G Gordon Liddy dead: Nixon operative who bungled Watergate theft dies aged 90
G Gordon Liddy, an undercover agent and mastermind of the Watergate burglary that eventually led to the downfall of Richard Nixon’s presidency, died on Tuesday at the age of 90.
His son, Thomas Liddy, confirmed the death. Though the specific cause is unknown, he revealed that it was not related to coronavirus.
Liddy, a former FBI agent, army veteran and a talk show host, was convicted in 1973 for breaking into the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate building.
Prior to Watergate, in 1971 Liddy worked alongside E Howard Hunt, a former CIA agent, to illegally enter the office of military analyst Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist to find compromising material against him.
The aim was to combat leaks of the secret history of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers which proved that the Lyndon B Johnson administration had lied to the public about the military’s role in the Vietnam War, reported the Washington Post.
Liddy was then moved to Committee to Re-elect the President, also known as CREEP. It was a part of the election campaign aimed to discredit President Nixon’s “enemies” and to disrupt the 1972 Democratic National Convention.
Liddy, along with Hunt, engineered the break-ins into the Watergate complex but the burglary and illegal wiretapping were busted. Liddy was awarded 20 years of imprisonment. In fact, during the trial, Liddy refused to testify before the grand jury, saying he has not been raised to be a “snitch or a rat”, reported the Post.
But his silence failed to prevent the disintegration of the cover-up as others who were arrested started cooperating with the investigators, culminating in the resignation of President Nixon in 1974.
President Jimmy Carter however commuted his sentence to eight-year in 1977 after Liddy had spent nearly four years in prison. The commutation made him eligible for parole and he was released from prison in September 1977, after he had spent four years and four months in prison.
But even in the aftermath of the scandal, the former FBI agent remained defiant. “I’d do it again for my president,” he had said years later.
Hunt, who passed away in 2007, once described Libby as “a wired, wisecracking extrovert who seemed as if he might be a candidate for decaffeinated coffee,” the Post noted.
A week after the break-in, Mr Nixon himself complained to chief of staff HR Haldeman that Liddy “isn’t well screwed on, is he?”
Liddy was operating as the head of a team of Republican operatives known as “the plumbers,” whose sole purpose was to find leakers of information that could prove embarrassing to the Nixon administration, reported the Associated Press.
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, Liddy developed a fascination for German leader Adolf Hitler and was quoted as saying that an “electric current” surge through his body when he heard Hitler speak on the radio.
Liddy established a reputation of being eccentric, outspoken and a controversial radio talk show host who often offered tips on how to kill federal firearms agent, reported Associated Press.
He rode around with car tags saying “H20GATE” in an apparent reference to Watergate, which he wore “like a badge of courage,” reported the Los Angeles Times.
The failure of the Watergate break-in was the only regret, wrote the paper as it quoted him saying, “I was serving the president of the United States and I would do a Watergate again — but with a much better crew.”
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