E. Howard Hunt: Man of Letters & Many Mysteries
Beloved Watergate criminal E. Howard Hunt finally died this week at the rotten old age of 88 -- just a week after he publicly blamed Lyndon Johnson for ordering the assassination of John F. Kennedy. As Hunt himself has long been suspected of being one of the CIA black-ops artists behind JFK's murder in Dallas, that was a pretty weird revelation.
As he begins his eternal torture in Hell, let's look back at the curiously rich and varied life of a man who maybe didn't start off 100% crooked ... after the jump.
* Was a somewhat successful novelist before his long and dirty life as a spy and dirty trickster.
* After leaving the Navy, became a World War II correspondent in the Pacific for Life magazine.
* Won a Guggenheim fellowship for creative writing in the mid-40s, which makes him exactly like Kurt Vonnegut.
* Sold Warner Bros. the movie rights to one of his novels for $35,000 -- when he was just 31 years old!
* "Son of an influential Republican leader in upstate New York."
* Quit the CIA when he discovered it was "infested with Democrats."
* Described by an ambassador as "totally self-absorbed, totally amoral and a danger to himself and anybody around him."
* Set up the execution of Ernesto "Che" Guevara by the Bolivian military.
* The Watergate break-in was a free-lance job for the White House.
* And it was just one of many "dirty tricks" Hunt performed.
* Another was burglarizing the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist. Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers that told the horrible truth about the Vietnam debacle; Nixon was obsessed with discrediting anybody who told the truth about Vietnam (sound familiar?!).
* For this job, "Hunt requested the CIA to provide him with a red wig, a false driving license and devices to alter his voice and make him appear to limp."
* "Howard had some fliers printed saying that Mayor [John] Lindsay of New York was having a meeting and there would be free beer. Howard handed these fliers out in the black areas, and of course there was no meeting or beer, so the blacks would come for their beer and leave hating Lindsay. Howard thought this was the greatest thing since Chinese checkers."
* Served 33 months in prison for Watergate.
* Never got a pardon.
* Was "visibly uncomfortable" and said No Comment when Slate asked him about his role in JFK's assassination.
Like George H.W. Bush, Hunt has long been accused of being in Dallas at the scene of Kennedy's murder. Just a week ago, news of Hunt's memoir made the papers -- because the memoir claims that Lyndon Johnson was the prime suspect in the assassination.
"Having Kennedy liquidated, thus elevating himself to the presidency without having to work for it himself, could have been a very tempting and logical move on Johnson's part," Hunt writes in the upcoming memoir.
"LBJ had the money and the connections to manipulate the scenario in Dallas and is on record as having convinced JFK to make the appearance in the first place. He further tried unsuccessfully to engineer the passengers of each vehicle, trying to get his good buddy, Gov. [John] Connolly, to ride with him instead of in JFK's car -- where ... he would have been out of danger."
The U.S. President's Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States (also known as the Rockefeller Commission) actually investigated Hunt's alleged role in Kennedy's assassination. The 1974 investigation concluded that Hunt wasn't one of the "tramps" briefly detained and inexplicably released by Dallas police at Dealey Plaza, but also found no witnesses beyond his family and nanny to vouch for him being in the DC area that day -- he wasn't at work at CIA headquarters and took 11 hours of sick leave at some point in late November.
The book, "American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate & Beyond," hits stores on March 2.
20 Secrets of an Infamous Dead Spy [10 Zen Monkeys]
Scavenger Hunt [Slate]