E. Howard Hunt was a key political figure during the 1950s and 60s. He graduated from Brown University, served in WWII, and joined the CIA in 1949. Stationed in Mexico City, he supervised conservative William F. Buckley. In Guatemala, he helped overthrow the government, partly by airing radio broadcasts from Florida but pretending to be in the jungle with a guerrilla army.
After stints in Japan and Uruguay, Hunt was sent to Cuba to help organize rebels to take over the government once the CIA ousted Castro in the Bay of Pigs invasion -- except, the Bay of Pigs failed.
This had two big consequences for Hunt: (1) He came to resent John F. Kennedy for not being more committed to overthrow Castro, and (2) His job changed to focus on domestic issues -- he became "the first Chief of Covert Action for the CIA's Domestic Operations Division," under the Kennedy Administration. Part of his job was to give false information to and mislead news organizations.
In 1970, he retired from the CIA and joined Nixon's White House, as part of the "President's Special Investigations Unit, also known as the "White House Plumbers." In 1972, he and G.Gordon Liddy recruited five men (most Cubans) to break into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate building, thus igniting one of America's biggest scandals.
After Hunt served 33 months in prison (he pleaded guilty right after his wife died in a mysterious plane crash), he wrote spy novels and lived in Miami. Because of his clandestine past, conflicting testimony he gave during Watergate investigations, and his professional truth-fudging, there is still a lot of mystery around things he said and did in his life. One of the biggest questions is: Where was he when JFK was killed, and what did he know about it?
We talked to his son, Saint John Hunt, who wrote a book called Bond of Secrecy, about his father. The younger Hunt moved to Fort Lauderdale a few months ago.
Saint John says he worked in health care for 12 years but is seeking work in the hotel business now.
Says Saint John: "My book is more of a story of my life with my father -- what it was like growing up with my dad. We never got along very well. He was deeply, deeply embedded and entrenched in political action. Until I was 16, I was led to believe he was in the State Department."
He remembers his governess in Japan and his French school in Uruguay. "My father was absent; my mother was a socialite. Some people alleged that she was CIA also, and I find that very credible."
The family returned to D.C. in 1960 or '61, and "my father was organizing the Bay of Pigs in South Florida. He spoke a few languages, was good at organizational skills, knew how to recruit. William F. Buckley is my godfather, although when Watergate blew up, he distanced himself from my dad."
St. John says his dad's work in Guatemala was genius: "The radio beamed messages in Guatemala as though troops were descending in the capital. My dad had just prerecorded those tapes in his office. Machine guns, aircraft --- none of it was real. But he freaked out the military in a three-day period -- he cut into all the radio stations. He was a mastermind. In fear of lives, the military government, they surrendered -- they just gave up. He was gifted in psychological warfare. He overthrew an entire country with tape loops. He was the CIA's number-one genius."
Then, when the U.S. was having "a little problem with Cuba," Hunt Sr. "organized the first anti Castro movements." Guerrillas he recruited would later reappear as burglars in the Watergate scandal.
Says St. John: "Kennedy in his first year of office" learns of the CIA plan to overthrow Castro -- he and his brother Bobby went over the Cuba project and said, 'This is just appalling!' There were training camps in New Orleans and South Florida training mercenaries to attack Cuba -- Mafia/CIA plots -- and they said, "This is insane; it's gotta stop.' So Bobby Kennedy ordered FBI raids in Miami and New Orleans -- they busted these CIA-funded training camps.
"Bobby said, 'I will splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces -- he fired Allen Dulles, my dad's boss, and my dad was demoted after the failed invasion of Cuba. [Kennedy did go along with the Bay of Pigs, but he didn't want the USA linked]... A lot of people had a lot of reasons to get rid of JFK. He was hated by everybody in the military-industrial complex -- warmongers, big business, oil guys."
Kennedy wanted to "end the war in Vietnam, go back to the gold standard, reduce military expenditures. He was a visionary and had to be gotten rid of."
Saint John says LBJ was linked with seven murders and was a "vile, underhanded backstabbing sociopath."
In the summer of 1963, St. John says, another CIA guy, Bill Harvey, called his father to a "big safehouse here at the UM campus" with Frank Sturgis, David Morales, and Harvey, and "this is what he told me on his deathbed -- they were putting together an option -- an idea, a contingency plan for the big event -- for the elimination of a powerful American figure is what they told my dad -- who would be traveling on business. Everything was on a need-to-know basis -- my dad didn't want to know who it was.
"Bill Harvey was the boss. He loved being on dirty side. My dad was like an American James Bond -- smoking fine Cuban cigars, exotic mistresses, foreign dignitaries, a ladies man, a letters man. My dad was brought in to look at what these guys were putting out there, to tighten up the plan. They respected my dad and knew he was a Kennedy hater."
St. John believes that the head shot to Kennedy was made by Lucien Sarti behind the picket fence on the grassy knoll and that an operative named Mack Wallace whose fingerprints were found could have shot also. It was all pinned on Lee Harvey Oswald, and "Bill Harvey got Jack Ruby to gun him down. My dad told me that Jack Ruby, on orders from the Mafia, shot Oswald and it had to be worked out with the Dallas PD. There's no reason Jack Ruby just snuck there and shot him out of mourning for JFK.
"My father's alibis changed over time... My mom told me [my dad] went to Dallas that day." He said there's a memo "from Richard Helms, the CIA head that says, 'One day we'll have to explain why Hunt was in Dallas on the 22nd.'"
Years later, "in 1972 when Watergate happened, I was the only one home. My dad came in and opened the door. I'm 17, long hair past my shoulders; I just wanted to smoke weed and play rock music." But he ran upstairs -- "he ordered me to put Playtex gloves on, and get paper towels and Windex and go over a large suitcase of audio equipment -- stuff he dragged out of the Watergate.
"I helped him clean fingerprints and throw it out and dumped it in water. I also transported large sums of money in manila envelopes."
His father "expected this whole thing to be quashed -- no investigation. But as he was betrayed with the Bay of Pigs, he was betrayed again with Watergate.
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"I was questioned during Watergate hearings" -- and can still be seen in old video footage, hair in a ponytail and a suit coat. "I lied to the committee. Cubans, Gordon Liddy, all these guys had been coming to our house. My dad had told me, 'Say you didn't see them.' We had developed a bond of secrecy."
Saint John says that while criminal proceedings were in process against his dad, his mother died in a plane crash with $10,000 on her -- the cover story was that she was investing with family in a Holiday Inn" but it was really to "pay off people who helped get the bugging devices for Watergate." St. John thinks the crash was orchestrated to put pressure on his dad. "A day after my mom died, my dad pled guilty. The day after the plane crash, Nixon appointed one of his closest advisers to head the crash investigation." His dad eventually served 33 months.
St. John "moved away -- started a band on a farm in desolate Wisconsin" -- and his little brother was sent to Miami, and they both got involved with drugs. He says that in the early 2000s, they tried to get their dad to write a new book with the full truth but he was afraid of perjury. His dad sent him an audiotape in 2004, though -- that audio is on YouTube.