Michele Clark was born in Gary, Indiana on 2nd June, 1943. She attended the University of Chicago Laboratory High School, Grinnell College in Iowa and Roosevelt University in Chicago. Michele Clark held radical political views and joined Ray Mungo's Liberation News Service.
In 1972 Michele Clark graduated from a new program at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism created to recruit, train, and place minority journalists. Upon graduating, she began work as a reporter for WBBM-TV, a CBS owned station in Chicago. It has been claimed that she was the first African American network television anchorwoman.
In July of 1972 she became a CBS News correspondent. Clark investigated the Watergate Scandal. This included interviewing Dorothy Hunt, the wife of E. Howard Hunt, one of those who was about to go on trial for his role in Watergate. According to Sherman Skolnick, Clark was working on a story on the Watergate case: "Ms Clark had lots of insight into the bugging and cover-up through her boyfriend, a CIA operative."
Hunt had been threatening to reveal details of who paid him to organize the Watergate break-in. Dorothy Hunt took part in the negotiations with Charles Colson. According to investigator Sherman Skolnick, Hunt also had information on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He argued that if "Nixon didn't pay heavy to suppress the documents they had showing he was implicated in the planning and carrying out, by the FBI and the CIA, of the political murder of President Kennedy"
James W. McCord claimed that Dorothy told him that at a meeting with her husband's attorney, William O. Buttmann, she revealed that Hunt had information that would "blow the White House out of the water". In October, 1972, Dorothy Hunt attempted to speak to Charles Colson. He refused to talk to her but later admitted to the New York Times that she was "upset at the interruption of payments from Nixon's associates to Watergate defendants."
On 15th November, Colson met with Richard Nixon, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman at Camp David to discuss Howard Hunt's blackmail threat. John N. Mitchell was also getting worried by Dorothy Hunt's threats and he asked John Dean to use a secret White House fund to "get the Hunt situation settled down". Eventually it was arranged for Frederick LaRue to give Hunt about $250,000 to buy his silence.
On 8th December, 1972, Clark and Dorothy Hunt took Flight 533 from Washington to Chicago. The aircraft hit the branches of trees close to Midway Airport: "It then hit the roofs of a number of neighborhood bungalows before plowing into the home of Mrs. Veronica Kuculich at 3722 70th Place, demolishing the home and killing her and a daughter, Theresa. The plane burst into flames killing a total of 45 persons, 43 of them on the plane, including the pilot and first and second officers. Eighteen passengers survived." Clark and Hunt were both killed in the accident.
The following month E. Howard Hunt pleaded guilty to burglary and wiretapping and eventually served 33 months in prison. Hunt kept his silence although another member of the Watergate team, James W. McCord, wrote a letter to Judge John J. Sirica claiming that the defendants had pleaded guilty under pressure (from John Dean and John N. Mitchell) and that perjury had been committed.
The airplane crash was blamed on equipment malfunctions. Carl Oglesby (The Yankee and Cowboy War) has pointed out that the day after the crash, White House aide Egil Krogh was appointed Undersecretary of Transportation, supervising the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Association - the two agencies charged with investigating the airline crash. A week later, Nixon's deputy assistant Alexander P. Butterfield was made the new head of the FAA, and five weeks later Dwight L. Chapin, the president's appointment secretary, become a top executive with United Airlines.
Several writers, including Robert J. Groden, Peter Dale Scott, Alan J. Weberman, Sherman Skolnick and Carl Oglesby, have suggested that Michele Clark and Dorothy Hunt were murdered. In 1974, Charles Colson, Howard Hunt's boss at the White House, told Time Magazine: "I think they killed Dorothy Hunt."
The Summer Program in Broadcast and Print Journalism for Members of Minority Groups at Columbia University, from which Michele Clark graduated, was named in honor of her memory. In 1974, Austin Middle School, a Chicago public school, was renamed Michele Clark Middle School.
A United Boeing 737 crashed into a Chicago residential area (December 8, 1972) during an approach, killing everyone on board, including the wife of Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt. She was reportedly carrying money to silence Watergate witnesses, and carried papers implicating President Richard Nixon in the coverup. A Chicago public-interest group, know as the Citizens Committee believed that Justice Department personnel played a role in the crash of United flight 553, and that they wanted key individuals on flight 553 exterminated. Twelve of the people who boarded United Flight 553 had something in common relating to questionable Justice Department and Watergate activities.
There had been a gas pipeline lobbyist meeting as part of the American Bar Association in Washington, D.C., conducted by Roger Morea. Among the lobbyists attending were attorneys for the Northern Natural Gas Company of Omaha; attorneys for Kansas-Nebraska Natural Gas Company; and the president of the Federal Land Bank in Omaha. The Citizens Committee portrayed these people as a group determined to blow the lid off the Watergate case.
For many years Chicago resident Lawrence O'Connor boarded flight 553 like clockwork. He had no Watergate connections, but he had friends in the White House. On this particular Friday, O'Connor supposedly received a call from someone he knew in the White House, strongly advising him not to take flight 553. The caller advised him to go to a special meeting instead of taking that flight. Whether this was coincidental or to save his life is unknown to me, although the Citizens Committee considers it significant.
U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell, later indicted and sent to federal prison, and the Justice Department were putting pressure on Northern Natural Gas. The firm had subsidiaries that the federal government indicted on federal criminal charges in Omaha, Chicago, and Hammond, Indiana. (September 7, 1972.) Justice Department charges included bribery of local officials in Northwest Indiana and Illinois, to get clearance for installing the pipeline through their state.
Allegedly to blackmail the Justice Department and cause them to drop the charges, the Omaha firm uncovered documents showing that Mitchell, while attorney general in 1969, dropped antitrust charges against a competitor of Northern Natural Gas - El Paso Natural Gas Company. Just before the crash, Carl Kruger, an official with Northern Natural Gas Company, had been browbeating federal officials to drop the criminal charges.
The Citizens Committee alleged that dropping these charges saved the utility 300 million dollars. Simultaneously, Mitchell purchased through a law partner a stock interest in El Paso Natural Gas Company. Gas and oil interests, including El Paso, Gulf Resources, and others, contributed heavily to Nixon's spy fund supervised by Mitchell. The Citizens Committee reported that Kruger had previously been warned he would never live to reach Chicago. Kruger carried these revealing documents on United Flight 553, telling his wife that he had irreplaceable papers of a sensitive nature in his possession. For months after the crash Kruger's widow demanded that United Airlines turn his briefcase over to her.
CBS news reporter Michelle Clark travelled with Mrs. Hunt, doing an exclusive story on Watergate. Ms. Clark had already gained considerable insight into the bugging and coverup through her boyfriend, a CIA operative. Others knew of this exclusive interview, including the Justice Department.
As you may know, the National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the aircraft accident of the United Air Lines Boeing 737, at Midway Airport, Chicago, on December 8, 1972. Our investigative team assigned to this accident discovered on the day following the accident that several FBI agents had taken a number of non-typical actions relating to this accident within the first few hours following the accident.
Included were: for the first time in the memory of our staff, an FBI agent went to the control tower and listened to the tower tapes before our investigators had done so; and for the-first time to our knowledge, in connection with an aircraft accident, an FBI agent interviewed witnesses to the crash, including flight attendants on the aircraft prior to the NTSB interviews. As I am sure you can understand, these actions, particularly with respect to this flight on which Mrs. E. Howard Hunt was killed, have raised innumerable questions in the minds of those with legitimate interests in ascertaining the cause of this accident. Included among those who have asked questions, for example, is the Government Activities Subcommittee of the House Government Operations Committee. On the basis of informal discussions with the staff of the Committee, it is likely that questions as to what specific actions were taken by the FBI in connection with this aircraft accident, and why such actions were taken, will come up in a public oversight hearing at which the NTSB will appear and which is now scheduled for June 13, 1973.
In order to be fully responsive to the Committee, as well as to be fully informed ourselves about all aspects of this accident so as to assure the complete accuracy of our determination of the probable cause, we would appreciate, being advised of all details with respect to the FBI activities in connection with this accident. We would like to have, for example, the following information: the purpose of the FBI investigation, the reasons for the early response and unusual FBI actions in this case, the number of FBI personnel involved, all investigative actions taken by the agents and the times they took such actions (including the time the first FBI agents arrived on the scene), and copies of all reports and records made by the agents in connection with their investigations (we already have copies of 26 FBI interview reports; any other documents should be provided, therefore).
While we have initiated action at the staff level between our agency and yours to effect better liaison and avoid engaging in efforts which may be in conflict in the future, we have determined that some more formal arrangement in the nature of an interagency memorandum of agreement of understanding, for instance would seem appropriate. It would clearly delineate our respective statutory responsibilities and set forth procedures to eliminate any future conflicts. We would therefore appreciate it if you would designate, at your earliest convenience, an official with whom we may discuss this matter and with the authority to negotiate such a formal agreement with the Safety Board.
In the interim, however; we would like to receive, in advance of the scheduled June 13, 1973, public oversight hearing, the specific information concerning the actions of the FBI in connection with the Midway - accident and the reasons therefore, in order to enable us to be as fully responsive as possible to the House Subcommittee.
Your letter dated June 5, 1973, concerning the FBI's investigation into the crash of a United Air Lines Boeing 737 at Midway Airport, Chicago, Illinois, on December 8, 1972, has been received.
The FBI has primary investigative jurisdiction in connection with the Destruction of Aircraft or Motor Vehicles (DAMV) Statute, Title 18, Section 32, U.S. Code, which pertains to the willful damaging, destroying or disabling of any civil aircraft in interstate, overseas or foreign air commerce. In addition, Congress specifically designated the FBI to handle investigations under the Crime Aboard Aircraft (CAA) Statute, Title 49, Section 1472, US Code, pertaining, among other things, to aircraft piracy, interference with flight crew members and certain specified crimes aboard aircraft in flight, including assault, murder, manslaughter and attempts to Commit murder or manslaughter.
FBI investigation of the December 8, 1972 United Air Lines crash was instituted to determine if a violation of the DAMV or CAA Statutes had occurred and for no other reason. The fact that Mrs. E. Howard Hunt was aboard the plane was unknown to the FBI at the time our investigation was instituted.
It has been longstanding FBI policy to immediately proceed to the scene of an airplane crash for the purpose of developing any information indicating a possible Federal violation within the investigative jurisdiction of the FBI. In all such instances liaison is immediately, established with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) personnel upon their arrival at the scene.
Approximately 50 FBI Agents responded to the crash scene, the first ones arriving within 45 minutes of the crash. FBI Agents did interview witnesses to the crash, including flight attendants. Special Agent (SA) Robert E. Hartz proceeded to the Midway Airport tower shortly after the crash to determine if tower personnel could shed any light as to the reason for the crash. On arriving at the tower, SA Hartz identified himself as an FBI Agent and explained the reason for his presence. He was invited by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) personnel at the tower to listen to the recording made at the tower of the conversation between the tower and United Air Lines Flight 553. At no time did SA Hartz request to be allowed to listen to the tapes. After listening to the tapes, SA Hartz identified a sound as being that of the stall indicator on the aircraft. The FAA agreed that SA Hartz was right and immediately notified FAA Headquarters at Washington, D.C.
The FBI's investigation in this matter was terminated within 20 hours of the accident and on December 11, 1972, Mr. William L. Lamb, NTSB, was furnished with copies of the complete FBI investigation pertaining to this crash after it was determined there was apparently no violation of the DAM or CAA Statutes.
In order to avoid the possibility of any misunderstanding concerning our respective agencies' responsibilities and to insure continued effective liaison between the NTSB and the FBI, I have designated SA Richard F. Bates, Section Chief, Criminal Section, General Investigative Division, FBI Headquarters, Washington, DC, telephone number 324-2281, to represent the FBI concerning any matters of mutual interest.
Michele Clark moved into Marc Sommer's commune on S Street and Craig Spratt was always around, as often as not underfoot in the opinions of everybody except me. With my removal to Vermont pending just as soon as I could manage it, Marshall and Michele were the only really permanent people willing to stay in Washington, and the news service had grown to need at least a dozen full-time workers in order to maintain its established pace, and more if it was to grow...
Michele Clark, mid-20s, married to a New York City film-maker, and herself from the Bread and Puppet Theater. Michele has the longest, frizziest, wonderful brown hair and a throaty laugh. She was one of the many who hit Church Street while just passing through town, one of the few who stayed; and by the time she arrived in March of 1968, we were already talking about getting out. I saw my younger self in her face as she advanced all the arguments for our staying in Washington - guerrillas in enemy territory, keep an eye on the bastards, etc. After LNS split, Michele went to Cuba, where she met a man named Mungo, and then to Cambridge, Mass., where she taught school for a while. I don't know where she is now, but sure wish I did.
Based on the facts agreed upon by both sides, it is at least apparent from these letters (see above) that the FBI was all over Dorothy Hunt at the time of the crash, despite Ruckelshaus's, protest that Dorothy Hunt's presence on 553 was "unknown to the FBI at that time." There is no obvious way such a large response as fifty agents within the hour could have been generated from a standing start as of the moment of the crash itself. The closest FBI office is forty minutes from the crash site and there are never fifty agents available at once without warning. It is tradition that FBI agents do not gather in offices waiting for calls but stay in the field. When a really obvious intelligence agent, Hungarian Freedom Fighter Lazlo Hadek, died in a crash the next summer at Boston's Logan Airport, leaving a trail of secret NATO nuclear documents strewn down the center of the runway, the FBI was barely able to get a solitary agent to the scene on the same day as the wreck. That this same FBI could get fifty agents to the scene of the Chicago crash within an hour is to my mind an arresting piece of information. How could the FBI have done this if it had not had Dorothy Hunt's airplane, for whatever reason, under full company-scale surveillance before the crash ever happened? And why might the FBI have been doing that?
Note in this connection that it was specifically the airplane itself that was being followed; and not the person of Dorothy Hunt. That is, no FBI agent was aboard the plane. If the FBI was tailing Dorothy Hunt, why was she not being followed on the plane? Was it that her flight was too sudden? But it was delayed on the ground for fifteen minutes. Michelle Clark of CBS, who was on the same flight, knew she was going to be on it and may have been her companion in the first-class cabin. The Hunts took enough time at the airport to buy $250,000 worth of flight insurance.
Ruckelshaus does not meet Reed's main questions. He reads the book with a straight face as though Reed had asked him what were the statutory grounds of the FBI intervention instead of why, suddenly, this time and no other time, and so massively, and hence with such a semblance of advance contrivance, were these grounds taken up and acted upon. One understands that the FBI will always be able to - demonstrate a rudimentary legal basis for whatever it takes it its head to do. What we want to know is where these whims arid fancies bubble up from.
We wonder finally what in the world made the FBI think S53's crash might have been a case of "willful disabling of a Civil aircraft," or of "crimes aboard aircraft , in flight including assault, murder, and manslaughter"? Not that any of this necessarily happened or did not, but the FBI does not usually behave as if it might have. Does it? How does Ruckelshaus account for this, especially in view of his assertion that the FBI acted with no knowledge of Dorothy Hunt's presence? What was the chain-of-command activity and what were the reasons that had so many FBI agents waiting to move when that plane came down?
John Dean: Kalmbach raised some cash.
Richard Nixon: They put that under the cover of a Cuban committee, I suppose?
John Dean: Well, they had a Cuban committee and they... some of it was given to Hunt's lawyer, who in turn passed it out. You know, when Hunt's wife was flying to Chicago with $10,000 she was actually, I understand after the fact now, was going to pass that money to one of the Cubans - to meet him in Chicago and pass it to, somebody there.... You've got then, an awful lot of the principals involved who know. Some people's wives know. Mrs. Hunt was the savviest woman in the world. She had the whole picture together.
Richard Nixon: Did she?
John Dean: Yes. Apparently, she was the pillar of strength in that family before the death.
Richard Nixon: Great sadness. As a matter of fact there was discussion with somebody about Hunt's problem on account of his wife and I said, of course commutation could be considered on the basis of his wife's death, and that is the only conversation I ever had in that light.
Of the more than a dozen suspicious deaths in the case of Watergate... perhaps the most significant death was that of Dorothy Hunt in the crash of United Air Lines in December 1972. The crash was investigated for possible sabotage by both the FBI and a congressional committee, but sabotage was never proven. Nevertheless, some people assumed that Dorothy Hunt was murdered (along with the dozens of others in the plane). One of these was Howard Hunt, who dropped all further demands on the White House and agreed to plead guilty (to the Watergate burglary in January 1973).
It was at 2:29 PM on Friday, December 8, 1972, during the height of the Watergate scandal that United Airlines flight 553 crashed just outside of Chicago during a landing approach to Midway Airport. Initial reports indicated that the plane had some sort of engine trouble when it descended from the clouds. But the odd thing about this crash is what happened after the plane went down. Witnesses living in the working-class neighborhood in which the plane crashed said that moments after impact, a battalion of plainclothes operatives in unmarked cars parked on side streets pounced on the crash-site. These so-called 'FBI types' took control of the scene and immediately began sifting through the wreckage looking for something. At least one survivor recognized a "rescue worker"--clad in overalls sifting through wreckage - as an operative of the CIA.
One day after the crash, the Whitehouse head of Nixon's "plumber's" outfit - Egil Krogh, Jr. - was made undersecretary of transportation, a position that put him in a direct position to oversee the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Agency which are both authorized by law to investigate airline crashes. Krogh would later be convicted of complicity in the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg's Psychiatrist's office along with Hunt, Liddy and a small cast of CIA-trained and retained Cuban black-bag specialists.
About a month after Krogh's new assignment, Nixon's appointments secretary, Dwight Chapin, was made an executive in the Chicago office of United Airlines, where he threatened the media to steer clear of speculation about sabotage in the crash. On December 19th - eleven days after the crash - Nixon appointed ex-CIA officer, Alexander Butterfield, as head of the FAA. Students of Watergate will remember Butterfield as the Whitehouse official who supervised Nixon's secret taping system and who exposed the existence of the infamous tapes that ultimately would force Nixon to resign.
Ostensibly traveling with Mrs. Hunt on flight 553 was CBS news corespondent Michelle Clark who, rumor had it, had learned from her sources that the Hunts were about to spill the proverbial beans regarding the Nixon whitehouse and its involvement in the Watergate burglary; Clark also died in the crash.
A large sum of money (between $10,000 and $100,000) was found amid the wreckage in the possession of Mrs. Hunt. It was during this time that Dorothy Hunt was traveling around the country paying off operatives and witnesses in the Watergate operation with money her husband had extorted from Nixon via his counsel, John Dean. Hunt had threatened Nixon and Dean with exposing the nature of all the sordid deeds he had done.
Could it be that the fuel for Hunt's blackmail of the president had little to do with the so-called "third-rate burglary" of the Democratic headquarters? Could it have had more to do with the fate of John F. Kennedy and of Nixon's awareness of who was really behind the planning and deployment of his demise? In the Watergate tapes, Nixon displays a malignant paranoia to his chief-of-staff, H. R. Haldeman, concerning E. Howard Hunt and the Bay of Pigs operation...
After reading in the spring of 1991 James Hougan's amazing Watergate book, Secret Agenda, I began a Freedom of Information Act search on certain FBI documents related to the death of Dorothy Hunt. I was especially intrigued by the report by Hougan, that amongst the cash Mrs. Hunt had in her possession, was a $100 bill with the inscription, "Good Luck FS". I immediately suspected that FS could stand for Howard's Watergate co-conspirator and fellow CIA affiliate, Frank Sturgis, and began searching for other crash-material ascribed to Mrs. Hunt from the ill-fated flight.
In Secret Agenda, Hougan describes an engineer, Michael Stevens, proprietor of the Chicago-based Stevens Research Laboratories, as being visited in early May, 1972 by Watergate wireman James McCord who had come to place orders for ten highly-sophisticated eavesdropping devices - much more sophisticated units than the cheap, commercial-grade bugs supposedly found in the DNC the next month in June.
Stevens claims that Dorothy Hunt was traveling to see him in Chicago when her plane went down and that the $10,000 or more she possessed was intended for him as an installment for his silence. Stevens says he told the FBI that his own life had been threatened anonymously and that Hunt's death was a homicide.
After the plane carrying Hunt's wife Dorothy crashed under mysterious circumstances in December 1973, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board told the House Government Activities Subcommittee that he had sent a letter to the FBI which stated that over fifty agents came into the crash zone. The FBI denied everything until William Ruckleshaus became temporary Director, at which time they admitted that their agents were on the scene. The independent researcher Sherman Skolnick believes that Dorothy Hunt was carrying documents that linked Nixon to the Kennedy assassination. According to Skolnick these papers, which were being used to blackmail Nixon, were seized by the FBI. Skolnick's theory is corroborated by a conversation that allegedly took place between Charles Colson and Jack Caufield.
According to Caufield, Colson told him that there were many important papers the Administration needed in the Brookings Institution and that the FBI had recently adopted a policy of coming to the scene of any suspicious fires in Washington D.C. Caufield believed that Colson was subtly telling him to start a fire at Brookings and the FBI would then steal the desired documents.
Note at this point that one day after the plane crash, White House aide Egil Krogh was appointed Undersecretary of Transportation. This gave him direct control over the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration-the two agencies that would be in charge of investigating the crash. Soon Dwight Chapin, Nixon's Appointment Secretary, became a top executive at United Airlines. Dorothy Hunt was on a United carrier when she made her ill-fated journey.
Sherman Skolnick: CBS News reporter Michelle Clark was on the plane beside Mrs. Hunt. She was also a friend of Rep. George Collins (D-Ill.) who also died on that crash. At the later hearings, we had the chief assistant of Congressman Collins. Apparently Collins had somehow found out about the Watergate affair before the break-in and had told Michelle Clark about it, and she knew about it.
What happened was that certain people decided to sit on matters for their own financial gain. Here's briefly what happened. I had a mutual friend who knew Ms. Clarke's family. They said that since Michelle had died in the crash, they were going to blow the lid off United Airlines, which is owned largely by the Rockefeller family's Chase Manhattan Bank. They were also going to use this information against CBS (Michelle's employer) which was part of the cover-up.
Using my material they got what was said to be as much as a $5 million settlement from CBS by remaining silent about what the family found out. Cardiss Collins, the widow of Congressman Collins, took his place, and from my information she was in favor of squelching the whole affair.
"This was probably the most investigated airplane crash in history" said Deputy Cook County Coroner John Haigh when he announced the findings of the coroner's jury looking into the crash at Midway Airport. The findings coincided with those of the National Transportation Safety Board: pilot error.
Flight 533 left Washington DC for Omaha, Nebraska stopping in Chicago. Approaching Midway the pilot was instructed by the control tower to execute a "missed approach" pattern. The pilot applied full power to go around for another landing attempt. At 2:27 p.m., 1.5 miles from the airport, Flight 533 hit the branches of trees on the south side of 71st Street. It then hit the roofs of a number of neighborhood bungalows before plowing into the home of Mrs. Veronica Kuculich at 3722 70th Place, demolishing the home and killing her and a daughter, Theresa. The plane burst into flames killing a total of 45 persons, 43 of them on the plane, including the pilot and first and second officers. Eighteen passengers survived.
Among the passengers killed were U.S. Representative George Collins (7th), a former 24th Ward Alderman, and Mrs. Dorothy Hunt. Her husband, E. Howard Hunt, had been indicted on charges of conspiring to break into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. Found in the debris was a purse belonging to Mrs. Hunt containing $10,585 in cash. There was immediate concern that the money might be linked to the financial dealings surrounding the Nixon "slush fund" to which defendants in the Watergate case had access and that the crash therefore might be linked to sabotage. In the end sabotage was ruled out, but the mystery surrounding the money and the deaths of such prominent, politically connected individuals insured a very thorough investigation.
The NTSB issued its report after recreating the last minutes of the flight based on the flight and voice recording instruments, interviews with survivors and eyewitnesses on the ground, and physical evidence. According to the report, when Midway's control tower directed the crew to abort the landing and try again, they became distracted and failed to prepare a proper landing. As they attempted to pull the jet from the landing descent, the crew forgot to deactivate the wing spoilers. The plane stalled. And then it crashed.
Upwards of twelve persons connected in one way or another with Watergate, boarded United Air Lines Flight 553 on the afternoon of December 8, 1972. They had something in common. That week there had been a gas pipeline lobbyists meeting as part of the American Bar Association meeting in Washngton, DC It was conducted by Roger Moreau. His secretary was Nancy Parker. Among those attending were Ralph Blodgett and James W. Krueger, both attorneys for the Northern Natural Gas Co., of Omaha, Nebraska. Associated with them were Lon Bayer, attorney for Kansas-Nebraska Natural Gas Co.; Wilbur Erickson, president, Federal Land Bank in Omaha. This was a belligerent group determined to blow the lid off the Watergate case. Reason Former US Attorney General, John Mitchell, and his friends running the Justice Department were putting the spear into Northern Natural Gas. Some officials of that firm and its subsidiaries were indicted on federal criminal charges, September 7, 1972, in Omaha, Chicago, and Hammond, Indiana. Charge bribery of local officials in Northwest Indiana to let the gas pipeline go through. To blackmail their way out of these charges, the Omaha firm had uncovered documents showing that Mitchell, while U.S. Attorney General in 1969, dropped anti-trust charges against a competitor of Northern Natural Gas - El Paso Gas Co. The dropping of the charges against El Paso was worth 300 million dollars. A spokesman for Mitchell belatedly claimed, in March, 1973, that Mitchell had "disqualified" himself in 1969, because Mitchell's law partner represented El Paso. The Justice Department under Mitchell, dropped the charges. Period. About the same time, Mitchell, through a law partner as nominee, got a stock interest in El Paso. Gas and oil interests, such as El Paso, Gulf Resources, and others contributed heavily to Nixon's spy fund, supervised by Mitchell.
Pipeline official Krueger was carrying the Mitchell-El Paso documents on the plane. He had told his wife that he had in his possession irreplaceable papers of a sensitive nature. For months after the crash, his widow demanded, to no avail, that United Air Lines turn over to her his briefcase. It later came out in the pipeline trial in Hammond, that Blodgett had been browbeating federal officials, to drop the criminal charges just prior to the crash. (Our investigation uncovered that most of the local officials, to be government witnesses against the pipeline, were murdered just prior to trial. In all, some five Northwest Indiana officials.)
Dorothy Hunt, Watergate pay-off woman, who offered executive clemency directly on behalf of Nixon to some of the Watergate defendants, was seeking to leave the US with over 2 million dollars in cash and negotiables that she had gotten from CREEP, Committee to Re-Elect the President. (She was so concerned about these valuables, she purchased a separate first class seat next to her on the plane for this luggage.) She and her husband, E. Howard Hunt, the Watergate conspirator, were a "C.I.A. couple", two agents "married" and living together. Early in December, 1972, both were threatening to blow the lid off the White House if (a) he wasn't freed of the criminal charges; (b) Nixon didn't pay heavy to suppress the documents they had showing he was implicated in the planning and carrying out, by the FBI and the CIA, of the political murder of President Kennedy; and (c) Dorothy and Howard Hunt didn't both get several million dollars. Some of these details are in the Memo of Watergate double-agent, James McCord, a CIA official in charge of the Agency's physical security; details before the Senator Ervin Committee. Hunt claimed, according to McCord, to have the data necessary to impeach Nixon. McCord said matters were coming to a head early in December, 1972. Mrs. Hunt was unhappy with her job of going all over the country to bribe defendants and witnesses in the bugging case. She wanted out.
Mrs. Hunt was on the way to arrange to take her money out of the country, possibly Costa Rica, to link up with international swindler Robert Vesco who was there at the time; through Harold C. Carlstead, whose wife was Mrs. Hunt's cousin. Carlstead reportedly did accounting and tax work for mobster-owned businesses in the Chicago area. He operated two Holiday Inn motels in Chicago's south suburbs - at 174th and Torrence, Lansing, Illinois and at 171st and Halsted, Harvey, Illinois. Carlstead's motel on Torrence was reportedly a favorite hang out for gangsters and dope traffickers such as apparently "Cool" Freddie Smith, Grover Barnes, and the late Chicago mobster Sam DeStefano (who aided the American CIA in bloody tricks and was snuffed out to silence him), to name a few. Mrs. Hunt had (a) Ten Thousand Dollars in untraceable cash; (b) Forty Thousand Dollars in so-called "Barker" bills, traceable to Watergate spy Bernard Barker; and (c) upwards of Two Million Dollars in American Express money orders, travelers checks, and postal money orders. (As shown by testimony before the National Transportation Safety Board, re-opened Watergate plane crash hearings, June 13-14, 1973. Hearings reopened as a result of my lawsuit claiming sabotage covered up by the N.T.S.B.) Carlstead issued a fake "cover" story that had (only) Ten Thousand Dollars with Mrs. Hunt. A story swallowed up by the Establishment Press.
Mrs. Hunt got on Flight 553 with Michele Clark, CBS Network newswoman, going to do an exclusive story on Watergate. Mrs. Hunt, Mitchell, Nixon - the story could have destroyed Nixon at the time. Ms Clark had lots of insight into the bugging and cover-up through her boyfriend, a CIA operative. In the summer of 1972, prior to any major revelations of Watergate, Ms Clark tried to pick the brains of Chicago Congressman George Collins, regarding the bugging of the Democratic headquarters. Ms Clark was sitting with Collins on the plane.
After the crash, Michele Clark's employer, CBS Network News, ordered and demanded that the body be cremated by the southside Chicago mortician handling the matter - possibly to cover up foul play. Later, the mortician was murdered in his business establishment, an unsolved crime. (We interviewed close confidants of her family who informed us of the details how CBS applied tremendous pressure and offered large sums for silence on the crash details and having her body cremated contrary to her family's wishes.)
Also on the plane were four or more people who knew about a labor union that had given a large "donation" to CREEP to head-off an criminal indictment of a Chicago labor union hoodlum (at the time of the book, 1973, actively investigated by us).
For many years, like clockwork, one Chicagoan went to Washington, D.C. on Monday and came back Friday afternoon on Flight 553 or its equivalent Lawrence T. O'Connor, Apt. 5-C, 999 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois. On Friday, December 8, 1972, he received a call from someone he knows in the White House, telling him not to take Flight 553 but to go instead to a special meeting.
My long-time friend, political activist Dick Gregory, informed me that there had been strenuous efforts to steer him that same afternoon onto United Air Lines Flight 553. Luckily, he had changed his mind.
Also getting on Flight 553 was a reputed "hit-man", pursuing Mrs. Hunt and others, and going under the "cover" of being a top Narcotics official with DALE (Drug Abuse Law Enforcement). He used the name Harold R. Metcalf. He is an unusual "narc"; he worked directly for Nixon. Metcalf told the pilot he was packing a gun, and so Metcalf was assigned seat B-17, near the stewardesses' jump seat and also near the food galley and the rear door of the plane. After the crash, he walked out of the cracked open fuselage of the pancaked plane wearing a jumpsuit. A former Military Intelligence investigator, who used his credentials to get into the crash site, identified the person posing as "Harold Metcalf" as an overseas CIA parachute spy. Metcalf evidently supervised certain foul play, possibly cyanide, directed at certain passengers, but he didn't know of the over all sabotage plan. One of our staff investigators confronted Metcalf about a week after the crash: (a) Metcalf, supposedly a government narcotics bigshot, knows nothings about dope. (b) in response to our question, "Did you know the plane was sabotaged?", he blurted out half a sentence, "It was not supposed to....", turning purple, he then left the room. Evidently, he was a double cut-out, an espionage term for an operative to be himself eliminated by someone else. His survival was an oversight.
There were problems, and all the networks knew they would have to hire more women because you had the women's movement in the early 1970s really hitting full steam, coming right out of the civil rights movement. And, in fact, when my daughter was born, I put in her baby book - she was born in 1970 - "A feminist is born." I saw that. So I was kind of steeped in all of the feminist rhetoric of that period of time. I'm sure that's why NBC was really after me, and I was a "two-for." They would get a female and they would get a minority.
Michele Clark was hired by CBS, the first black woman network correspondent, and I was the second one to be named in the nation, and, of course, she died tragically in a plane accident. In fact, I covered that plane crash. People were very, very thoughtless. This was a beautiful black woman hired by CBS News, and she was going to be a star. She was a real comer. And she was killed in this awful crash at Midway Airport with a black congressman from Chicago. A lot of people were on that plane. I was sent to the plane crash scene and then to the morgue, and it was a horrible, horrible - I don't know how many, close to a hundred people died.
It's the kind of thing, these horrible stories that I've had to cover, and I saw the body bags come in, and I saw the burned corpses, and they're trying to make identifications and that kind of thing. I have always been able to work, do the job while I have to do it, and then fall apart. I could always steel myself, and see horrible things and report, because my job was to report this - and then just collapse. I went through all of that. We were on the air so much - it was a huge local story - I was doing live reports from the scene of the crash, and from the morgue.
I talked to my mother during the night, and she said, "People have been calling me," because there were rumors that Michele Clark had been on the plane. They couldn't identify her body. And people thought it was me. Can you imagine people being so thoughtless to call up my mother and say, "Was that your daughter that was killed in the plane crash?" So she had been getting phone calls like that, and it wasn't until the next day that they identified her body, but I remember opening the newspaper - I had worked very late, I didn't get home until midnight, and couldn't go to sleep from the horror of what I'd seen, but finally went to sleep, and then the next morning getting up and seeing the newspaper and Michele's picture on the front page of it, and just breaking down, just crying. I mean, the horror of all of that came back.
And it's happened to me many times, when I covered murders. Two little boys drowned, grappling hooks searching for their bodies in the river, and they're being brought to shore. You can't steel yourself against that. I mean, you can while you're working. I have been able to while I'm working. But then you're haunted by these images for a long, long period of time.
That was an aside. But I'm sure because CBS had a black female, NBC wanted to have one, and she [Michele Clark] and I both had worked in local news in Chicago. She had been at the CBS station, and I had been at the NBC station, and we were friends. So there was pressure to hire, I think, someone, and I was an obvious choice.