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.