"An important piece of history . . . a great story." —Oliver Stone, filmmaker
Bond of Secrecy: My Life with CIA Spy and Watergate Conspirator E. Howard Huntby Saint John Hunt
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A father’s last confession to his son about the CIA, Watergate, and the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy, this is the remarkable true story of St. John Hunt and his father E. Howard Hunt, the infamous Watergate burglar and CIA spymaster. In Howard Hunt's near-death confession to his son St. John, he revealed that key figures in the CIA were responsible for the plot to assassinate JFK in Dallas, and that Hunt himself was approached by the plotters, among whom included the CIA’s David Atlee Phillips, Cord Meyer, Jr., and William Harvey, as well as future Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis. An incredible true story told from an inside, authoritative source, this is also a personal account of a uniquely dysfunctional American family caught up in two of the biggest political scandals of the 20th century.
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Bond of Secrecy
My Life with CIA Spy and Watergate Conspirator E. Howard Hunt
By Saint John Hunt
Trine Day LLCCopyright © 2012 Saint John Hunt
All rights reserved.
Watergate In Context
I've always thought of myself as being of sound moral character. As I move through my fifties, I feel this statement is substantiated by the fact that, though I have pushed the envelope of legality, never once have I been accused of double dealing or other unethical behavior. As with all self-assessments, these value judgments can be different from the ones other people may have. Everyone likes to think they're honest and true, but there are always others who have a different agenda or whose story comes into conflict with your own. Having said that, and realizing full well that at least the members of my family may object to the story I'm about to relate, I will recount events in my life that have had a profound effect on me. After wrestling with many of the issues that arise out of this story, I've reached a simple ideology: you can't make everybody happy all the time.
Another factor that has weighed heavily on my mind is the concept of truth, one of those lofty principles that most of us try to keep in our embrace. However, we all know that when truth hurts, it's easier to turn away. But what if avoiding truth creates a deeper hurt? I guess you'd have to consider whom you're hurting, and what the stakes are in telling that truth. People say, "There's only one truth." I find that a questionable supposition. Certainly, if you tell a lie, you aren't telling the truth. But consider truth as a three -dimensional value. Truth would then be subject to point of view.
What I see and therefore "know," might be different from what the person on the other side of this three-dimensional value sees, and therefore knows. This variance, then, brings into play moral and ethical issues. People "see" things in a way that supports the agenda that they have. The agenda I have in writing this story is to recount, to the best of my recollection, only those events of which I have direct knowledge and involvement.
As is true in many families, the children of my parents (there are four) fulfilled many of the standard, stereotypical personality traits inherent in most post-WWII families.
Lisa, the eldest, was the classic dark and brooding teen drama queen. She was the first to experiment with drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll. For a time, in the fashion of "girl interrupted," she was held in a hospital in Maryland. To add that she has led a productive and meaningful life, raising three wonderful children, would only be fair. I felt her struggles in our youth deeply, as her closest ally and friend.
Kevan was the classic goody two shoes. She was everything a daughter (or son) should be. She was highly motivated, academically superior; never a stain would she bring to her family. She strove desperately to do all the right things that would gain my father's approval and praise, while at the same time despising him for the very things that made his opinion so important.
I was the physically challenged one. Born with a club-foot, suffering from petit mal epilepsy and dyslexia, and stuttering so badly I could barely speak, I was nothing for my father to be proud of. As the first-born male in the family, my father had high hopes for me. I was an utter disappointment. A poor student, unable to keep still, an inferior athlete, I was thin and not competitive. I had double vision, due to a lazy eye, so I wore glasses. I needed constant tutoring and was at best a D student.
It didn't help that English was the fourth language I was exposed to, and that by the time I was nine, I had already been raised in many conflicting cultures, namely Japanese, French, and Latin American. I became the dreamer, lost in my own world, turning inward to find what I couldn't on the outside. I embraced my mother's Native American heritage, learning Indian spiritualism, and developed a gift for music, writing my first song at age ten. When she died I was just beginning to establish the close relationship I had always craved with my mother, but which seemed forever out of reach.
David, nine years younger than I, was afforded only the leftover scraps of attention. He was perhaps the most needy, and the youngest to feel the devastation brought by Watergate and the death of our mother. At the tender age of 9, he lost everything that he hadn't yet realized he had. Shipped off to live in Miami with his Godfather, the ex-Bay of Pigs leader Manuel Artime, he quickly found solace and purpose in the glamorous life of rich Miami cocaine dealers. After years of family separation, he soon lost all memory of the mother that had cradled him in her arms and sang to him softly. Whereas I and the other children have memories of our mother crystallized in time that never ages, David has nothing. For each of us, growing up in this family carries different pains and perspectives. I can't know what it meant to be my sisters or my brother, and it is in this realm that truth shows its variables and shades.
The fact that my father chose to share details of his knowledge of historical events to no one but me may seem ironic and far-fetched to some. But in 1972, when Watergate exploded, my father had already trusted me in helping him with sensitive and illegal tasks: like destruction of evidence, and hiding large sums of unreported cash from the White House. For me, and a trusting nation, Watergate was the portal that led to doors that had been locked and buried, unknown to a naïve public for decades. The proverbial Pandora's Box was opened and the ghosts of the covert past were unleashed.
Watergate led to all things conspiratorial. By its very nature Watergate was part of a much larger conspiracy, already in place, running smoothly, and functioning as if it were standard procedure. The cast of players, already wallowing in the murky world of black-bag jobs, plausible deniability, money laundering, and assassination plots, were there to be assembled. Fueled by paranoia, driven by greed, sustained by fear, those that were in a position to uphold our nation's values ultimately destroyed the almost blind trust that a nation's people had bestowed upon its government. Watergate was the critical event that showed the emperor had no clothes. From the coup in Guatemala, through the Bay of Pigs invasion, the assassination plots against Cuban president Castro, the militant Cuban exile groups and Mafia lords, through the Kennedy assassination and into Watergate, one thread that ran through all these events was a man, my father, E. Howard Hunt.
Certainly he was one of a cast of hundreds, perhaps thousands, going about their jobs on a need-to-know basis. Sometimes, the left hand doesn't need to know what the right hand is doing. In a business where information is power, nobody has all the keys, all the answers, and the truth that they know is, again, a matter of perspective. Presidents Bush and Reagan both used deniability in their defense. "I was kept out of the loop." President Nixon was much less successful in that argument. He paved the way for those that followed him into that office not to repeat the same mistakes.
This of course doesn't mean not to commit crimes, but rather to cover your ass more effectively. My father's importance in these events can best be underscored by reading the Nixon Presidential transcripts of June 23, 1972. On that tape, Nixon said "Hunt will uncover a lot of things. You open that scab, there's a hell of a lot of things ... This involves those Cubans, Hunt, and a lot of hanky panky that we have nothing to do with ourselves ... this will open up that whole Bay of Pigs thing. ... It's going to make the CIA look bad, it's going to make Hunt look bad, and is likely to blow the whole Bay of Pigs thing."
H.R. Haldeman wrote in his memoir, The Ends of Power, that when Nixon referred to "the Bay of Pigs thing," he was actually referring to the Kennedy assassination! It's hard now, in retrospect, to think how I felt about the events that were unfolding with dramatic and merciless ferocity back in 1972, like a freight train out of control, unstoppable, smashing everything in its path. I think I must have been in shock, unable to contemplate or verbalize the meaning of what was happening both to my family and to the country.
That my father had been in the American intelligence services for 27 years was something I had learned in 1970 when I was 16. At the time, the term CIA really didn't have much meaning to me, so when he told me he was retiring I didn't think much of it (later, he admitted to me that he was in fact still working with "the Company"). My parents told me that his new job was as a public relations executive for the Robert Mullen Co. This as it turns out was another front for the CIA. I had grown up believing that my father worked for the State Department, and this was supported by several documents he had hanging on the wall of his office in the basement of our home.
My mother, I had been told, was a retired worker for the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C. I remember the stories she told of being on the last train leaving Shanghai, China, as the city fell to the Communist forces. I had even seen the pearl-handled .25 caliber automatic pistol she carried hidden on her body somewhere: pretty exciting for an embassy employee. She talked of having traveled to India, where she spent some time in Calcutta and Delhi, and she had worked for Averell Harriman tracking Nazi money through Europe. This sounded all too confusing to me, but I am sure my father would have had a clearer picture of what she actually did before they married. Once they tied the knot, she became a normal housewife and mother to her children ... or at least that was the story. I can't really tell the facts from the fiction, and that is the sad part of it all. Growing up in a world of half -truths and lies, where it turns out that just about everything you thought was real isn't, and then hearing about her being in the CIA and how they were the "classic" agency couple, using their superficially normal life as a cover for more sinister deeds ... all that stuff. I wish I knew what my mother really did. I suppose it doesn't make any difference any more; she was loving, sweet, patient, compassionate, very artistic, and yet unhappy, tortured, and chronically in pain (she broke her back twice).
She had first married an alcoholic French count of some kind; he was later killed in an automobile crash (maybe, who knows; certainly not I). Somehow, between growing up on a farm near Dayton, Ohio, and joining the "foreign service," she transformed herself into a world-class jet-setting beauty. She was exotic looking; dark thick hair with a widow's peak, strong high cheekbones, and a well-developed full-busted figure. She was German and Sioux, and her Native American heritage shone in her richly olive toned skin. In the year before she died we became very close, and she was able to confide things about her sorrows that I never dreamed existed.
In the waning months of 1970, my father had many new friends at our rambling 14-acre estate in Potomac, Md. Set back from the road, the only visible sign was one that read "Witches Island." Follow that up a dark, unlit one-lane gravel road, and our one-story brick house would eventually appear. We had a front and rear paddock, horse stables, four beautiful horses, a large "pigeon coop" the size of a single-wide trailer, a rabbit hutch, and no home would be complete without a bomb shelter. My father's new friends would come and go for "meetings" and dinners. Some of these men I would later recognize as Watergate conspirators Bernard Barker, G. Gordon Liddy, and Manuel Artime. Later, during the Senate Watergate Hearings, I was called to testify about certain things, and was counseled by my father's attorney to lie about having seen these and other men.
One day, when my mother and I went out for a horseback ride, she told me that Papa was not actually working for a public relations company, but was really working for the Nixon White House, doing some secretive things that had her quite worried. She said that against her advice, he was going ahead with an operation that was being directed at the very highest levels of government. He was now so embedded in this mess that she could not be sure of its operational security. There were men whom she didn't trust. He had gotten in with people that weren't themselves aware of what was required of them, professionally speaking. "Amateurs" she said angrily. "Your father, as smart as he is, can't see the forest for the trees."
I had heard them fighting at night and wondered what it was about. My parents rarely fought. I was curious, and one day when they were gone, I sneaked into their bedroom at the rear of the house and looked around. I found some ID's with my fathers' picture on them, but the name was not E. Howard Hunt. It was Edward J. Hamilton. I also found a reddish wig. This is the famous wig that my father was reported to have worn when he interviewed Dita Beard for John Mitchell, Nixon's infamous attorney general.
In 1971, my father's work took a different turn; one that sent him away from home and mired him deeper into the quicksand of Watergate. I didn't really take much notice of his travels, he had spent so many of my formative years away from home, but recently his trips were short and there was tension with his departures and arrivals. Later, I learned that he had gone to Miami to recruit Watergate's Cuban break-in crew; to Los Angeles, to break into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist; and to Milwaukee, to break into the apartment of Arthur Bremmer, the man who tried to assassinate presidential candidate George Wallace. In retrospect, it's a wonder that my father allowed himself to be used in such blatantly illegal schemes. I find it hard to believe that someone who held the notions of our Republic so dear, and the ideals of democracy in such high regard, would be swayed by such obvious presidential paranoia. This must have been the source of the tension and arguments that he and my mother were having.CHAPTER 2
In the summer months of 1972, my mother took my sister Kevan and my little brother David for a month-long vacation and sight -seeing tour of Europe and England. Lisa was spending the majority of her time with a boyfriend, and I was dividing my time between my band and my girlfriend. My bedroom at home, which my father had built, was in the basement, and when the lights were turned off it was so dark, you couldn't see your hand in front of your face.
Being alone in the house night after night with my father didn't bring us any closer together, and I missed my mother and brother very much. Our live-in housekeeper, an asthmatic English woman, would prepare meals and leave them for us either in the oven or the refrigerator. We rarely ate together or saw each other much, and the house felt overly large and gloomy. When I did see him, he seemed very distant and preoccupied. I could often hear my father tapping away at his old Royal typewriter in his office next door to my room. He somehow managed to write and have published dozens of spy thrillers. His books were usually published under pseudonyms, and for one series he used David St. John. The only interest we really shared was music, and I remember fondly that he let me accompany him to Blues Alley, a favorite night-spot in Georgetown.
Politically we were much different; he, in my mind, was a right-winger, and I, in his mind, was a left-winger. The truth, once again, is a matter of perspective. I wasn't really a radical. My hair was longish and I didn't support the war in Vietnam, but I wasn't out there throwing rocks or carrying signs. When our family was invited to attend a White House function at which we would be introduced to President Nixon, I quietly declined, stating that I disapproved of his foreign policies. Needless to say, my father was very, very upset.
Sometime after midnight June 17, 1972, I was catapulted out of a deep sleep when the stygian darkness of my basement room was shattered by a shaft of light. My father, silhouetted in the doorway, was calling to me.
"Saint, Saint John! Wake up!"
Excerpted from Bond of Secrecy by Saint John Hunt. Copyright © 2012 Saint John Hunt. Excerpted by permission of Trine Day LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Eric Hamburg is a writer and film producer. He is the director of the 2009 documentary Preventing Genocide and the author of JFK, Nixon, Oliver Stone and Me. He is a former aide, legislative assistant, and speechwriter to Senator John Kerry and also worked on the staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee for Congressman Lee Hamilton. He lives in Los Angeles. Saint John Hunt is the son of former CIA operative E. Howard Hunt. He is currently working as a musician and health-care provider. He lives in Eureka, California. Jesse Ventura is the former governor of Minnesota and author of four national bestsellers, including 63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read and American Conspiracies. Ventura is the host of the television show Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura on truTV.
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