Thursday, 15 February 2007 22:08

E. Howard Hunt Dies

Compiled from various press reports.

Everette Howard Hunt, a cold warrior whose Intelligence career spanned three decades, died in Miami on January 23 at the age of 88.

E. Howard Hunt was a co-founder of the Office of Strategic Services during World War Two. A strident anti-communist, he proudly took credit for orchestrating a 1954 coup against Guatemala's elected leftist president, Jacobo Arbenz, and the 1967 killing of Fidel Castro ally Ernesto "Che" Guevara. He also organized the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion

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But Hunt's most notorious act was as one of the masterminds of the 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate building in Washington, DC. "I will always be called a Watergate burglar, even though I was never in the damn place," Hunt said in 1997. "But it happened. Now I have to make the best of it."

Hunt, a devoted servant of President Richard Nixon, relied on a circle of militant Cuban contacts from the Bay of Pigs invasion to carry out the break-in. The Cuban burglars rifled campaign files and financial records in search of evidence to back Hunt's suspicion that Castro had given money to Nixon's rival, Democratic nominee George McGovern.

"I had always assumed, working for the CIA for so many years, that anything the White House wanted done was the law of the land," Hunt told People magazine in 1974. "I viewed this like any other mission. It just happened to take place inside this country."

Hunt spent 33 months in federal prison for burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping, pleading guilty to evade what could have been a 35-year sentence if convicted at trial. Two dozen other men also served time for the bungled break-in. Nixon was forced to abandon his second term on Aug. 9, 1974, becoming the only U.S. president to resign.

After his release from prison, he devoted much of his time to writing spy novels, which he had begun producing in the 1940s. He wrote more than 80 books. A memoir, American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond, is due out next month.

In an interview for Slate magazine in October 2004, Hunt said he had been doubtful of the Bay of Pigs' prospects for deposing Castro because of State Department interference in the CIA operation and the Kennedy administration's insistence on keeping it low-key.

Hunt also was involved in organizing an event that foreshadowed Watergate: the burglary of the the office of the Beverly Hills psychiatrist treating Daniel Ellsberg, the defense analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers, published in 1971.

Many believe Hunt played a role in the Kennedy assassination. In 1978 Spotlight magazine, a publication of the right-wing Liberty Lobby, published an article by former CIA employee Victor Marchetti that linked Hunt to the assassination. Hunt sued for libel and won a settlement of $650,000. That verdict was vacated in 1985. Hunt never received any of the money and declared bankruptcy in 1997.

Some have put forth the theory that Hunt was one of three so-called tramps arrested near Dealey Plaza shortly after the assassination. Hunt always denied it. "I was in Washington, D.C., on November 22, 1963," he wrote in a 1975 letter to Time magazine, while he was incarcerated at Eglin Air Force Base's prison camp. "It is a physical law that an object can occupy only one space at one time."

Hunt underwent gall bladder surgery in the late 1990s and had a leg amputated after arteriosclerosis developed, spending his last years in a motorized wheelchair. He lived in a modest home in the Miami area with his second wife, Laura Martin Hunt. His first wife, the former Dorothy Wetzel Day Goutiere, died in a plane crash in 1972.

Besides his wife, Hunt was survived by six children.

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