Robert F. Bennett

Robert F. Bennett

Robert F. Bennett was born September 18, 1933, in Salt Lake City. He was the son of Wallace Foster Bennett, a Senator from Utah, and the grandson of Mormon church president Heber J. Grant. He attended local public schools before graduating from the University of Utah in 1957 with a degree in political science.

In 1957 Bennett became a chaplain in the Army National Guard. In 1969 Bennett became chief congressional liaison at the Department of Transportation. Two years later he purchased Robert R. Mullen & Co, a public relations company in Washington. Amongst his clients was Howard Hughes. It was later discovered that the company was a Central Intelligence Agency front organization. When E. Howard Hunt retired from the CIA in 1970 Richard Helms suggested he should go and work for Robert R. Mullen.

On 7th July, 1971, Charles Colson and John Ehrlichman appointed Hunt to the White House staff. Working under Egil Krogh and Gordon Liddy Hunt became a member of the Special Investigations Group (SIG). The group was (informally known as "the Plumbers" because their job was to stop leaks from Nixon's administration). However, Hunt continued to work for Bennett. In fact, Bennett was able to help Hunt with his work at the White House. This included telling Hunt that Hank Greenspun, had enough information on Edmund Muskie to "blow him out of the water."

In 1972 Gordon Liddy joined the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). Later that year Liddy presented Nixon's attorney general, John N. Mitchell, with an action plan called Operation Gemstone. Liddy wanted a $1 million budget to carry out a series of black ops activities against Nixon's political enemies. Mitchell decided that the budget for Operation Gemstone was too large. Instead he gave him $250,000 to launch a scaled-down version of the plan.

One of Liddy's first tasks was to place electronic devices in the Democratic Party campaign offices in an apartment block called Watergate. Liddy wanted to wiretap the conversations of Larry O'Brien, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. This was not successful and on 3rd July, 1972, Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Bernard L. Barker and James W. McCord returned to O'Brien's office. However, this time they were caught by the police.

The phone number of E. Howard Hunt was found in address books of two of the burglars. Reporters were able to link the break-in to the White House. Bob Woodward, a reporter working for the Washington Post was told by a friend who was employed by the government, that senior aides of President Richard Nixon, had paid the burglars to obtain information about its political opponents.

Bob Woodward phoned Bennett who confirmed that Hunt was working for Robert Mullen & Co. He also told him he was also employed by Charles Colson in the White House. Bennett added: "I guess it's no secret that Howard was with the CIA." Soon afterwards Bennett sacked Hunt.

In 1974,Bennett became the public relations director for Summa Corporation, a company owned by Howard Hughes. Later that year he appeared before the House of Representatives Special Subcommittee on Intelligence. Chaired by Lucien Nedzi, the committee published a report titled Inquiry into the Alleged Involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Watergate and Ellsberg Matters. Bennett testified before the committee and admitted he knew that "Mullen & Co. had a contractual cover relationship with the CIA." He also testified that he knew Charles Colson as a result of working with him in a programme of dirty tricks against Dita Beard when she was threatening to expose details of the ITT antitrust scandal.

In an article published in 1976, J. Anthony Lukas, of the New York Times, claimed that Bennett was Deep Throat. In his book, In Search of Deep Throat, Leonard Garment argues that Bennett was probably trying to "distance the CIA, his sponsor and source of income, from the events of Watergate".

In 1978 Bennett became president of Osmond Communications. Other posts include chairman of American Computers Corporation (1979-81) president of Microsonics Corporation (1981-84) and chief executive officer of Franklin Quest (1984-1992).

Bennett was also author of Gaining Control: Your Key to Freedom and Success (1989). It includes this much quoted passage: "Your life is the sum result of all the choices you make, both consciously and unconsciously. If you can control the process of choosing, you can take control of all aspects of your life. You can find the freedom that comes from being in charge of yourself."

A member of the Republican Party, Bennett was elected to the United States Senate in 1992. He was reelected in 1998 and 2004. Bennett serves on four committees: Senate Appropriations Committee, where he sits on the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, the Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies, the Subcommittee on VA, HUD and Independent Agencies, the Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, and the Subcommittee on the District of Columbia; Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Joint Economic Committee; and Senate Small Business Committee. Bennett currently serves as the Deputy Republican Whip.

Primary Sources

(1) E. Howard Hunt, Undercover (1974)

In the meantime I had continued my Brown alumni activities and became vice president of the club while Chuck Colson was president. During the fall of 1968 I became aware that Colson was active in the Nixon Presidential campaign. I mentioned my several contacts with Nixon, expressed my admiration for Nixon and my hope that this time he would succeed. To Colson 1 described my role in the Bay of Pigs and Nixon's special interest in the project. I also told Colson I was anxious to retire from CIA so that I could work in private industry and reestablish my family's financial security. In the fall of 1969 Colson joined the White House staff, and we lunched occasionally to mull over possible employment opportunities. At one point he suggested my joining the White House staff after retirement, but I explained that if I did so, I would be unable to draw my CIA annuity and that government salaries being what they were, I knew that the White House could not meet my salary requirements.

Then, in the spring of 1970, Helms formally agreed to my early retirement and not only stood as reference for future employers, but personally recommended me to the heads of several large corporations where, he thought, I might work in public relations, my chosen field.

Through CIA's placement service I was introduced to Robert Mullen, head of a small public relations firm in Washington and one-time press aide to Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mullen, for a time, had also been head of the Marshall Plan's information service and knew something of my accomplishments in ECA.

The CIA placement officer had told me that the Mullen firm had "cooperated" with CIA in the past. This cooperation was identified as the firm's having established and managed a Free Cuba Committee for CIA. So I inferred that my CIA background would not prove a handicap to employment with Mullen as it had with several multinational firms.

During a second meeting Mullen told me that he was getting on in years, the company was comfortably established and he was casting about for younger successors to take over the management and direction of the firm. One of Mullen's accounts was the General Foods Corporation, whose Washington representative, Douglas Caddy, worked out of the Mullen offices. According to Mullen, with Caddy, myself and an as-yet-unselected individual, Mullen would be able to retire, leaving the business in the hands of this successor triumvirate.

I retired on May 1, 1970, and began working for Mullen on the HEW account, publicizing the plight of handicapped children who needed but were not getting "special education." I was soon made aware that there were other links between the Mullen firm and the Central Intelligence Agency: The accountant was a CIA retiree, as was his eventual replacement. Moreover, a Mullen office in Europe was staffed, run and paid for by CIA. The autumn passed without Mullen's taking discernible steps toward turning the firm's management over to a younger group of successors. Douglas Caddy resigned from General Foods and left the Mullen & Company office in favor of practicing law. Presently Mullen announced that he was selling the firm to Robert Bennett, son of the Republican Senator from Utah.

(2) Robert F. Bennett, testimony before House of Representatives' Special Subcommittee on Intelligence (1974)

I received a call from Chuck Colson in June of 1971, in which Chuck said that he had an assignment at the White House for Howard. He asked me if I would be willing to make Howard available to him on a pail time basis. He said, "It would interfere somewhat with his duties for you. It would be an imposition on your time. I would appreciate it if you would accommodate yourself to this so that we at the White House can make use of his talents." I said, "Of course, Chuck. I would be happy to accommodate you."

(3) Leonard Garment, In Search of Deep Throat (2000)

Those who testified before the committee were mostly the usual suspects from within the CIA itself. Also among the witnesses, however, was Robert F. Bennett. This was the same Bennett who, as head of Mullen & Co., the CIA proprietary, had employed Howard Hunt while Hunt was also working as a consultant to Chuck Colson at the White House and helping Gordon Liddy run the Watergate burglars at the Committee for the Re-election of the President.

The Nedzi committee had linked Bennett to Watergate through a routine reporting memorandum written about Bennett by the CIA agent who supervised the cover work that Bennett's company did for the Agency. Committee staffers discovered the memo while reviewing documentary evidence produced by the CIA under a blanket subpoena.

Bennett, called before the committee, first described the manner in which he had come to buy Mullen & Co. after serving in government as chief congressional liaison in the Department of Transportation. Bennett knew at the time, he told the committee, that Mullen & Co. had a contractual cover relationship with the CIA. Bennett also told the committee that he knew of the backgroulrd of Howard Hunt, who, at the recommendation of CIA director Richard Helms, had been employed by the firm since Hunt's retirement from the CIA.

Furthermore, Bennett said he had agreed to Hunt's simultaneously working at Mullen & Co. and consulting at the White House for Colson. Bennett was already acquainted with Colson through their mutual involvement in matters from money raising and conventional dirty tricks to Dita Beard and the ITT antitrust scandal.

(4) Jim Hougan, Secret Agenda (1984)

The suggestion that Hunt should interview Clifton DeMotte had actually come from Hunt's boss at the Mullen Company, Robert Bennett, and that suggestion had been approved by Colson. It was not an operation of the Special Investigations Unit because, on July 22, that unit did not yet exist. As for the "ideology" of DeMotte, the issue was a canard. DeMotte had worked for the Kennedys in a previous electoral campaign, and he was now offering gossip about Chappaquiddick in hopes of receiving an appointment in the Nixon administration. He was an opportunist, not a Sandinista, and the disguise that Hunt sought can only be described as unnecessary. After all, had DeMotte wished, he could have traced Hunt-under whatever alias he might use-back to Robert Bennett.

(5) Robert F. Bennett, testimony before House of Representatives' Special Subcommittee on Intelligence (1974)

Hunt said: "They have nothing on me. I was nowhere near that place that night." He told me that the purpose of the (Watergate) team was to photograph documents. He said that this was not the first time they had been in the Democratic National Committee, that they-the ubiquitous term, and he never gave me names - but that they were so titillated by what the team had found the first time, they had sent them back for more.

(6) Robert F. Bennett, testimony before House of Representatives' Special Subcommittee on Intelligence (1974)

To impress the point upon him (the senior CIA official), I enumerated some of the more significant interviews to which I had been a part v: "Bob Woodward of the Washington Post interviewed me at great length on... numerous occasions. I have told Woodward everything I know about the Watergate case, except the Mullen company's tie to the CIA. I never mentioned that to him. It has never appeared in any Washington Post story." I pointed this out to (the CIA official). I said, "As a result, I am a good friend of Woodward." I told him I considered myself a friend of Woodward; that as a result of our conversations, Woodward had some stories.

(7) Jim Hougan, Secret Agenda (1984)

On July 10, less than a month after the Watergate arrests, Bennett met with his CIA case officer, Martin Lukoskie, in a downtown Washington cafeteria. At that meeting, memorialized by Lukoskie in a handwritten memorandum of such sensitivity that he hand-carried it to CIA Director Helms, Bennett bragged that he had dissuaded reporters from the Post and Star from pursuing a "Seven Days in May scenario" implicating the CIA in a Watergate conspiracy. Moreover, Lukoskie wrote, "Mr. Bennett related that he has now established a 'back door entry' to the Edward Bennett Williams law firm which is representing the Democratic Party... Mr. Bennett is prepared to go this route to kill off any revelation by Ed Williams of Agency association with the Mullen firm."'

Bennett, then, was attempting to manipulate the press. That he was successful in the attempt-at least so far as he and the CIA were concerned-is established in a second memorandum, this one written almost a year later by Lukoskie's boss, Eric Eisenstadt: "Mr. Bennett said... that he has been feeding stories to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post with the understanding that there be no attribution to.. Bennett. Woodward is suitably grateful for the fine stories and by-lines which he gets and protects Bennett (and the Mullen Company)." Elsewhere in that same memo, Eisenstadt reports that Bennett spent hours persuading a Newsweek reporter that the Mullen Company "was not involved with the Watergate Affair."' In addition, the memo implies that Bennett helped to convince reporters for the Washington Star, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times that the CIA had not "instigated the Watergate affair" as the reporters seemed to suspect. As an example of Bennett's "achievements," Eisenstadt cited Bennett's inspiration of a Newsweek article entitled "Whispers about Colson" and a Washington Post story about Hunt's investigation of Senator Edward Kennedy.'

We do not know what Eisenstadt meant when he wrote that Woodward was "suitably grateful" for Bennett's help, or what the CIA official had in mind when he indicated that the reporter was "protecting" Bennett and the Mullen Company. The implication of the memo is that Woodward agreed to ignore Watergate leads that tended to incriminate the CIA in return for information that Bennett, himself a CIA agent, spoon-fed him. But is that conclusion fair? After all, it is possible that Bennett, in conversation with his CIA case officer, may have exaggerated his influence with the newspaper so as to enhance his own stature in the agency's eyes. Perhaps Bennett took credit for elisions in the Post's reports with which he had little or nothing to do. Neither Woodward nor the Post, after all, required cajoling to pursue the theory that the Nixon White House was solely responsible for the Watergate break-in and every other dirty trick. Still, the newspaper's willingness to turn a blind eye toward the CIA's involvement is disturbing. Although leaks about the Mullen Company's relationship to the CIA had been published elsewhere in Washington only a few weeks after the Watergate arrests, nearly two years passed before the Post itself reported on the subject." By then, of course, the information could have little or no impact on the scandal: the President's resignation was only a month away. Ten years later, in 1984, I asked Bob Woodward if he had agreed with Bennett to suppress the Mullen Company's links to Langley. Woodward said that he had not. He added that, on the contrary, "I think we were about the first to report it." Told that he was incorrect, Woodward became stubborn. "Are you sure?" he asked. "Have you read every story? Every story?" In fact Woodward is mistaken...

The first Washington Post reporter to explicitly identify the Mullen Company as a CIA cover, however, was neither Woodward nor Bernstein but the late Laurence Stern. In a July 2, 1974, article about Senator Baker's dissent to the Ervin committee's Final Report, Stern acknowledged the Mullen Company's CIA involvement, and made reference to the memoranda written by the CIA's Martin Lukoskie and Eric Eisenstadt. Nowhere in Stern's brief article, however, is Woodward mentioned, and neither he nor the Post's executive editor, Benjamin Bradlee, was asked to comment about the CIA's suggestion that its agent had manipulated the Post's reportage and planted stories in the press. Obviously, the Post was frightened of the subject.

Even so, Bennett must have been a valuable source. Aside from his connections to the intelligence agency, he was the employer of both Howard Hunt and Spencer Oliver, Sr. He had lobbied the White House on behalf of Hunt's consultancy there, and working with Liddy, he had helped to establish a battery of dummy committed Liddy in the wake of the Watergate arrests; as the Lukoskie memo makes clear, he continued to share confidences with Hunt and others who were privy to the operation's secret details (Bennett, for example, knew when others did not that the DNC had been broken into during May). All in all, Bennett's record is astonishing for someone who figures only peripherally in the Post's reports and the Senate's investigation.

Indeed, Bennett's credentials as a Watergate source were so profoundly relevant that many reporters still consider him to be a leading candidate for Woodward's most important source, "Deep Throat." In fact, however, Bennett cannot have been Throat. A strict Mormon, he neither smoked nor drank (as we are told Throat did), and he was not an employee of the executive branch (as Woodward says Throat was). Bennett's task, moreover, was to steer Woodward and the Post away from leads implicating the CIA in the scandal, whereas Deep Throat had no compunction about suggesting that the CIA was involved in the affair." Finally, and most unusually, we have Woodward's word that Bennett is not Deep Throat. While the reporter's usual practice is to avoid comment when others claim to have identified his supersource, Woodward feels different about Bennett. In my interview with him, Woodward issued a "preemptive denial" that Bennett and Throat were one obviously, the Post reporter is concerned that the public should not come to believe that his best and most secret source was a CIA agent.

(8) Leonard Garment, In Search of Deep Throat (2000)

The most obvious fact about Mullen & Co.'s relationship to the CIA was that if it were revealed, the CIA would have to discontinue it, along with the financial benefits it provided to the company. That is in fact what happened not long after Watergate, when the company's cover was finally blown.

This set of mixed motives made Bennett, to my mind, even more plausible as a Deep Throat candidate. When some writer claims that Deep Throat acted because he hated Richard Nixon's Vietnam policy, the alleged motivation is murky and uncertain. But when I thought of Deep Throat acting to keep the bread and butter coming, I had found a motivation I understood.

In addition, when I thought of Bennett as Deep Throat I remembered the one positive clue that Woodward had given me. The reason Deep Throat does not come forward even after all these years, Woodward said, is that his post-Watergate public persona is so different from the persona of Deep Throat.

There could not have been a Deep Throat candidate whom this description fit better than Robert F. Bennett. After Watergate, Bennett left Washington and made his fortune. In due course, he re-entered politics - this time electoral politics in his home state of Utah. Bennett, once an obscure public relations entrepreneur, succeeded his father as senator from Utah. The younger Senator Bennett is now a figure of considerable stature within the Senate...

Bennett even had the physique attributed to Deep Throat in All the President's Men. He is extremely tall. That would explain how he could, without thinking, place a message for Woodward on a garage ledge that Woodward could not reach. Finally, Bennett was the only Deep Throat candidate on record as admitting that he had provided Woodward with unacknowledged, off-the-record information. He had access, opportunity, and motivation...

I wondered why the Bennett testimony, once declassified, had not been enough to settle the question of Deep Throat's identity once and for all. If Bennett was not literally Deep Throat, in my view at the time, he was the closest that any candidate would ever come. Bennett knew immediately about the Watergate break-in; he knew as well about the White House connections to the event, both before and after the fact. Bennett also had a powerful motive for playing the "source" card with the press: He was anxious to safeguard the existence and economic well-being of his company by protecting the secrecy of its relationship with the CIA. He had confirmed under oath that he had preserved this secret by disclosing to Woodward "everything" he knew about Watergate-which was, at the time, just about all there was to know.

(9) Jim Hougan, Deep Throat, Bob Woodward and the CIA (8th June, 2005)

Until Woodward outed Felt, the only candidate who fit the bill was Bennett.

In 1972, when Mark Felt was reading transcripts of Yeoman Radford's conversations, Bennett was the new owner of the Robert R. Mullen Company. This was a CIA front with offices in Washington and abroad. Among Bennett's employees was the seemingly retired CIA officer, E. Howard Hunt. Politically hyper-active during the Nixon Administration, Bennett was also the Washington representative of the Howard Hughes organization (which was just entering negotiations with the CIA over plans to recover a sunken Soviet submarine from the Pacific Ocean's floor). It was Bennett who suggested that Hunt might want to interview ITT lobbyist Dita Beard, and it was Bennett who volunteered his own nephew to work as an infiltrator at the DNC. One might go on, but the point is made: Bennett was a very well-placed source, if not a co-conspirator.

Today, Senator Bennett is a Mormon elder and one of the richest men in Congress. That he was also a key source of Bob Woodward's during the Watergate affair is memorialized in a Memorandum to the Record written by Martin J. Lukoskie, Bennett's CIA case-officer in 1972. (4) According to Lukoskie, Bennett "established a 'backdoor entry' to the Edward Bennett Williams law firm which is representing the Democratic Party (and the Washington Post...)" Bennett's job was to "kill off any revelation" about the Mullen Company's relationship to the CIA. But he was also responsible for dissuading reporters from the Washington Post from pursuing a 'Seven Days in May' scenario" that would have implicated the CIA in a conspiracy to "take over the country."

Perhaps Bennett ought to have had a word with Donald Stewart, as well.

The relationship between Bennett and the Post was later clarified by Lukoskie's CIA boss, Eric Eisenstadt. In a memo to the Deputy Director of Plans, Eisenstadt wrote that Bennett "has been feeding stories to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post with the understanding that there be no attribution to Bennett. Woodward is suitably grateful for the fine stories and by-lines he gets and protects Bennett (and the Mullen Company)." (5)

Hunh! It's enough to make you wonder, though not, apparently, enough to make the press wonder. But this is what the Deep Throat mystery is all about. It's not just a parlor game to canonize yet another celebrity. Rather, it's a question of deciding whether or not the Post's coverage was manipulated by a cabal of spooks who were working to destroy an unpopular president.

This is, of course, a conspiratorial point of view. Most of the press has embraced Mark Felt as the celebrity de jour and, toward that end, the only motive they impute to his behavior is a love of country. And that is what's likely to be taught in the schools.

More cynical observers, however, will point to the fact that FBI Director Hoover died a few weeks before the Watergate break-ins, and will suggest that his second-in-command, Mark Felt, went after the Nixon Administration because he was disappointed at not being named to take Hoover's place.

That's possible, of course, but even if Felt didn't get to be Director, he got the next best thing. That is, he got the files. Within hours of Hoover's death, Felt took charge of the Hoover's Official and Confidential files---including one that was headed "Black-Bag Jobs." The fate of other files in Hoover's executive suite, including the Director's Personal and Confidential files and the so-called "Do Not File" files, remains a mystery. (6)

Now that we know that Mark Felt is Deep Throat, it would be grand to ask him about the Director's missing files, his view of Yeoman Radford's spying, and his reasons for going to the press, rather than to the Justice Department, with his concerns about Watergate. It's clear, however, that his family has no intention of making the old man available. He is, after all, 91-years-old and not entirely well.