. The plan convinced Liddy the “third-rate burglary”was really about finding photos linking the fiancée of White Housecounsel John Dean to a call-girl ring.
“I said to myself, ‘Oh, my God,“‘ Liddy testified in the thirdweek of his defamation trial. “My eyes opened.”
Prostitute Photos at Issue?
Since then, Liddy has given speeches saying the burglars wereseeking photos of Dean’s fiancée in a package of call-girl photosused to set up liaisons for visitors to the Democratic NationalCommittee in nearby apartments.
Liddy said the photos were kept in the desk of Ida “Maxie”Wells, secretary to DNC official Spencer Oliver.
Wells is suing Liddy in U.S. District Court for defamation forrepeating that theory and is seeking $5.1 million in damages.
In his Monday testimony, Liddy said he had instructed theburglars to bug the offices of DNC Chairman Larry O’Brien. However,a wire tap was found on the phone of Oliver, who had an office onthe other side of the building.
The floor plan showed Oliver’s office faced the hotel across thestreet where an eavesdropper was monitoring phone calls. Thewiretap could only transmit to a receiver in the line of sight,meaning O’Brien’s office could not have been the real target, Liddysaid.
Liddy has previously testified in tax court about payments hereceived from Nixon’s re-election committee in connection with thebreak-in, but it is the first time Liddy has testified to theparticulars of the burglary that ultimately led to Nixon’sresignation in 1974.
Dean, whose lawsuit against Liddy was dismissed last year, hascalled claims that he masterminded the break-in “baloney” andsaid there was no evidence of a call-girl ring.
Liddy testified he was a $19,000-a-year White House aide when hewas recruited by Dean to work on Nixon’s re-election committee.
Liddy Blames Dean
Dean told him an “all-out offensive and defensive politicaloperation” to be funded with a $1 million budget was needed forthe 1972 presidential election, Liddy said.
The order to break in to the DNC came from Nixon’s deputycampaign director, Jeb Magruder, and was not part of Liddy’soriginal espionage plan against the Democrats.
“I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why they wanted to goin there,” Liddy said. “The whole thing was stupid.”
He later realized there could be another motive.
“This was a John Dean op,” Liddy testified.
Liddy blamed himself for the bungled burglary on June 17, 1972.His “big mistake,” he said, was telling his men to tape the lockon the entry to the Watergate for a second time. A guard noticedthe taped lock and called police.
Liddy, sitting in the Watergate Hotel with a walkie-talkie,heard a lookout warning that other people had entered the buildingwith flashlights.
Finally, Liddy said he heard someone say, “They got us.”
Liddy said he went home, woke his wife and told her, “Some ofour people got caught tonight, I’m probably going to jail.”
The next day, Liddy said he went to his office and started“shredding stuff left and right.”
Liddy refused to implicate his bosses at his Watergate trial,saying “my father didn’t raise a rat and a snitch.” He served asentence longer than any of his fellow Watergate conspirators.