Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Can't happen here
'A lethal adaptation of a technique long in use by the FBI...' Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
People who criticize Vladimir Putin are very unlucky.
For example, there's Alexander Litvinenko, who died from poison in England after drinking tea; journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot to death in her apartment building, and Ravil Maganov, chairman of Lukoil, who “allegedly fell out a hospital window to his death," earlier this year.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the midterm elections are upon us, and times seem as fraught as most of us can recall.
Now, don't worry, I'm not going to dive headfirst into politics.
But this does seem like a good time to recall that 50 years ago, people working for the president of the United States—through aides—allegedly put a plan together to kill a journalist.
Key word: "allegedly;" this underfunded newsletter isn't trying to get itself sued.
Key phrase: "50 years ago;" this isn't some story from the 18th or 19th century like the sitting vice-president (Burr) literally shooting the secretary of the treasury (Hamilton) to death in a duel.
Instead, it's about President Nixon and syndicated columnist Jack Anderson—and more directly, some of Nixon's men like Charles Colson, E. Howard Hunt, and G. Gordon Liddy.
Let's go to the prime source for the allegations, which Mark Feldstein pulled together in an article in The Washington Post earlier this year, headlined, “The Nixon White House plotted to assassinate a journalist 50 years ago.”
Nixon’s hatred for the news media long predated his election as president. ... [He] ordered illegal wiretaps on newsmen who criticized his administration and instructed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to compile a dossier on “homosexuals known and suspected in the Washington press corps.”
The journalist Nixon despised most was crusading columnist Jack Anderson, then the most famous and feared investigative reporter in the country.
Nixon railed that “we’ve got to do something with this son of a bitch,” but nothing seemed to stop Anderson.
Feldstein has been the driving force behind this story for a long time, as far as I can tell. Among the steps short of attempted murder (!) that he recounts:
Planting a mole in Anderson's office. ("Anderson’s secretary discovered the snooping and ejected the infiltrator.")
Trying to discredit him by leaking forged documents. (Anderson "figured out they were bogus and didn’t fall for the ruse."
Wiretapping and surveillance. (Anderson's "nine children chased the spies away and Anderson mocked their incompetence in his column.")
Trying to plant rumors that Anderson was gay. ("[T]he allegation was as false as it was ridiculous and went nowhere." (See above; 9 kids.)
"Finally," Feinstein writes, "in March 1972, the Nixon White House turned to the one method guaranteed to silence Anderson permanently: assassination."
According to Feinstein, Colson, who was Nixon's special counsel, told Hunt, an ex-spy, to "explore the matter with the CIA." Hunt then brought in Liddy, who as Hunt put it, was "forever volunteering to rub people out.
From here the story gets really wild, with Liddy considering everything from putting LSD on Anderson's car steering wheel to make him hallucinate while driving, to breaking into his house and dropping poison into his aspirin bottle, to simply ramming Anderson's car on his way to work and making it look like a fatal accident.
"I came up with the suggestion we finally agreed upon as the one to be recommended," Liddy wrote in his autobiography, Will, "a lethal adaptation of a technique long in use by the FBI," namely: attacking Anderson on the street one night, killing him, and taking his wallet and watch to make it look like a robbery.
So, why did Anderson survive? Reportedly because a few weeks after all of this planning, both Hunt and Liddy were arrested for their roles in the Watergate burglary.
And that, in turn, is why in 1980, Liddy was able to tell Anderson "amiably" during a national television interview they were both on that he had explored killing Anderson—because Hunt had told him that Anderson's reporting had led to the death of a U.S. spy abroad.
In that same interview, Anderson denied that allegation, to which Liddy replied:
"If you say you didn't do it, fine. I'm certainly not in a position to say you did, because I'm not the one who developed the information."
Crazy story, right? But don't worry, this is all ancient history. Totally irrelevant.
Nothing like this could ever happen here.
Nothing like this could ever happen today.
7 other things worth knowing today
The Federal Reserve plowed ahead with a fourth straight historically large interest rate hike Wednesday—an increase of 0.75 percentage point—in an effort to beat back soaring inflation. (USA Today)
CVS Health and Walgreen Co., announced agreements in principle Wednesday to pay about $5 billion each to settle lawsuits nationwide over the toll of opioids, and a lawyer said Walmart, a third pharmacy behemoth, is in discussions for a deal. (KTLA)
Millions of workers are bouncing back—and making enough money to pay Uncle Sam. Some 72.5 million households or 40% of households will pay no federal income tax this year, down from the pre-pandemic high of 60% two years ago, according to new estimates from the Tax Policy Center. (MarketWatch)
A man pretended to be a student and lived in several Stanford University dorms for at least 10 months, a university official said Tuesday. A Stanford official said the university has protocols and policies to prevent non-students from entering and living in the dorms, but that the man’s “persistence and ability to ingratiate himself with our student community has made it clear that gaps exist in those protocols.” (NBC News)
Afghan special forces soldiers who fought alongside U.S. troops and then fled to Iran are being recruited by the Russian military to fight in Ukraine. Russia wants to attract thousands of the former elite Afghan commandos into a “foreign legion” with offers of steady $1,500-a-month payments and promises of safe havens for themselves and their families so that they can avoid deportation home to what many assume would be death at the hands of the Taliban. (LA Times)
There were 1,542 news stories about “rainbow fentanyl” in the two months before Halloween, most warning that dealers could slip this drug to trick-or-treating kids. So far, there hasn’t been a single story since October 31 confirming this actually happened anywhere in the U.S. (Washington Post, WESH)
On the way home from buying a winning $100,000 lottery ticket, a Delaware woman decided to buy three more to celebrate. She won another $300,000. (CNBC)