NIXON-HELMS RECORDINGS ONLINE
March 9, 2009: Now online at the Federation of American Scientists website are 10 recordings of President Nixon which include his CIA chief Richard Helms. These cover a wide range of foreign policy topics, including Nixon’s attempts to get dirt on his predecessors, JFK in particular. An 8 Oct 1971 White House conversation (listen) with aide Ehrlichman, preceding a meeting with Helms, concerns Nixon’s attempts to get an unwilling Helms to provide cables and documents regarding the Diem coup in Vietnam which took place 3 weeks before Kennedy’s death. At one point Ehrlichman says “Supposing we get all the Diem stuff, and supposing there’s something that we can really hang Teddy or the Kennedy clan with. I’m going to want to put that in Colson’s hands, and we’re gonna want to run with it.”
Ehrlichman earlier says that Helms had given him a document on the Bay of Pigs, and notes that “the CIA was split down the middle by that Bay of Pigs thing. And when that comes out, a lot of guys who are still in CIA are gonna look stupid as hell.” Was this use of the term “Bay of Pigs thing,” which recurs later in an early post-Watergate call, an oblique reference to Castro assassination plots?
During more discussion of the Diem assassination and CIA withholding of materials from Nixon, Ehrlichman notes that “Helms is scared to death of this guy Hunt that we got working for us, because he knows where a lot of the bodies are buried.”
The lengthy discussion Nixon had later that day with DCI Helms provides a fascinating window on the contest between Nixon’s demand that “the President must know everything” with the CIA’s desire to protect past Presidents and its own institutional perogatives.