Bernard Leon Barker was born in Havana, Cuba, on 17th March, 1917. His father's family originally came from Russia. Bernard's middle name suggests his father was sympathetic to the ideals of the Russian Revolution. At the age of 16 Barker joined the ABC, a revolutionary group opposed to then president Gerardo Machado Morales. It was during this period that he acquired the nickname "Macho".
The day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Barker became the first Cuban-American to join the American armed forces. He received his basic training in Tampa before moving to Houston where he eventually graduated as a second lieutenant. He flew patrol missions over the Gulf of Mexico before being sent to London to join the 331st squadron of 8th Air Force. Over the next few months he served as a bombardier on board a B-17 Flying Fortress.
On his 12 mission on 2nd February, 1944, over the Ruhr Valley, Barker's aircraft was hit and the crew were forced to bail out. Barker was captured and sent to a concentration camp called "Stalag Luft 1". Sixteen months later he was liberated by the Red Army.
After the war Barker returned to Cuba and joined the National Police. He worked as an assistant to the Chief of Police with the rank of sergeant.Later he was recruited by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and worked for them as an undercover agent. He also did work for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
When Fidel Castro successfully overthrew Fulgencio Batista, Barker and his family moved to Miami (January 1960). Barker became a significant figure in the Cuban exile community. He remained a CIA agent and worked under the direction of Frank Bender. Later that year Barker was assigned to work under E. Howard Hunt. Barker's new job was to recruit men into the 2506 Brigade. This men eventually took part in the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
In 1972 James W. McCord was appointed as security director for the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). Later that year Gordon 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. Liddy recruited McCord to help him with this. On 28th May, 1972, and his team, including Barker, broke into the DNC's offices and placed bugs in two of the telephones.
It became the job of Alfred Baldwin to eavesdrop the phone conversations. Over the next 20 days Baldwin listened to over 200 phone calls. These were not recorded. Baldwin made notes and typed up summaries. Nor did Baldwin listen to all phone calls coming in. For example, he took his meals outside his room. Any phone calls taking place at this time would have been missed.
It soon became clear that the bug on one of the phones installed by James W. McCord was not working. As a result of the defective bug, McCord decided that they would have to break-in to the Watergate office again. He also heard that a representative of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War had a desk at the DNC. McCord argued that it was worth going in to see what they could discover about the anti-war activists. Gordon Liddy later claimed that the real reason for the second break-in was to find out what OBrien had of a derogatory nature about us, not for us to get something on him.
E.Howard Hunt then contacted Bernard Barker and invited him to join the team that broke into the Watergate office. In 1997, Barker told The Miami Herald that Hunt "said this would put us in a situation in which we can later ask for help for the freedom of Cuba.''
The original operation was unsuccessful and on 17th June, 1972, Barker, James W. McCord, Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez and Eugenio Martinez 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 the burglars. Reporters were now 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.
In January, 1973, Barker, E.Howard Hunt, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Frank Sturgis, Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord were convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping. After serving 12 months in prison Barker found work as a Miami building inspector. He then became a zoning consultant. In 1983, Barker was charged with perjury in connection with alleged payoffs to city Zoning Board members but was later acquitted of the offence.
Bernard Leon Barker, suffered from cancer and heart problems, died in Miami on 5th June 2009.