POLITICS: The Bugs at the Watergate

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Among papers found on two of the men were some bearing the name Howard Hunt and the notation "W. House" or "W.H." with his name. Hunt turned out to be a sometime journalist, a longtime CIA agent and an occasional novelist (when first arrested, the five offered aliases resembling names of characters in his books). More recently Hunt has been a special White House consultant; he served for several months in 1971 and 1972 on narcotics intelligence work. He was recommended for the job by Nixon's Special Counsel Charles W. Colson, admired and feared in Washington as the Administration's chief hatchetman and master of its dirty-trick department. Colson and Hunt are alumni of Brown University and friends. Lately Hunt has been working for a private public relations firm that does some Government business. One coup: he persuaded Julie Eisenhower to star in a 30-second HEW spot for TV on opportunities for handicapped children. Hunt has managed to keep in close touch with his old friends; in fact, he and Barker had at least one recent get-together in Miami.

On advice of counsel, Hunt refused to talk with FBI agents about that meeting or anything else, but they had better luck elsewhere. Thanks to those crisp new bills the gang was carrying, the financing of the operation was soon traced to accounts controlled by Barker in Miami's Republic National Bank. The money was part of $89,000 that Barker had received from an as yet unidentified source in Mexico City in April. Recently all was withdrawn and an estimated $30,000 was then spent for the costly eavesdropping equipment as well as the group's living and operational expenses.

At first it was thought that the men had been attempting to install the bugs in O'Brien's office. In fact, the devices may have been there for some time; the men may have been removing them for replanting in the Democratic headquarters in Miami Beach. Diagrams were found of the key hotel suites that the Democrats have reserved for the convention. But did the Democrats really have any secrets worth all that trouble? There might be some tactical advantage in monitoring the opposition's strategy, but it would hardly seem worth the expense and high risk.

Some think that the Administration, if it did indeed set up the operation, was after something else. There is, says one insider, "almost a paranoia" in the Government about all of the leaks of confidential papers and memoranda to Jack Anderson and others; someone trying to find the source of the leaks might have figured that O'Brien would know. (Oddly, Frank Sturgis is a longtime Anderson source.) The trouble with both theories is that they ascribe slightly sophomoric motives and methods to presumably serious men.

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