D6

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D6 - FLASHBACK

The nexus in time known as the Watergate Hotel.

They bugged the wrong phone during the May 1972 Watergate break-in. It was just a secretary's phone mostly used by staffers to order in Chinese food, not the one used by the Democratic Party chairman clear on the other side of the office in a locked room. The corresponding Operation GEMSTONE transcripts were useless and the Attorney General, loth to piss away $89,000 in diverted and laundered campaign funds, ordered a second break-in to square things away because the President himself insisted they keep collecting whatever information they could on his political enemies, around the clock.

On June 14 the GEMSTONE leader codenamed "Daddy" got his Washington team back together and the "Spook" told the same group of burglars he used the first time to fly back up from Miami. It took two days to get everyone into place with the right equipment, mostly off-the-shelf stuff that couldn't be traced, but there was no written plan and no rehearsal. This astonished the "Photographer", a semi-retired CIA operative who had captained a boat for over three hundred missions to communist Cuba (some of which were extraordinary renditions of men who might have been his friends had he dared to lift their hoods). But his friend the "Realtor", a fellow Bay of Pigs veteran, practically worshiped the ground the Spook walked on.

The "Quiet Man" walked through the front door of the Watergate office complex, signed in, took the elevator to the top floor, entered the stairwell, then used duct tape to cheat the locks on every door all the way down to the parking garage levels. But he was a complete moron, and taped the doors horizontally, rather than vertically, so anyone and his dog could see it. A private security guard named Frank Wills did see the tape, because his first task was always to check the basement doors for tampering when he came on to his shift at midnight. He pulled the tape off and called his supervisor, who told him to check the other doors and call back in fifteen minutes. What he did instead was go get some fast food across the street with a young intern who was pulling a late-nighter.

When the actual burglary commenced, it lasted for about seven minutes before they came back to their base of operations in Room 419 of the Watergate Hotel and told Daddy the duct tape on the B-2 garage level door was missing. Meanwhile the "Locksmith" and "The Goon" went around looking for another lock to pick. The Realtor and the Spook told Daddy they wanted to abort the mission, because obviously a guard must have removed the tape. The Photographer said he was ready to do whatever Daddy decided to do. Daddy decided to cancel the evolution and try again two weeks later.

The Quiet Man made his rounds again, this time removing the tape from all the doors. By the time Frank Wills finished his hamburger and actually did what his supervisor told him to do (check the other doors), there was no tape. He figured it had just been some lazy workman who taped the B-2 level door open that one time to save a few seconds of hassle fumbling for keys while carrying something big. Wills forgot about the entire episode.

But the third time was the charm for the burglars. On July 1 the GEMSTONE team returned one more time to the sixth floor offices of the DNC at the Watergate complex, bugged the correct phone, photographed ten rolls of film of the Realtor holding documents in his gloved hands, and even made off with some blank stationary with Party letterhead. What they didn't find was evidence that Castro was giving money to the Democrats. But that was fine, because the President simply used the letterhead and the photographs of various signatures to manufacture such evidence.

Tactically, there was little profit in any of this illegal activity, all it really did was turn what would have been a 49-state victory into a 50-state victory. But having avoided a messy second term scandal, Nixon was free to bring about what he called the New American Revolution, making the executive branch nearly omnipotent with a cabinet whose heads were supremely loyal to him. Congress he largely ignored. But this situation of an imperial presidency was going to bite America in the ass in October 1973.

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