Watergate break-in spy Hunt dies at 88


Thu, Jan 25, 2007 - Page 7

Howard Hunt, the veteran CIA spy who helped plan the break-in at Washington's Watergate complex which brought down president Richard Nixon in the most notorious political scandal in US history, has died at 88, his church said.

Hunt, who reportedly had battled pneumonia, plotted the nighttime burglary on June 17, 1972, at the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee, together with fellow White House conspirator G. Gordon Liddy.

The accidental discovery of the break-in snowballed into the scandal which embroiled the White House and led to Nixon's stepping down.

"He passed away today, in Miami," said a source who did not wish to be identified at Hunt's Miami Shores Presbyterian church, where he was a regular worshipper. "He died from natural causes."

Hunt served 33 months in jail for conspiracy, wiretapping and burglary for his part in Watergate, which revealed the existence of a secret White House slush fund, sparked a cover-up and eventually saw Nixon become the only US president to resign in August 1974.

Fellow operative Liddy went to prison for four-and-a-half years for the break-in, which aimed to plant listening devices to spy on the Democrats during the Republican president's re-election campaign.

Hunt's phone number was famously found in address books belonging to the Watergate burglars and helped investigators and famed Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein link the break-in to Nixon's campaign.

During World War II, Hunt was part of the Office of Strategic Services, the shadowy wartime US intelligence service which eventually evolved into the CIA and other US espionage agencies. As a CIA officer, he had a hand in the botched 1961 US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

He also churned out a string of spy novels under his own name and pseudonyms.