DEATH OF A HATCHET MAN: Charles Colson, Nixon’s Dirty Trickster, Dead At 80

GUARDIAN: Charles “Chuck” Colson, the former special counsel to President Richard Nixon who was jailed for his role in a Watergate-related case and became an evangelical Christian, has died aged 80. Colson, who compiled Nixon’s infamous “enemies list” before the Watergate scandal led to the president’s resignation in 1974, died of complications from a brain haemorrhage after undergoing surgery. He was jailed for obstruction of justice in 1974 after being involved in an attempt to discredit Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg who leaked secret defence papers on the Vietnam war to the New York Times. Colson, who was known for his ruthlessness and trademark horn-rimmed glasses, helped to run the committee to re-elect the resident, otherwise known as CREEP, which was set up to gather intelligence on the Democratic party. His efforts included the use of the “plumbers”, a covert group established to investigate White House leaks in 1971, which broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist to look for information to discredit his anti-war efforts. Colson, who became a born-again Christian while under investigation, was sentenced to one to three years in prison after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in attempts to defame Ellsberg. MORE

Ellsberg was a State Department analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, a secret account of the Vietnam War and its pretexts to The New York Times, which revealed endemic practices of deception by previous administrations, and contributed to the erosion of public support for the war.The Pentagon Papers revealed the knowledge, early on, that the war would not likely be won and that continuing the war would lead to many times more casualties than was admitted publicly. Further, the papers showed a deep cynicism towards the public and a disregard for the loss of life and injury suffered by soldiers and civilians. Ellsberg knew that releasing these papers would most likely result in a conviction and sentence of many years in prison. Throughout 1970, Ellsberg covertly attempted to convince a few sympathetic senators to release the Pentagon Papers on the Senate floor under privilege. When these efforts failed, Ellsberg, with the assistance of Anthony Russo, copied them and leaked them to Neil Sheehan at The New York Times. On June 12, 1971, the Times began publishing the first installment of the 7,000 page document. For 15 days, the Times was prevented from publishing its articles on the orders of the Nixon administration. However, the Supreme Court soon ordered publication to resume freely. Ellsberg went underground, and was not caught by the FBI, even though they were under enormous pressure from the Nixon Administration to find him. The Nixon administration also began a campaign to discredit Ellsberg: Nixon’s plumbers broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in an attempt to find damaging information. The revelation of the break-in became part of the Watergate scandal. On June 28, 1971, Ellsberg publicly surrendered to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, Massachusetts. He was taken into custody believing he would spend the rest of his life in prison; he was charged with theft, conspiracy, and espionage. But due to the gross governmental misconduct, all charges against Ellsberg were eventually dropped. White House counsel Charles Colson was later prosecuted and pled no contest for obstruction of justice in the burglary of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. MORE

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