E. Howard Hunt, the man who recruited the burglars and organised the June 1972 break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate complex, has died, aged 88.
Reports quoting Hunt’s sun, Austin, say that he died at a Miami hospital, following a bout with pneumonia.
Everette Howard Hunt was a former Central Intelligence Agency operative. Born in Hamburg, New York, on October 9, 1918, he worked as a war correspondent and screen writer before beginning a long career with the CIA from 1949-70. During this time he was involved with the organisation of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1962.
Hunt recruited four of the five Watergate burglars: Barker, Gonzalez, Martinez and Sturgis. All four men had previously worked with Hunt on the Bay of Pigs. Along with James McCord, they were arrested in the Watergate complex on the evening of June 17, 1972. Hunt was observing the burglary from a room in the Howard Johnson hotel opposite the Watergate complex. Hunt’s White House phone number was found in the address book of Bernard Barker.
Hunt spent 33 months in prison on burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping charges. He and the burglars pleased guilty to federal charges in January 1973.
Hunt was also responsible for organising the burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, Lewis Fielding. Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, part of the group known as the “Watergate Plumbers”, broke into the office to gain information about Ellsberg, the Pentagon official who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971.
Hunt’s first wife, Dorothy, died in a plane crash in Chicago on December 8, 1972. Investigators found $10,000 in $100 bills in Mrs. Hunt’s purse. The money was believed to be from pay-offs to the Watergate conspirators.
As the Watergate conspiracy unfolded, Hunt demanded money for his silence. His blackmail attempts were the subject of a taped conversation between White House counsel John Dean and President Nixon in March 1973. During the conversation, Dean tells Nixon that Hunt is demanding $72,000 for personal expenses and $50,000 for his legal fees. Nixon says: “If you need the money, I mean you could get the money… I mean it’s not easy, but it could be done.”
Hunt’s autobiography, “American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond,” is scheduled for publication in March.