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Watergate Hearings: Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activiti...

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Watergate Hearings: Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities June 26, 1973 - Testimony of John Dean.

Watergate Hearings: Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activiti...

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Sam Ervin (D - North Carolina). The committee will come to order. The committee counsel will question the witness Samuel Dash, attorney. Mr. Dean, you stated, did you not, that well before the so-called Liddy plan spelled out in meetings on January 27 and February 4, 1972, that there was an atmosphere in the White House conducive to the bugging and break in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Is that true? John Dean. That is correct.

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Samuel Dash, attorney. Let me very briefly summarize the key plans and activities which you state in your statement created such key such an atmosphere. The first I understand was an overall intelligence plan developed by the time you had already arrived at the White House in July of 1970 by White House leadership or including White House leadership to deal with internal security and domestic dissent which included such activities as illegal break in and wiretapping. And these are the papers which I understand you submitted to Judge Sirica and which this committee has received from Judge Sirica. John Dean. That is correct. And I believe that was indicative of a concern that existed regarding that particular area of problem. Samuel Dash, attorney. Then there was the so-called Plumbers operation set up in the White House in 1971 under Mr. Ehrlichman and Mr. Krogh utilizing Mr. Hunt and Mr. Liddy to investigate leaks such is the Pentagon paper leaks, which utilized such tactics as break ins, photographing and bugging. And then there was Operation Sandwedge recommended by Mr. Caulfield but never finally approved which had recommended covert features to it such as the use of bagmen and wiretapping. Now, generally is that the context in which you described the atmosphere that was conducive to such activity as break-ins and wiretapping in the White House? John Dean. I think, Mr. Dash, attorney, you have capsulized some, of the high points of the concerns I expressed yesterday. Samuel Dash, attorney. I am attempting just to capsulized and not go over your lengthy statement. John Dean. I understand.

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Samuel Dash, attorney. Therefore, in addition to your testimony about the President and the White House staff members obsession over demonstrators and leaks, is this then a brief and fair summary in a nutshell of the kind of practices the President to some extent and White House officials such as Haldeman and Ehrlichman, had approved or considered to crush internal dissent or obtain political intelligence? John Dean. I think that this is indicative, Mr. Dash, attorney, of the fact that the White House often took it upon itself to obtain information or resolve a problem when it felt that an agency of the Government was incapable or unsatisfactory in dealing with the problem that the White House itself felt that they were quite capable of handling the problem and thereupon would handle the problem.

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Samuel Dash, attorney. Well, therefore, Mr. Dean, when Liddy, Hunt, McCord, and their crew broke into the Watergate in May and June in 1972, this really was not an extraordinary action from the standpoint of the White House which had approved or engaged in similar missions for a period of at least 2 years prior to the Watergate, was it? John Dean. Well, as I believe I described in my statement yesterday, the preceding things that had occurred in a sense were precursors. But I think that the fact that the break in occurred was not as a result of a conscious design as much as an accident of a culmination of many of these elements. Samuel Dash, attorney. I understand that. But recognizing that some of these earlier plans had the approval of such things as break ins and wiretapping and things of that covert activities, the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters was not extraordinary in the context of those plans, would that not be true? John Dean. That is correct, Sir.

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Samuel Dash, attorney. Therefore, on the basis of your own statement, would it be fair to say that the true concern of those who approved such tactics in the past, such as Mr. Haldeman, Ehrlichman, as you have stated, would not be that there was a break in but that the Committee for the Re-Election of the President burglars had been caught at it? John Dean. You say the concern was--- Samuel Dash, attorney. The concern really was that they had been caught rather than that they had broken in. John Dean. I think that is correct.

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Samuel Dash, attorney. Let us examine, Mr. Dean, your denial of your own complicity in the Watergate itself in May and June of 1972. Is it not true that although you expressed amazement at the mind-boggling, as you described it, Liddy plan remembered in a show-and-tell meeting in the Attorney General's office on January 27, 1972, you along with Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Magruder, did encourage Liddy to scale down this plan and budget and you didn't tell him to stop the activity? John Dean. That s correct. And I might add that with hindsight, as I think I indicated in my statement yesterday, I probably should have been much more forceful in trying to stop the plan at that point when I in fact myself realized it was something that should not occur. Samuel Dash, attorney. Well, Mr. Dean, after the scaled down Liddy plan was presented in Mitchell's office In February 4, 1972, which did not include the activities of mugging, kidnapping, or prostitution, but primarily electronic surveillance or break ins, although you say you disassociated yourself from it, as the White House representative, you did not in fact tell Liddy to stop it. John Dean. That is correct. Samuel Dash, attorney. And although you say that you told Haldeman that the White House should not be involved with the plan, you did not recommend that Haldeman put a stop to it which you knew he could have done if he wanted to? John Dean. Well, again I must rely on hindsight. Given the circumstances that were existing at the time, I felt that someone wanted this. I knew I didn't want it. I knew I had put those on notice involved that I was going to have no part in it. I had similarly and with regard to Operation Sandwedge, let it die a natural death. I assumed the same thing was going to happen. Quite obviously it did not happen.

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Samuel Dash, attorney. But so far as Liddy was concerned, Mr. Dean, your actions were consistent, were they not, with his getting the impression that you were merely establishing deniability for the Attorney General and The White House should the plan go forward. Is that not true? John Dean. I don't know if Mr. Liddy had that impression or not. Samuel Dash, attorney. Would it be consistent with his having that impression? John Dean. He could have well have had that impression, yes.

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Samuel Dash, attorney. Now, during January and June of 1972, did you, in fact know that Mr. Magruder, who testified before this committee, was giving Gordon Strachan full reports of the Liddy plan, including the break-in and the fruits of the break-in? John Dean. No, I did not. I was just, while you were asking that question, I was thinking about your last questions. And I recalled something that Mr. Krogh had told me when I first discussed with him Liddy going over to the reelection committee. He told me that Gordon Liddy is a man who needs guidance. Gordon Liddy didn't get any guidance that I can see while he was there from anyone that I know. And that could explain partially the reason that he was sent over to prepare one thing and something else evolved unbeknownst to those who had sent him over. Samuel Dash, attorney. But you didn't give him any guidance yourself? John Dean. No, I did not.