G. Gordon Liddy was one of the memorable characters to emerge from the Watergate scandals. A former FBI man and prosecutor—he’d made a splash raiding the upstate New York estate where Timothy Leary was conducting LSD experiments—he was hired by Pres. Nixon to be part of his “dirty tricks” team. Liddy oversaw the Watergate break-in and spent time in prison for his crimes. Unrepentant upon his release in 1977, he embarked on a career as author and radio provocateur. An unarmed Legs McNeil sat down with Liddy in a hotel room for the following interview, conducted in mid-1981. Liddy died last week.
By Legs McNeil
The transcript below is from my interview with G. Gordon Liddy, the former FBI agent, prosecutor, undercover operative for the Nixon White House and convicted felon, who died last Tuesday at age 90. The interview was originally published in the June 1981 issue of High Times magazine. For his role in the Watergate break-in, Liddy was convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping in 1973, and sentenced to a prison term of more than 20 years, which was commuted by Pres. Carter in 1977. Once out of the slammer, Liddy published his autobiography, WILL, which became a national bestseller. He also conducted lecture tours, got into acting, and became a right-wing radio personality. At the time of this interview, Liddy was on a promotional tour for WILL.
I was 25 years old and fascinated with what a fascist Liddy was, probably because I had such a deep hatred for President Richard Nixon. I even did my high school animation project on a short cartoon that turned Nixon into a pig and ended with the epitaph, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” I still believe that, for obvious reasons, though I would probably make that gender neutral to accommodate today’s White Supremacists.
For the sake of transparency, I’ve been a blue-collar Democrat all my life, and despite being liberal on most social issues, I do have a hatred of communism for one reason: Josef Stalin. Just wanted to let you all know what my politics are.
“There was an antiwar movement, but there was far more to it than that….. The thought of this ideology in effect turning over, winning power and achieving power, was completely unacceptable to me.”
I don’t know where I flew to meet up with Liddy, somewhere on the East Coast. I only remember that I had to change planes in Pittsburgh, because I knew where all the bars were in almost every airport in America. And, to this day, I still remember where the bar is in the Pittsburgh airport. I think I drank Iron Horse beer, on tap, though I might be mistaken.
When I got to my destination, a reception was being hosted for Liddy by college kids who looked like Young Republicans for Hitler. It was scary, but they had food, and since I hadn’t eaten anything, having drunk my way to my destination, I was hungry. But they only had raw vegetables; cauliflower and cherry tomatoes. The problem was, when I bit into a cherry tomato, it squirted a fine steam of tomato juice all over a young Eva Braun’s prom gown, and I thought I’d better make a quick exit before the Gestapo grabbed me. I remember this plump girl with a huge red stain covering her enormous breasts, surrounded by her girlfriends, pointing a finger at me and crying, “Him, he did it!”
I quickly introduced myself to G. Gordon Liddy, who, thankfully, hadn’t witnessed the cherry tomato incident, and told him I’d meet him back at the hotel when he finished at the college and we could do the interview then if he was not too tired. An hour later, Liddy knocked on my hotel room door, we sat down and I pushed play on my tape recorder.
LEGS: What were the ’60s like for you? When did it become apparent to you that there was a war going on at home?
LIDDY: By 1967, it was apparent to me that things had gotten out of hand. That was when we had an urban riot in Poughkeepsie, New York, which is where I live. I could see it starting about ’63 or ’64 when I moved to Poughkeepsie and became a prosecutor. By ’67, I’d taken the decision to get myself elected. I ran for office in ’68. Didn’t make it, but then proceeded to run the Nixon campaign in that area.
I went down to Washington in ’69. By then, things were full bore. Washington had burned by then. It had burned in ’68. The ’60s seemed to be increasing and accelerating. I thought that if this continues apace, the other side will eventually win, or will become the dominant side. We’ll become the minority. The time to stop that is when we still have the strength to stop it. And that’s pretty much what we did.
LEGS: You saw things happening from the early ’60s and ending up with the antiwar movement and this big youth movement—
LIDDY: I don’t know if it was a youth movement. There was an antiwar movement, but there was far more to it than that. There was a whole different world overview that these people whom I opposed had. The drug culture was part of it. It was intolerable. The thought of this ideology in effect turning over, winning power and achieving power, was completely unacceptable to me. It was no more acceptable to me than the idea of surrender to a Japanese soldier in 1945.
LEGS: You’ve said that you’re not concerned with your image because “it’s the opinion of others’.”
LIDDY: I would draw a distinction between reputation and character. Reputation means what others think of you. That is pretty much outside of your control. Your character means what you really are. The only person who can affect that is you. So, I think you’re better off concerning yourself about character rather than reputation.
I thought that if this continues apace, the other side will eventually win, or will become the dominant side. We’ll become the minority. The time to stop that is when we still have the strength to stop it. And that’s pretty much what we did.
LEGS: You must be aware that you do have an image?
LIDDY: Well, I have had several. When the break-in was detected and things were going from bad to worse, we decided on this containment strategy. I said okay. I was, in effect, the captain of the ship in the reef, and I will take the weight. They can’t get past me, because anything anyone under me would say would be from me, and then it becomes hearsay if I’m not cooperating. So all I have to do is remain silent and there’s no problem.
And they said, “Oh, yeah, there is a problem. How are we going to convince this very skeptical, cynical and hostile Washington press corps that you, who has a doctorate in law, who was an FBI bureau supervisor at the age of 29, who was a prosecutor, that you, in effect, stole all this money from your client, dreamed all this up on your own, went out and we knew nothing about it? They’re not going to buy this bullshit story.” I said, “Yeah, I can see the problem.”
So, with my cooperation by acquiescence, they started floating a lot of these crazy stories to persuade the Washington press corps that, yes, I did. I really didn’t think they were going to get away with it, but they did. We were all astonished at the gullibility of the press corps. That held for about a year. Even the whole government fell for it. The whole concept of my trial was, Yes, this is what happened. That’s what the government told the jury.
A year later, when they realized they’d been had, they tried my superiors, under a theory 180 degrees opposite. So it held, but only for about a year.
LEGS: Why did you write as honest a book as you did? Do you think you served your country better waking up people to the fact that the Soviet Union intends to dominate the world? When you write in your book about the rat story which everybody thinks of when they think of you [Liddy claimed to have overcome his fear of rats by cooking and eating one], and the burning of the hand [Again, according to Liddy, he overcame fear and emotion by holding his hand in a candle flame], and that you would kill Jack Anderson, don’t you think you would better serve your country by lying than by putting out this book?
LIDDY: No, I wouldn’t think so. First of all, I didn’t write the book until almost after litigation had run, so I could be honest and write it and not in any way put at risk the liberty of my associates. Secondly, I’m what is known as a primary source. The obligation of a primary source is not to sit there and draw speculative conclusions, it is to record what happened.
LEGS: So when you did the book, you considered yourself as a historian?
LIDDY: Well, no, as a primary source for historians. If you are studying Watergate and you go and read a book by Teddy White or anyone like that who’s sitting there and analyzing what happened based upon transcripts and so on, that’s a secondary source. The transcripts are the primary source. The testimony of those who are the actual participants in the event are the primary sources. Those persons should put down, “This is what happened. This is what I saw; heard, smelt, felt, did.” I ought to avoid speculation and drawing conclusions. That’s for the historians with the benefit of the detached view of time and the rest of it. So that’s what I did. I was as scrupulously honest about it as I could be.
LEGS: You knew you would become a spokesman, with this book out. You must have known that people are going to say, “He eats rats, he burns his hand.”
LIDDY: If you read the book and are not persuaded, then I’ve had my day in court. If I don’t persuade you, I don’t persuade you.
LEGS: You must realize also that you have a message to spread: It is a bad place out there and the Soviets do indeed intend to take over the world.
LIDDY: What you’re saying is if I had been easier on myself, I would have gained more acceptance. That’s cheating. I think I can do and have done pretty well having been truthful. Plus, having been ruthlessly and scrupulously truthful with myself, I think it lends credence to what I may have to say about other people.
In other words, if I’m going to be as tough as I was on John Sirica in that book, I don’t have any right to do that and not be as tough on myself. I think that’s one of the reasons it gained the acceptance that it did. People say that this was an honest book.
LEGS: Why do you think John Sirica [the U.S. District Judge who presided over the Watergate burglars’ trial] is a phony and a fraud?
LIDDY: Because John Sirica poses as one who abhors a cover-up. “We’ll all be all right if we just get these facts out.” And yet, when he, through a gross error of competence, seated a juror who could not conduct a conversation in the English language, he used his power as a judge to cover it up. Which makes him a hypocrite. Then, when he was embarrassed by my 21-and-a-half-year-sentence and was attempting to justify it and sought to resort to the record to back him up and saw that the record didn’t back him up, he just changed the record. He got caught at it. That just demonstrates that he’s stupid. He’s a stupid hypocrite [laughter], that’s all.
“I don’t see why we ought to go around saying a lot of the things we do and don’t do. I mean, we keep telling people that we never whack anybody out. Well, of course we do.”
LEGS: What did you think of the Washington Post as they were uncovering the Watergate story?
LIDDY: I understood what was going on. If you’ll recall from that era, it was like Page 23 news and that’s where it belonged. The Washington Post pursued it that way because of the obsession that its owner and executive editor, Ben Bradlee, had with Richard Nixon dating back to his defeating Helen Gahagan Douglas years before in California. Then what happened was after these fellows did some investigative work and came up with a few good stories, the New York Times felt professionally embarrassed about being behind on the story so they jumped in. Those two media leaders carrying on like that…
LEGS: But what did you think?
LIDDY: They were the other side. I expected the other side to do battle as vigorously as they could. They were going to attempt to reverse the effect of the election. It was a struggle for power. That’s how I viewed it. I was quite dispassionate about it. I just sat there and watched it.
LEGS: In David Halberstam’s book, The Powers That Be, he describes how [Carl] Bernstein just lucked into the story. He was supposed to be covering Virginia, but he happened to rewrite [Bob] Woodward’s copy. He was about to get fired because management disapproved of his lifestyle.
LIDDY: That’s a real odd-couple situation. Woodward is very preppy very stuffy. Terribly stuffy guy. Filled with his own importance. I recorded a story there where he went to John Martin, a Justice Department attorney and asked him for information to which he was not entitled. Martin refused and he said, “No one turns down Bob Woodward.” John Martin said, “Well, let me be the first.” That’s just the way he was.
Bernstein wasn’t like that. Neither one of them hesitated to subvert the grand jury or do anything else they felt was necessary to go after their own. Again, there’s another example of the hypocrisy of Sirica. Sirica was intimidated by Edward Bennett Williams, so he did not do anything to those guys for violating the law. He claims he gave them a strong lecture, but he never even mentioned them by name in the courtroom. He didn’t have the guts to do it. Sirica has no balls.
LEGS: You also said that of Jimmy Carter, having no balls.
LIDDY: That’s the “3-B” test—brains, balls and brawn. I think to really be successful, to be a leader like that, you have to pass the “3-B” test, and Carter can’t.
Woodward is very preppy very stuffy. Terribly stuffy guy. Filled with his own importance.
LEGS: The Moral Majority says that in order to win World War III, the first thing you have to do is abandon détente, noting that détente dignifies the rules of the Soviet Union, discourages internal resistance among intellectuals and people in the Soviet Union, undermines freedom movements in the satellites, enables Moscow to undermine and divide NATO and lulls the free world into complacency leading to a reduction in defense spending. How do you react to that?
LIDDY: If it does things with respect to the free world, that’s because of the stupidity of the free world. I don’t think it necessarily does. What détente simply did was give both sides an opportunity to gain an advantage over the other. The Soviet Union took it and we did not. That’s our fault, not theirs.
LEGS: Why didn’t we take advantage of détente? How could we have?
LIDDY: We did not, I think, because of this naiveté of illusion that so many of us live in this country. We made the fundamental error of telling the American people that, for example, a SALT agreement is a good thing. Immediately that became held hostage politically. We had to come up with a SALT agreement or take a political defeat. The Soviet Union, not being run by stupid men, saw that. And they just held out for one that was very much to their advantage. Same thing with SALT II. Ronald Reagan has very wisely said, “Well, we’ll talk and we’ll listen, but unless it’s a good agreement and in our national interest, we’re not going to get involved in a thing like that.” He is not politically hostage to a SALT agreement. Therefore, he could possibly come up with a good one. Who knows? At least he is not naive. He sees the world as it is.
LEGS: How do you think we should view the Russians?
LIDDY: You must understand that they define things differently than we do. They don’t define the good the way we do. The good to them is whatever advances the interests of the Soviet Union, and whatever does not is bad. So, if there is a SALT agreement and they violate it and get away with it, they don’t consider that cheating. They consider that they are doing something that they are under a moral imperative to do. Unless you understand that, the way they think, you cannot deal with them. Because you’re not even speaking the same language.
That’s the “3-B” test—brains, balls and brawn. I think to really be successful, to be a leader like that, you have to pass the “3-B” test,
LEGS: There’s a belief in this country that the Soviet Union does not want a nuclear war?
LIDDY: Well, no one who is not crazy wants nuclear war. I don’t think the Russians are crazy. Whether their perceptions are correct or not really is immaterial. The Soviets are going to act on their perceptions, not ours. Their perception at the moment is that they can win a nuclear exchange. That’s a pretty dangerous perception for them to have. The only way to change is for us to change the balance of power sufficiently so they perceive it, to have them change.
LEGS: Do you think the United States can win a nuclear war?
LIDDY: Yes, I think we can, if we position ourselves to. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to take great losses nor does it mean we should seek nuclear war. We certainly ought not to shrink from it in the last resort. As General Haig said, “There are some things worth fighting for.” You can’t turn the clock back. There being nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons are going to be used. People argue against that by saying, “Well, in World War I we used gas, and no one used gas in World War II.” There’s a specific reason for that. When, at the end of the war, our military guys were going through Germany an officer went into a cave and he didn’t come out. So they sent a guy in after him and he didn’t come out. Pretty soon, they said, “Hey there’s something wrong going on here” And they checked. And what had happened was, in the cave were stored cylinders of what came to be called G-Agent—G for German—which was nerve gas, which the Germans developed. So, it happened to be leaking, and that’s why those people died in there. We found that out and we said to the Germans, “Holy smoke! You had this enormous weapon and you didn’t use it. Why not?” And they said, “Because you would have used yours” “What do you mean, ours?” We had an awful lot of artillery and the recoil system of our artillery was hydropneumatics, and the pneumatic was nitrogen gas, so we had all these nitrogen-gas cylinders and German intelligence misidentified that as our equivalent of their G-Agent and it balanced the terror so they didn’t use theirs.
LEGS: Do you think the United States can win a nuclear war?
LIDDY: Yes, I think we can, if we position ourselves to. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to take great losses nor does it mean we should seek nuclear war.
LEGS: About the war in Vietnam, in the Oriana Fallacci interview—I don’t know if you’re familiar with her—
LIDDY: I know who she is. Which one?
LEGS: With [Nguyễn Văn] Thieu [president of South Vietnam from 1967-75]. My impressions of that interview are that during the Paris peace talks Thieu was pleading for his life, saying, “There are 300,000 North Vietnamese soldiers in my country.” And Kissinger said, “No, there’s only 150,000.” And then Thieu said in this interview that Kissinger was using South Vietnam as a containment factor against China because they were more threatened by China than Russia, that it was a big power play. Thieu was suspicious of Kissinger being a power broker in those terms.
LIDDY: Well, Kissinger is a very bright man. The KGB analysis of Kissinger is very interesting. First of all, they make much of the fact that he’s Jewish. Of course, the Soviets are very anti-Semitic. But they’re rather dispassionate about his Jewishness and they say that that leads him into the direction of being a survivalist because of the historical Jewish experience of surviving. And they think that he’s influenced by that. Now it may or may not be true.
But the other interesting thing that they think is very significant—and I would have to agree with them—is that Kissinger is a big student of Metternich. Now, Metternich was the Austro-Hungarian Empire chancellor who saw coming down the road the destruction of the empire and who sought by his brilliance to postpone that for as long as possible— and he was quite effective at doing that.
And they say in their analysis that that’s very good from their point of view because Kissinger sees that history is on our side and he’s playing the Metternich game and he sees that the U.S. is going to go down the tubes and he’s just trying to postpone that. And so, long term, it’s good with Henry.
LEGS: They think Kissinger’s holding off the fall of the American Empire?
LIDDY: Yeah, they think we’re doomed and they’re riding the freight train to success. I happen to think that it’s actually the opposite and it’s only our damn foolishness that has let them get as far as they have. And that the biggest enemy in the United States is the United States because of all this altruistic nonsense that we… all of this Easter Bunny philosophy that we’ve been espousing in the last four years. Four more years of Carter and we would have been gone. It would have been all over. It’s going to be very difficult through Reagan or anybody else to turn this thing around.
LEGS: You say it’s too late to turn this Carter mess around. You’ve been quoted as saying about the CIA, “They have been weakened by press and Congress. The animal who is no longer wicked, no longer has its teeth’. What is the role of a secret military organization in a free society?
LIDDY: Well, historically, the covert-operation capability is to give you “option three’.’ If something goes on in a foreign country that is inimical to the national interests of the United States, and we don’t have option three, we’ve got only two options: one, don’t do anything, and let the whole thing go down the tubes; two, go to war, the other extreme. Option three, when you have that capability is to send in a clandestine service and turn it around without having gone to war. So it can be a very vital role. Unfortunately, right now the clandestine service has been gutted. When Stansfield Turner dismissed 816 top operations directors—including the number one guy in Iran, the number one guy in the Soviet power structure and the number one guy in the Middle East, and I think the guy in Cuba, you cannot turn it around overnight. You can bum the house down overnight but you can’t build one overnight.
And that the biggest enemy in the United States is the United States because of all this altruistic nonsense that we… all of this Easter Bunny philosophy that we’ve been espousing in the last four years.
LIDDY: Well, there had never been any orders to move physically against Anderson even after he had crossed us. One of our best technical sources in intelligence was our ability to intercept the car-to-car transmissions of [Alexei] Kosygin [Premier of the Soviet Union from 1964-80] and other Soviet leaders driving around the streets of Moscow. Anderson learned that and [CIA Director Richard] Helms learned that Anderson had that information, took him to lunch and asked him, for obvious reasons, not to publish it. Anderson promised not to. Subsequently he did. Okay. With that history we then learned that he had exposed one of our human assets abroad; the guy was either already dead or was dying under torture because of it. And in light of that history, it was presumed that Anderson was going to continue that line of work. Now; he’s killing people. And they charged us with the task, “Come up with a way of stopping Anderson from doing that.” Well, we examined all of the alternatives and very quickly came to the conclusion the only way you’re going to be able to stop him is to kill him. And then the question is, “Is it justifiable because he’s killing our people?” Yes, it is. And that was the recommendation. But they turned down the recommendation as being too severe a sanction.
LEGS: It seems to me that it would be extremely important to find out the person who was feeding Anderson this information and terminate him.
LIDDY: Well, I’m sure that they were simultaneously trying to find things like that out. They did find some things out and didn’t terminate the guys. They just moved them from one place to another. They would move someone out of the place so they couldn’t get any more information to give Anderson, other than where some car was parked in a motor pool.
LEGS: Why weren’t you in the CIA?
LIDDY: Because I was in a position in the White House, for example, in the Odessa group, and had the ability to command the resources of the CIA, the DIA and the FBI and anything you wanted. We had more of a… what’s the word I’m looking for? Advisory—
“Come up with a way of stopping (Jack) Anderson from doing that.” Well, we examined all of the alternatives and very quickly came to the conclusion the only way you’re going to be able to stop him is to kill him.
LEGS: You could obviously have killed me with something here on the table if you wanted to.
LIDDY: Kill you without something on the table.
LEGS: That’s what I mean. I look at you more as a soldier than a member of the Nixon administration. I wondered why you didn’t go into the CIA?
LIDDY: In the CIA, for example, there is quite a rivalry between two basically different kinds of people—both of whom are absolutely necessary. You’ve got the collectors of information and those who analyze it. I mean, I’ve got a room full of data and they are of no use until they are examined by an analyst who says, “I wonder what this means’.’ So, the analysts’ kind of look down on the collectors as being what they call them, “jump out of the airplane, shoot ’em up in the ground boys.’ And the collectors sort of look at the analysts as pipe-and-slipper guys who couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag. The fact of the matter is that both are absolutely essential and they both know that. It’s just as described, that’s all.
And I guess it’s true that I would be categorized—and have been categorized—as a “jump out of the airplane, shoot ’em off the ground guy” Well, that’s all right. There’s a role for people like that just as there’s a role—and I would be the first to admit—for the analysts.
LEGS: When the CIA came back to you with the second proposal stating they couldn’t help you in your drive to learn whether [Daniel] Ellsberg was a loner or a Soviet agent, why didn’t you ask the CIA to get the files or just subpoena them under a phony pretense?
LIDDY: Well, they were not subject to subpoena, so that was out. And the CIA is not really an agency that you ask to do that. They could do it, but they really weren’t set up for it that much. Their station out there didn’t have that kind of assets. The correct agency to ask in a situation like that would be the FBI. They used to do it. Or we used to do it when I was there. But, the FBI didn’t and wouldn’t.
LEGS: Why not? Why did a member of the president’s staff have to?
LIDDY: The problem was [J. Edgar] Hoover was by now overtaken by the effects of advanced age. He was acting rather peculiarly and locking William Sullivan out of his office and things like that. And also, he was a friend of Mr. Marks who was the father-in-law of Daniel Ellsberg. And he just pretty much sat on that whole thing. Nothing much came of it. And that was why I recommended in a memorandum to the president that Mr. Hoover be removed from office. He didn’t go along with it.
LEGS: Did Hoover find out about it? I mean, were you worried about him?
LIDDY: No, I wasn’t worried about him finding out about it.
LEGS: Well, why did a member of the president’s staff have to go break into this guy’s…?
LIDDY: Well, what they did was they set up inside the White House the Odessa unit. And they used people who were trained and experienced and capable of doing things like that. [E. Howard] Hunt was, I was, and certainly our Cuban assets were. I mean, they were all CIA trained and experienced and had done well in the past. The fact was it was a good, clean operation. What we were looking for wasn’t there, that’s all.
LEGS: I believe Hunt said [Charles] Colson wanted to destroy Ellsberg’s status as a hero of the Left. Is that correct?
LIDDY: What happened was this: We needed to know whether or not he was in with the KGB. That was the primary reason for going in there.
LEGS: Would you have gone in if you were sure that he was not a KGB agent? And would you still have gone in to destroy his status as a hero of the Left?
LIDDY: No, you couldn’t necessarily do it that way. You don’t take risks like that. After all, I’m the one who recommended it. I wouldn’t even have recommended it because that would be an imprudent assumption of risk. I mean, you’ve got to weigh benefits with risks. And if all you’re going to get is some press accounts out of it which are negative to Ellsberg, hell, that’s not worth that kind of risk.
You’re not going to withhold the onslaught of Soviet Panzer divisions with rock & roll in a war.
LEGS: Why did you have so many leaks in the White House?
LIDDY: Well, there weren’t so many leaks in the White House. But there were certainly leaks. There were a lot of leaks in the State Department and a lot of leaks in certain parts of the Pentagon.
LEGS: Doesn’t it strike you as peculiar? Didn’t it seem like there were more things coming out than—
LIDDY: Well, there was an awful lot coming out, yeah.
LEGS: —than at any time I can remember.
LIDDY: That’s quite true. There was a lot coming out. And I think it was because one of the fundamental errors that Richard Nixon made when he assumed the presidency was that he did not immediately clean house—get rid of the persons who were political adherents of his enemies and whose political philosophy was opposed to his. I think that that’s where the source of an awful lot of it was. As a matter of fact, Lyndon Johnson had told us we should do that. He didn’t listen to them and then he said, “Don’t make the mistakes I made when I got in here”; and he said, “Because of the way I became president, I felt an obligation to continue on with all of these Kennedy people”; and he said, “Get your own people in there right away.” Nixon didn’t do it. That was a mistake.
LEGS: This is a pretty standard question: When are the issues enough for the ends to justify the means?
LIDDY: Up to but excluding malum in se [wrong or evil in itself]…Something that is, by definition, never justifiable.
LEGS: If your conception of the devil is—
LIDDY: I don’t believe in the devil.
LEGS: You don’t? Do you believe in God?
LEGS: You don’t. Do you believe in Valhalla?
LEGS: It’s just…?
LEGS: Worms. Uh-huh. Okay. You said that who a president goes to bed with is unimportant as long as he isn’t into some really far-out quirk, and as long as long as the man is sufficiently competent to be president.
LIDDY: Yeah. I think if a guy’s competent to be president, who he may go to bed with really doesn’t have any effect on that. I think if he’s got a far-out quirk then he’s subject to blackmail. If you were to lock up everybody in Washington who slept in a bed that didn’t have the right name on the end of it, the streets would be bare. There’s nothing new about that.
LEGS: Do you also believe that to be the case with men and women in the intelligence community?
LIDDY: Yeah, oftentimes they’ll go to bed with people for reasons of business. But, yeah, I think if they’ve got a far-out quirk—homosexuality or something of that sort does expose them to pressure from opposing intelligence services. You know, blackmail, extortion or what have you. Whereas heterosexual activity especially these days isn’t looked upon as anything very much and really doesn’t put them in a position where there’s much leverage on them because of it.
LEGS: You have nothing morally against homosexuality?
LIDDY: Well, I consider homosexuality to be an illness. And if a guy’s got cancer, there’s nothing morally wrong with him. If a guy’s homosexual, he’s just ill as far as I’m concerned.
LEGS: The Russians employ homosexuals to seduce, you know.
LIDDY: Sure. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we did, too.
LEGS: Can we say we do that? Or will people accept it?
LIDDY: I don’t see why we ought to go around saying a lot of the things we do and don’t do. I mean, we keep telling people that we never whack anybody out. Well, of course we do. But I suppose they just don’t want to hear about some of it.
“If we were going to kill somebody, I wouldn’t try to kill them with LSD. No. It’s not a fast-acting poison.”
LEGS: Do you think rock & roll, comic books, Big Macs, our junk-food culture, might prove to be a strong weapon and—
LIDDY: A strong weapon?
LEGS: Yes, in wars against the Soviet Union?
LIDDY: No, I don’t see how junk food can be a strong weapon because it contributes to physical deterioration. A lot of times I’ve noticed kids in Washington, predominately black, who are going on the bus to school in the morning and having their breakfast which consists of a candy bar and a Coke. They are obviously not getting proper nutrition and they are going to suffer from that. And when they grow up, I don’t think they’re going to be as fit or as strong as someone who has had adequate nutrition. But rock & roll, I don’t think that’s got anything to do with it except—
LEGS: Well, if you played rock & roll on Radio Free Europe to Russia, I mean, rock & roll is a—
LIDDY: If you sent me a Big Mac or a hamburger like that, actually it’s been found to be relatively nutritious. It may not be very tasty but I wouldn’t put those hamburgers in the junk-food category. You know junk food means potato chips and Coca-Cola and things like that. Certain cereals.
LEGS: If you go to Poland and you open up a McDonald’s, I mean, everyone will come from miles around to eat it. Blue jeans go for a hundred dollars a pair in Russia.
LIDDY: Yeah, the food is good and it’s nutritious and I think they’d be happy to get it. They have a tough time getting meat in Poland.
LEGS: Right. Well, I’m talking about junk-food ideology.
LIDDY: Oh, well. Yeah, I know that there’s a lot of that.
LEGS: I mean, blue jeans go for one hundred dollars a pair.
LIDDY: It’s a fad.
LEGS: But don’t you think it also represents America?
LIDDY: Yeah, blue jeans represent America. I think so. As long as it’s a genuine American invention.
LEGS: Rock & roll?
LIDDY: Rock & roll. Kids understand it correctly and I think it’s understood correctly to be something that flowed out of what used to be called rhythm and blues. Which is something unique from the American black experience. Yeah, that’s definitely American. The British have certainly taken over and done a great job with it. But its origins are here. I don’t see it as a weapon.
LEGS: If you play rock & roll on Radio Free Europe, don’t you think kids are going to want to—
LIDDY: You’re not going to withhold the onslaught of Soviet Panzer divisions with rock & roll in a war.
LEGS: Do you think anything good came out of the antiwar movement?
LIDDY: Hmm, let me see. No.
LEGS: Okay. Didn’t your arrest of Timothy Leary make you somewhat of a hero?
LIDDY: He was perceived to be a threat to the children in Dutchess County, New York. And the fact that we got him out of the county was appreciated by the citizens.
LEGS: Was he really a threat?
LIDDY: Yeah, I think anybody who’s preaching—and effectively—that young people should resort to drugs and, in effect, drop out of society is threatening the children. And I think that common sense should tell most people that the ingestion of drugs by children or by anybody for that matter for other than medicinal purposes is harmful.
LEGS: Why was LSD always being considered when you thought of doing away with somebody?
LIDDY: It was always being considered by Hunt. I don’t know where he got this affection for lysergic acid diethylamide-25, but he kept proposing we use it for this, we use it for that and the other thing. And the CIA experts kept saying, “Look, we have checked this thoroughly and we’ve experimented with it and the fact of the matter is there is no way to project person to person what the effect of this is going to be, which way they are going to bounce. And that being the case, it’s not indicated. We shouldn’t use it.”
LEGS: So, it was never being considered by you? You preferred the lethal mugging?
LIDDY: Well, Hunt seemed to have this in mind. I don’t know where he got it from. But, no. If we were going to kill somebody, I wouldn’t try to kill them with LSD. No. It’s not a fast-acting poison. If you’re going to poison somebody you don’t do it with LSD. You do it with pure nicotine or something, or shellfish toxin or something like that.
LEGS: Did you ever ask Hunt when you were still friendly with him what the attraction was to LSD?
LIDDY: No, I just noticed it, but I don’t have to shoot him down, because the CIA doctor did that. And the CIA doctor had the professional qualifications.
“Well, I consider homosexuality to be an illness. And if a guy’s got cancer, there’s nothing morally wrong with him. If a guy’s homosexual, he’s just ill as far as I’m concerned.”
LEGS: It has been reported in Time magazine and other reliable sources that marijuana and cocaine combined is the third largest industry in the United States, which may or may not be true. But, you would have to—
LIDDY: It’s certainly large.
LEGS: Certainly large. Don’t you think that someone in our government might be making money off of it, and that if we really wanted to get rid of it, we would? I mean, the third largest industry!
LIDDY: I think if we really wanted to get rid of it, we could certainly cut it way down. If we were willing to take the necessary steps. Not doing so does not necessarily imply to me that someone in the government is making money from it.
LEGS: Well, we know that the CIA morally doesn’t mind transporting opium for, you know; Air America.
LIDDY: Well, they would use it, for example, if they want certain warlords in Southeast Asia to do certain things and they pay them in whatever coin they want. If they want opium, they give them opium.
LEGS: Would it make sense for the CIA to employ hit squads to assassinate drug smugglers in Burma, France, Lebanon and Turkey?
LIDDY: Well, as a matter of fact, I so proposed in a lot of those places, not all of them, when I was in the government. But when you start talking about Burma, you get up in that Golden Triangle area and drop people in there and they’re more than likely not to come out. In other areas, I did recommend that we kill some of the major drug traffickers at the borders, but it was turned down.
LEGS: Did you ever recommend it within the United States, or was it always in a foreign country?
LIDDY: It was in the foreign ones. I figured the ones in the United States were reachable, and I was concerned with the ones sitting out there who were not reachable by the conventional means.
LEGS: Do you think recreational drug use will always be illegal? They’ve been smoking hash in Turkey and opium in the Golden Triangle and China for centuries. I mean, it almost seems that in this country—
LIDDY: Yeah, I think it will continue over there to be the same way it is, except the Red Chinese pretty much got rid of it in China. They had a very effective means: They rounded up all the addicts and killed them. That was that.
LEGS: Would you recommend that for here?
LIDDY: No, I would not. Firstly, we don’t have nearly the problem they had. And secondly, I think that that would be an immoral solution. Let them kill themselves—and that’s what they are doing.
LEGS: Do you believe in parapsychology ESP?
LEGS: I was talking to a director of the Parapsychology Institute for Mind Control and the Extra Normal Phenomena. He expressed concern about ESP as a weapon, that most parapsychologists have presumed that the Russians are spending a great deal of money—
LIDDY: They are.
LEGS: —on parapsychology.
LIDDY: There’s a unit devoted to it in the Pentagon.
LEGS: There is? Do you think that will be effective?
LIDDY: No, I think it’s bullshit. But if they want to do that, that’s all right. I just hope they don’t waste too much of the taxpayers’ money.
LEGS: Do you think it would make a good weapon?
LIDDY: I don’t see that. I think the weapons of the future involve high-energy lasers, even proton accelerators and things like that. I don’t see it being ESP I think that stuff ought to be left to Stephen King.
“If you want a real story, you should check out the fact that the basement of the CIA was filled with agents working to eradicate the antiwar movement,..”
When the tape recorder was turned off and my pal G. Gordon was getting ready to leave, he told me something that still haunts me to this day. He said, “If you want a real story, you should check out the fact that the basement of the CIA was filled with agents working to eradicate the antiwar movement, because we were fighting a war in Viet Nam, and it was felt that the antiwar movement was giving aid and comfort to the North Vietnamese, our enemy.”
I knew that the FBI was conducting a not-so secret war on the Black Panthers and antiwar activists, but I wasn’t so sure about the CIA, since in their charter it states that they were not allowed to conduct covert operations inside the United States. Okay, so I was naïve. When I tried to follow up on this important tidbit a few months later, I called G. Gordon multiple times seeking help in tracking down leads on what Liddy described as a massive effort to disrupt the hippies and the antiwar movement, he never returned any of my phone calls. I guess we weren’t pals anymore, and it left me wondering just how far the CIA would go in their war against the counterculture?
G. Gordon Liddy: Will: The Movie – by SCTV Network