Forty years ago today five bumbling burglars were arrested in the headquarters of the Democratic National Party located at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Those arrests set a series of events in place that eventually ended the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.
The five burglars were Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Frank Sturgis, and James W. McCord, Jr. Three of the five - Barker, Gonzalez, and Martinez - had been born in Cuba and were active in the anti-Castro movement. Barker, in fact, had once served in the Cuban Secret Police under dictator Fulgencio Batista. Sturgis, while born in the United States, was also active in the anti-Castro movement and had once dated Castro's girlfriend with whom he had engaged in a failed plot to poison Fidel. McCord was a former CIA agent and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserves. McCord's friends also identified him as being an "active Baptist."
The five burglars were convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping.
Two other men were subsequently arrested in connection with the burglary. E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy were thought to have been close by and communicating with the burglars by radio as they searched the offices trying to find documentation that would tie the Democrats to political money from Cuba. Both Hunt (a former CIA agent) and Liddy eventually pleaded guilty to wiretapping, planting surveillance equipment, and theft of documents..
In addition to most of those involved in the Watergate break-in having Cuba connections, at least four are routinely mentioned in JFK assassination theories: Hunt, Gonzalez, Martinez, and Sturgis.
Two fearless reporters for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, took the story of an unusual burglary and stuck with it, peeling back layer after layer of lies and obfuscation generated by the Nixon White House, until it became painfully clear to most of America that the President himself had been directly involved in trying to cover-up the extent of the crimes that were revealed as a result of the arrests of those five hapless burglars.
For awhile Congress got very self-righteous and passed many laws to clean up the political process. But that was forty years ago - and the piety has waned.