Excerpt: How James McCord’s road to Watergate began

“Helms was also a man of action. Three agency operatives had been arrested in Havana in September 1960, while mounting an audio operation against the offices of the Chinese news service. They were sentenced to ten years in jail, though not identified as CIA agents. Helms asked John Mertz, deputy chief of the Counterintelligence Staff, to come up with a plan to free the prisoners. Mertz consulted with his boss, James Angleton, counterintelligence chief, who supplied him with some “underworld” connections in Havana.

“Mertz then tasked James McCord, deputy chief of the Security Research Staff in the Office of Security, to scope out the prison and execute the escape. As McCord later explained, his agents “gained entry to the prisons and returned to the United States “with data acquired. However, the captured men were freed in a prisoner exchange before any rescue operation could be mounted. McCord was credited with being “an actual case officer for Cuban agents” from 1960 to 1962. Helms surely knew of his work, at least in passing. McCord’s road to Watergate had begun.” –From Scorpions’ Dance by Jefferson Morley

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