Sunday, June 17, 2007

June 17, 1972:

The Watergate Break-in

Five burglars were arrested on June 17, 1972, at the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee after a security guard, Frank Wills, correctly suspected that burglars were in the building and called the police. The five were:

Bernard L. Barker, a realtor from Miami and former CIA operative.

Virgilio R. Gonzales a locksmith from Miami and refugee from Castro's takeover.

James W. McCord, a security co-ordinator for the Republican National Committee and the Committee for the Re-election of the President (CREEP). He was fired from his RNC and CREEP positions the day after the break-in.

Eugenio R. Martinez, who worked for Barker's Miami real estate firm. He was also an anti-Castro Cuban exile. Click here to read Martinez's account of the burglary.

Frank A. Sturgis, another associate of Barker from Miami and an anti-Castro activitist.

The five were charged with attempted burglary and attempted interception of telephone and other communications. Famously called a "third-rate burglary" by President Nixon's press secretary Ron Ziegler, it would lead to a first-rate presidential scandal.

The following is from an account by one of the Watergate burglars, Eugenio Martinez, on The entire article is here.

"McCord went into the Watergate very early in the evening [of June 17]. He walked right through the front door of the office complex, signed the book, and, I'm sure, went to the eighth floor as he had before. Then he taped the doors from the eighth floor to the bottom floor and walked out through the exit door in the garage. It was still very early, and we were not going to go in until after everyone left the offices. We waited so long that Eduardo went out to check if the tapes were still there. He said they were but when we finally got ready to go in, Virgilio and Sturgis noticed that the tape was gone, and a sack of mail was at the door.

"So we said, well, the tape has been discovered. We'll have to abort the operation. But McCord thought we should go anyway. He went upstairs and tried to convince Liddy and Eduardo that we should go ahead. Before making a decision, they went to the other room.

"I believe they made a phone call, and Eduardo told us to go ahead. McCord did not come in with us. He said he had to go someplace. We never knew where he was going. Anyway, he was not with us, so when Virgilio picked the locks to let us in, we put tape on the doors for him and went upstairs. Five minutes later McCord came in, and I asked him right away: 'Did you remove the tapes?' He said, 'Yes, I did.'

"But he did not, because the tape was later found by the police. Once inside, McCord told Barker to turn off his walkie-talkie. He said there was too much static. So we were there without communications. Soon we started hearing noises. People going up and down. McCord said it was only the people checking, like before, but then there was running and men shouting, "Come out with your hands up or we will shoot!" and things like that. There was no way out. We were caught. The police were very rough with us, pushing us around, tying our arms, but Barker was able to turn on his walkie-talkie, and he asked where the police were from. And then he said, "Oh, you are the metropolitan policemen who catch us." So Barker was cool. He did a good job in advising Eduardo we were caught.

"I thought right away it was a set-up or something like that because it was so easy the first time. We all had that feeling. They took our keys and found the identification in the briefcase Eduardo had left in our room.

"McCord was the senior officer, and he took charge. He was talking loudly now. He told us not to say a thing. 'Don't give your names. Nothing. I know people. Don't worry, someone will come and everything will be all right. This thing will be solved.' "

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