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An Interview with Richard Helms

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of its personnel who had served in Iran and whom he came to know over the years than with the earlier events. He thought them a first-class group of officers, who knew their business.
   
You have testified that you didn't know about the Watergate break-in in advance.
 
Given that in an organization as large as the CIA, there are things that the Director doesn't get to hear about, like the Lee Pennington Affair, until later, I could quite believe the theory that since Martinez was reporting to his case officer and had reported his contacts with Hunt as early as November '71 and that Hunt was working for the White House in March of '72, 1 could quite believe that although word never reached you, somebody in the CIA knew that a break-in was going to happen.
 
The FBI, Special Prosecutors, grand juries, Senate committees, House committees, Lord knows who all, have been trying to find who it might have been. As far as I know, he doesn't exist. Martinez did not share his information with his case officer.
   
Nobody has ever been found, in the Central Intelligence Agency, who knew about the Watergate break-in beforehand, period. And let's put a period to it right now.
   
But everybody has such a vast respect for the intelligence gathering capacity of the CIA that it seems almost incredible that they didn't know that something like this was going on.
   
Do you think they ought to have known?
   
No, because we don't have a charter to do any investigative work in the United States. Why would we have people around the Democratic National Committee or around the White House or around the CRP, the organization to re-elect the President?
   
The CIA had nothing to do with any of them. We were very conscious that we ought to stay out of anything having to do with the political process in the United States and to the best of my knowledge we did. So why would a tip-off to the break-in come to our attention.
   
Only under the guise of self-protection, I suppose. But once you had found out that Hunt was a potential troublemaker in August of '71, shouldn't some one of your underlings have kept track of him in self-protection?
   
That would have been the worst thing we could have done. Then we would have been tied into the thing and never could have extricated ourselves. I think it would have been a disaster if we had tried to keep an eye on Howard Hunt. He was working for the White House. He was their man. And he was doing their bidding. And he paid a horrendous price for it, but that was the way it was.
   
When you first learned that Hunt had come to the Agency for help in August of '71 and you and Cushman switched him off because he was getting to be a bore or potential danger or whatever and when Osborne called to say that various people with CIA connections, including Hunt, had been detained in connection with the Watergate break-in, and-without knowing any of the details-didn't your mind go, click, click, click, what the Whole Bloody Hell, and your heart sink?
   
Well, I didn't like the notion of any people that formerly worked for the Agency being involved, but the interesting thing about Hunt was that, when I got the call from
 

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM