How the CIA protected a Watergate burglar

Richard Helms
Richard Helms

James McCord was the most important of the Watergate burglars, Bob Woodward once noted. As this declassified JFK file shows, McCord was the chief of the Office of Security, an experienced officer, with impressive security credentials.

He was protected by CIA director Dick Helms.

After the release of the Family Jewels documents in 2007, Woodward wrote: 

“[CIA security officer Howard] Osborn reported that James W. McCord Jr., the head of the Watergate burglary team and Osborn’s predecessor as the CIA’s chief of security, had written a letter in August 1972 to Helms. Osborn, according to his affidavit, said he “felt strongly” that it should be turned over to the FBI, which was supposedly conducting a rigorous investigation of Watergate. It was a critical moment in the Watergate probe, with Nixon seeking reelection that fall and desperate to keep the botched burglary from spoiling his chances.

“McCord’s letter to the CIA could have been important evidence; according to later testimony, he was seeking assistance from the CIA, where he had worked for decades, and was on the verge of blowing the whistle about Watergate, as he did months later in a famous March 21, 1973, letter to Judge John J. Sirica.

“But Nixon would have no preelection problem with the CIA…..

Helms buried the letter. McCord kept quiet, and the FBI never punctured the Helms’ story that the burglars acted independently of the CIA.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top