Joseph Cannon asks:
“Why didn’t Nixon burn the tapes in his possession? Because he knew that he didn’t have the only copies. Strong evidence suggests that those recordings were held by CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton.”
This claim may be true, but I don’t believe it based on the evidence presented in Cannon’s post. Cannon makes a series of claims, some of which are quite speculative, in order to reach this conclusion. If one of those speculative claims is not true, than the whole argument falls apart.
My bottom line judgment: Interesting but unproven.
It is quite possible that Angleton was a source for New York Times reporter Szulc; he spoke with many reporters at that time in his life. But that doesn’t mean Angleton told him the truth. Angleton might have been lying about the CIA surveillance of the White House. He was known to dissemble, especially on sensitive matters and prone to exaggerate his own powers and secrets.
The fact that Szulc, an aggressive reporter and energetic marketer of his material, did not publish more on “Easy Chair” makes me wonder how strong the story really was.
Cannon’s breathless tone suggests that Angleton was somehow involved in Watergate machinations with Nixon. I didn’t much evidence of that while researching my forthcoming (October 2017) biography, THE GHOST: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton.
I did find credible evidence that Angleton knew Howard Hunt and had contact with him around the time of the Watergate burglary. Beyond that, who knows?
By the account of colleagues, friends, and family, the Watergate period, 1972-1974, was a low point in Angleton’s career. His family was falling apart. He was drinking too much. He was losing power and respect inside the agency. He was more a man in decline than a master of the universe.
If you know something about Angleton and the Watergate affair, please share in the comments.
Comments with Links/documents/citations will get preference.
“The Ghost is the compulsively readable, often bizarre true-life story of American spymaster James Jesus Angleton – the CIA’s poetry-loving, orchid-gardening mole-hunter for almost 20 years. Capturing the extent of Angleton’s eccentricity, duplicity and alcohol-fueled paranoia would have challenged the writing skills of a Le Carre or Ludlum, and Jefferson Morley has done it with flair. This important book depicts the trail of wreckage left behind by Angleton in a CIA career that involved him in virtually every major spy-versus-spy drama of the Cold War and drew him deeply into the mysteries of the Kennedy assassination and the murder of one of JFK’s mistresses.”
—Philip Shenon, author of A Cruel and Shocking Act
Click here to pre-order: The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton.