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  • 1

    SPYING ON THE

    WHITEHOUSE

    ON Thursday afternoon, December 16, 1971, Navy Yeoman Charles Edward Radford left his house at Bolling Air Force Base on the edge of Washington, D. c., and steered his blue Datsun toward the Pentagon. It seemed like springtime; the temperature had climbed to a record 74 degrees, and as he passed the Tidal Basin and then crossed the Potomac River Radford could see a few cherry blossoms sprouting on the trees, and joggers running along the Mall near the Lincoln Memorial. The lanky, mustachioed twenty-seven-year-old with the friendly open manner had made the routine commute many times since arriving in Washington fifteen months earlier, but this was a special trip, one that made Radford too tense to enjoy the balmy weather. A day earlier, the Navy had placed him under virtual house arrest, and he dreaded what was now about to happen. He was on his way to an interrogation by Defense Department investigators who suspected that Radford had leaked classified documents to columnist Jack Anderson.

    Radford had never liked Washington. He had enlisted in the Navy In 1963, and four years later the Navy had sent him to Defense

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    Intelligence School near the capital. He'd developed a strong dislike of the city, and was glad when his administrative training ended. In May 1967, he was posted to the defense attache's office in the United States Embassy in New Delhi, India. He liked New Delhi, where he met and married the daughter of a U.S. Navy officer. The first two of their eight children were born in India. After three years, when the assign-ment to India ended, Radford sought the job of "admiral's writer," a post that involved clerical work, dictation, and memo writing, and that would make him personal aide to a flag officer; that was the route, Chuck Radford thought, to earning an officer's commission. The Navy agreed to give him such training at a school in Bainbridge, Maryland, and Radford hoped that after it he would land a post in the Pacific Northwest, close to his own family and that of his in-laws.

    The Navy had other plans for him. In the summer of 1970 a prestigious and highly sensitive assignment linking the Pentagon and the White House opened up, and Radford, third in his class at the "admiral's writer" school, became a leading candidate. Offered the job, he was urged to take it. In the Navy you don't say no very often if you want to get ahead, so he accepted the post.

    Upon arriving in Washington in September 1970, with his wife Toni and two children, he went to work in an office that directly served the nation's senior military man, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Radford became the personal aide to Rear Admiral Rem-brandt C. Robinson, an ambitious and politically savvy officer, who served as a top assistant to the chairman, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer. Moorer was the boss, an ardent anticommunist who concealed tenacity and a thirst for bureaucratic combat beneath a thick Alabama drawl.

    Admiral Robinson and Yeoman Radford were a two-man team that ran the Joint Chiefs' liaison office to the National Security Council (NSC). Their assignment didn't amount to much on the organizational chart, but it connected them on one side to tne highest reaches of the military, and on the other to the White House and its powerful national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger. Robinson and Radford handled the flow of classified documents and messages between the Joint Chiefs and the NSC. Though small in size, under Kissinger the NSC wielded far more power than the mammoth bureaucracies of the departments of Defense and State, principally because President Richard M. Nixon wanted it that way.

    The two-man team was Moorer's eyes and ears at the NSC, and Robinson stressed to his yeoman that his loyalty to Moorer stood above all else. "It was his responsibility to keep the chairman informed, and I was to help him to do this," Radford later testified of his instruction

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    from Robinson. Though Radford performed all the usual menial tasks of an assistant, from taking dictation to typing, filing, pouring coffee, serving lunch, and arranging Robinson's transportation, the yeoman understood that his main job was to assist Robinson by ensuring that everything they saw and heard inside the White House was promptly passed on to Chairman Moorer.

    The Robinson-Radford team would begin each morning at the Joint Chiefs' suite on the second floor of the E-Ring of the Pentagon, then drive to their NSC office, 376A of the old Executive Office Building (EOB) just west of the White House; later in the day they would return to the Pentagon. They often worked past dark, and usually had long, grueling schedules that allowed Radford little time for his family. That loss was offset by his continguity to power and the intimate secrets of the nation's foreign policy. His dedicated service to Robinson, Moorer, and the Joint Chiefs earned him Robinson's praise and the promise of an officer's commission.

    Chuck Radford was a sensitive young man, the product of an unusual childhood and a broken home. His father was a Native American, his mother descended from Slavic, Irish, and Jewish ances-

    , tors, and Radford had had difficulty gaining acceptance at the places to which his family moved, and at the foster homes to which he had occasionally been sent. Perhaps that was why, from the very outset, Yeoman Radford was enthralled by his new job. "It's a long way from an Indian reservation to a position like that," he remembers. "I thought, my gosh, I've finally broken those ties with my past, and I can really be better than a lot of my cousins and a lot of my family had been. I can finally accomplish something. I even stopped reading newspapers-that's how exciting it was-because the stuff in the newspapers was boring; they didn't know what they were talking about."

    The fall of 1970, when Yeoman Radford took up his post, was a pivotal time for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. From their point of view, the president of the United States was out of control.

    On January 20, 1969, Richard M. Nixon had become the thirty-seventh president of the United States. Earlier, as a private citizen, Nixon had contemplated several historical foreign policy shifts, includ-ing new relationships with the United States' cold war adversaries, China and the Soviet Union, an end to the war in Vietnam, and an attempt to stop bloodshed in the Middle East. Though long regarded as a conservative anticommunist, Nixon actually had a world view that favored diplomacy and arms control over confrontation and a continued

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    arms race. He cultivated a public image of anticommunism because he found it useful, but privately was more flexible in his thinking.

    His slim electoral victory in 1968, with a margin of only a half-million votes, represented a tremendous comeback from defeats in the presidential election of 1960 and in the California gubernatorial race in 1962. As he entered the White House, Nixon was full of bitterness and anger about these past defeats, and about years of perceived slights from others in the political establishment. He believed he had never been treated with the respect that a former vice-president should have received. He viewed the nation's capital as a hostile territory populated by his enemies. "Washington is a city run primarily by Democrats and liberals, dominated by like-minded newspapers and other media," Nixon wrote in his autobiography, RN. He urged his cabinet to replace holdover bureaucrats with "people who believed in what we were trying to do," and insisted they do so quickly, or the old establishment would "sabotage" their intended reforms. What he wanted from these new people was "undivided loyalty."

    Nixon's need to control his political destiny and to prevent the blunting of his agenda by bureaucrats pushed him toward the establish-ment of what was, in effect, a secret government. An intensely private and withdrawn man, almost the opposite of the usual gregarious politician, Nixon often recoiled from social situations and preferred to be closeted with familiar aides or to sit alone with a pad and pen and jot down his own thoughts. "Meeting new people filled him with vague dread, especially if they were in a position to rebuff or contradict him," Henry Kissinger observed of his former chieftain in the first volume of his own memoirs, White House Years. Nixon usually directed his chief of staff H. R. "Bob" Haldeman, his counsel and later domestic adviser John D. Ehrlichman, or his attorney general and close friend John N. Mitchell to carry out the dirty work of imparting bad news or even somewhat unpalatable directives to subordinates.

    Both Nixon and Kissinger saw the government bureaucrats as roadblocks to be circumvented. To Nixon, Congress was under the thumb of the Democrats; the Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency were havens for Eastern Establishment liberals who hated him; and the military was full of doctrinaire, inflexible anticommunists. To circumvent them all, Nixon determined to use an agency first established in 1947 that had lain dormant in the Kennedy and Johnson years but was under the complete control of the White House-the National Security Council. For a man who loved secrecy, it was perfect. While the statutory members of the NSC were officers of the cabinet, the national security adviser and his staff were presiden-

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    tial appointees who did not have to be confirmed by Congress. The NSC was chartered as a clearinghouse for information from State, the Pentagon, and the intelligence community flowing to the White House, and it could take action quickly. Nixon had seen the NSC work under President Dwight D. Ei