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Nixon Aide Said CIA Murdered Dorothy Hunt, Wife of Watergate Burglar E. Howard Hunt Who Knew Too Much About the CIA’s Role in Watergate and Other Crimes

Published: December 12, 2023 | Print Friendly and PDF

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Hunt Was Among Victims of a United Airlines Flight That Crashed in Chicago on December 8, 1972, Soon After Richard Nixon’s Re-Election

Dorothy Hunt’s life of adventure and privilege came to a tragic end at the age of 52 on December 8, 1972, when United Airlines Flight 553 crashed into a suburban home near Chicago’s Midway Airport.

Described by Nixon aide Charles Colson as “an extraordinary woman” and “one of the savviest women in the world,” Dorothy was a CIA operative married to E. Howard Hunt, who was at the time facing a long prison sentence as one of the Watergate burglars caught breaking into Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel to dig up dirt for President Richard Nixon.

Thirty four days after Dorothy’s death, E. Howard Hunt pleaded guilty on all charges and was then sentenced to 30 months to eight years in prison, and was released after serving 33 months in prison.[1]

Dorothy was identified as the “paymistress” of hush money to the Watergate defendants and their families to keep the burglars from cooperating with authorities and testifying before Congress and at trial.

The crash was officially determined to have been caused by equipment malfunction and pilot error; however, the pilot, Wendell Whitehouse, was one of United Airlines’ most skilled and was found with high amounts of cyanide in his system, indicating he had been poisoned.[2]

A radio operator who had monitored ground control’s communications with Flight 553 reported an exchange pointing to Control Tower error or sabotage, which was suppressed in the news.

As the jet had closed in on its final destination, O’Hare, it had been diverted for unforeseen reasons and told to land on the little used and much more poorly equipped Midway Airport. Part of the airplane fuselage was buried in a city dump right after the crash by what an unnamed city official said were “orders from the top” so that it could not be examined The FBI threatened one of the eyewitnesses, William J. Simonini, who said that they then framed his two sons for crimes in an attempt to intimidate him.[3]

Investigators continue to work at the scene where United Airlines Flight 553 crashed into a row of bungalows on West 70th Place while approaching Midway Airport two days before.
Scene following crash of Flight 553 in Chicago on December 8, 1972. [Source:]

In July 1974, Charles Colson told a private investigator that Dorothy—and by implication the other 44 people who died in the plane crash—had been murdered by the FBI and CIA. Colson subsequently told Time magazine, “I think the CIA killed Mrs. Hunt,” in a statement he stood by decades later.[4]

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Charles Colson [Source:]

The motive would have been to send a signal to E. Howard Hunt to plead guilty at his trial, which he did, with the four Cuban-American burglars loyal to Hunt following suit.

The CIA would not want a trial that could expose that the Watergate scandal was a covert operation orchestrated by the CIA in which the burglars were set up to be caught. The CIA may have also been worried about Hunt exposing other Agency secrets at his trial if he contested the charges against him, including the CIA’s role in the JFK assassination.

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Mae Brussell [Source:]

According to Mae Brussell, one of America’s foremost assassination experts in the 1970s, 30 Watergate witnesses met strange deaths, including Dorothy Hunt, and many of those witnesses knew about CIA involvement in Watergate. Up to 12 people associated with Watergate in some way were on the doomed Flight 553.

Strangely, Dorothy’s Hunt’s wallet contained a slip of paper with the name of Dr. Gary Morris, who had died with his wife the previous March off the coast of St. Lucia, though his body was never found. Dr. Morris was allegedly treating Dorothy for pain and stress using hypnosis, which E. Howard Hunt used along with mind control in her espionage work.[5]

Article in the Boston Phoenix by SDS co-founder Carl Oglesby about the crash of Flight 553. [Source:]

CIA Power Couple

Born in Dayton, Ohio, Hunt (nee Wetzel), after graduating from Bowling Green State University in 1944, worked for the Treasury Department’s Hidden Assets Division tracking Nazi contraband in Bern, Switzerland.

Dorothy then worked for the U.S. State Department in Shanghai, served as a technical adviser on Dick Powell’s film To The Ends of the Earth, a story of Treasury’s involvement in the international narcotics traffic, and worked as an administrator for the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) in Paris in the late 1940s managing the Marshall Plan.

In Paris, Dorothy met and then married CIA Operative E. Howard Hunt, a gifted writer of spy novels who had been press secretary to Marshall Plan Director Averell Harriman and helped coordinate Operation PBSuccess in Guatemala in 1954 that overthrew Guatemala’s leftist leader Jacobo Árbenz.

A graduate of Brown University, Howard Hunt’s father had been a founding member of the Buffalo Athletic Club with OSS founder William “Wild Bill” Donovan and Hunt served with OSS Detachment 101 in Yunnan Province in China during World War II with such CIA luminaries as Paul Helliwell, Lucien Conein and others. One of his jobs was as a sniper.

Howard and Dorothy’s son Saint John said that Howard “had that rare combination of traits, which allowed him to be in the front lines of the action, and then, after changing into his Brooks Brothers suit, sit and have lunch with the Director of the CIA. He was the classic CIA man: an American James Bond. He had a sophisticated intellect, a taste for wine, good cigars, and international intrigue.”[6]

Howardt’s stridently conservative, anti-Soviet, outlook was evident in his sneering at liberals he encountered while working as Harriman’s press secretary.

Hunt also referred to Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg in his memoir as a “traitor” and said he and others he worked with in the CIA were “deeply concerned by extremist elements—the yippies, hippies and zippies…SDS and the counterculture” who all wanted a peaceful reorientation of U.S. foreign policy in the 1960s.[7]

E Howard Hunt Leaving The Watergate Trial
E. Howard Hunt following his testimony in the Watergate case in 1973. [Source:]
The Berlin Ending (9780399112232) by Hunt, E. Howard
One of Hunt’s spy novels. [Source:]

Howard Hunt was at times a renegade/loose cannon within the Agency who leaked sensitive information to Uruguayan officials in the early 1960s and engaged in illegal surveillance of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964, probably on behalf of Lyndon Johnson.

Hunt’s novels also landed him in trouble because they were often thinly veiled depictions of agency methods and sensitivities, though Saint John said that the books were meant to give disinformation to the KGB.[8]

Dorothy had been recruited into the CIA by Allen Dulles, who served as Office of Strategic Services (OSS) station chief in Bern when Dorothy was there.

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Allen Dulles [Source:]

The Hunts became a CIA power couple, working for the Agency in Mexico City, Montevideo, Uruguay, the Balkans, Spain and Tokyo, Japan, at the Atsugi Naval Air Base where Lee Harvey Oswald served as a radar operator.[9] Howard also played a key role in coordinating the Bay of Pigs landing, and would recruit veterans of that operation to the Nixon plumbers unit.[10]

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Dorothy in this time maintained a G-6 security clearance, higher than Howard according to Saint John, and remained an active CIA agent, taking photographs and reviewing key documents while working out of the embassies of different countries.

After living overseas for a good part of the 1950s and 1960s, the Hunts settled down together to raise a family in Potomac, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

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All-American family: E. Howard and Dorothy Hunt with three of their four children. [Source:]

Dorothy told Saint John that on the day that JFK was assassinated, November 22, 1963, Howard was in Dallas; he had intimate knowledge of the events that day, indicating that he may have been involved in the planning in some way.[11] One of the tramps arrested in Dealey Plaza on the day of the assassination tellingly resembled Howard, and a CIA asset, Marita Lorentz, testified that Howard brought money to Dallas in envelopes.[12]

Howard officially retired from the CIA in 1970, though worked for Robert & Mullen Co. advertising agency which was a brass plate CIA front operation.[13] Howard admitted to Saint John that he continued to work for the CIA at this time, going to Langley to get disguises, cameras and speech altering equipment and reporting to then-CIA director Richard Helms. Hunt would regularly have lunch and socialize with Helms and wrote spy books that painted the Agency in a favorable light at his behest.[14]

Richard Helms [Source:]

Hunt became embroiled in the Watergate scandal as one of Nixon’s “plumbers” who was caught breaking into the Watergate Hotel.

Saint John said that Nixon and Helms did not trust one another and that Nixon set up his own covert operations group (”the plumbers,”) to counteract any CIA efforts to bring him down and to see what the Democratic Party had on him that they could use in the upcoming 1972 election and to dig for dirt for potential foreign funding of the party.

When Howard joined the Plumbers, Dorothy was planning to divorce Howard who was not faithful to her, according to Saint John. She had grown tired of working for the Agency and thought that Howard was foolish for working for President Nixon and his people, whom she believed did not have the same moral fiber as them.

However, after Howard was arrested, Dorothy swung into action to try to help him and was trying to blackmail Nixon while serving as a paymaster of hush money to keep secret the wider conspiracy.

Watergate Conspiracy

Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin detailed in their book, Silent Coup: The Removal of a President (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991) that the CIA secretly infiltrated the “plumbers” and staged the break-in in a sloppy way—likely without Nixon’s approval—in order to get caught.[15]


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The arresting officer, Carl Shoffler, who had an intelligence background, was given advanced knowledge of the break-in by a Washington, D.C., Police/FBI informant, Robert Merritt, and set up the burglars by enticing them with the promise of a key placed under the secretary’s desk that would unlock a safe deposit box with vital information.[16]

E. Howard Hunt along with James W. McCord, Jr., a top aide to former CIA Director Allen Dulles, were coached to change their testimony before the Senate Watergate hearings to be made more incriminating to Nixon and his top aides.

Shoffler leaked the story of the break-in to Bob Woodward, who had an intelligence background going back to his days in the U.S. Navy when he was a briefer for Alexander Haig, Nixon’s chief of staff (1973-1974) and Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, who engineered the exposure of the secret White House taping system that recorded all of the president’s conversations in the Oval Office.

Woodward and Carl Bernstein—who became famous for their reporting on Watergate—worked for The Washington Post, whose owner, Katherine Graham, routinely used their newspaper to promote CIA disinformation.

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Bob Woodward, left, with Carl Bernstein and their book, All the President’s Men. The two broke the Watergate story and may have actually been unwitting players in a sophisticated coup plot. [Source:]

According to Douglas Caddy, lawyer for E. Howard Hunt and other Watergate burglars, “Woodward and Bernstein, far from being heroes of Watergate, faithfully played out the roles assigned to them by military intelligence, the NSA and the CIA. The Washington Post and these two reporters perpetrated one of history’s greatest frauds in their reporting of the Watergate case, relying on the reel deep throat [Carl Shoffler].”[17]

Said Caddy further: “Watergate was a set-up, a charade from the beginning orchestrated by military intelligence, the NSA and the CIA.”[18]

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Douglas Caddy, center, with Woodward and Bernstein. [Source:]

The reason that Nixon was targeted in a silent coup was likely because a) a faction in the ruling class believed that he was too divisive and could no longer rule by consensus; b) he adopted tariffs and price controls opposed by high finance; c) he opposed granting the intelligence and military bureaucracies more autonomy, using the National Security Council (NSC) under Henry Kissinger as a weapon against them; and d) he initiated back-channel diplomacy with both the Soviet Union and China as a prelude to his support for arms control agreements (notably the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty-SALT I) and détente policies that de-escalated tensions during the Cold War.

Saint John suggests that Dorothy could have been killed in order to protect the CIA sting operation/coup designed to bring down Nixon, which had to be carried out on the CIA’s terms, or as a warning to Hunt, McCord and other Watergate conspirators to keep silent about it along with other criminal acts associated with it.

Saint John Hunt [Source:]

By threatening to blow the whistle on Watergate while blackmailing the President, Dorothy would have also been seen as a real threat to reveal other secret CIA operations such as Operation 40, an assassination program targeting foreign leaders and diplomats Nixon had helped coordinate as Vice President in the late 1950s working as a liaison between the CIA and White House. This is in addition to secrets about the CIA’s role in the JFK assassination, which she and Nixon knew about.[19] Howard told Saint John that he believed that Dorothy was killed as a warning to him to keep quiet about the JFK assassinsation, which he confessed on his deathbed to involvement in.[20]

And what better way to kill Dorothy than a plane crash because the target of the investigation would not be on one person but on what happened to the plane which could easily be framed as an accident?[21]

What Was Dorothy Going to Do in Chicago?

Saint John has spent the last half century trying to figure out what e



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