IWALKED WASHINGTON D.C.’S WATERGATE SCANDAL
Watergate is best recognized as the site of a political scandal that transpired within its eleven-story hotel at 2600 Virginia Avenue in 1972 and led to the eventual resignation of the 37th President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon. The resulting scandal, that would inherit the name of the complex, evolved around the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) which occupied the sixth floor. In January 1972, the general counsel to the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, G. Gordon Liddy, proposed a plan (code named the GEMSTONE plan) to wiretap and monitor activity within the DNC. The plan was initiated on May 28, 1972, when the first of multiple break-ins to the DNC occurred. During this evening in question, the burglars photographed and stole documents within the DNC offices and also bugged the phones of the chairman’s office. A second break-in was planned in June 1972 after it was noted the phone tap planted in May had proved defective. After two failed prior attempts, five burglars initiated a second break-in to the DNC offices at approximately 1 a.m. on June 17, 1972. During their mission, a lone security guard by the name of Frank Wills, was making his normal rounds when he noticed that a series of doors had their locks duct taped thereby disallowing the locks to work properly. At first dismissing the incident, Wills continued to make his rounds throughout the hotel. On a second pass of the same area approximately one hour later, however, he noticed that the previously removed tape had been replaced. Now fully on alert, Mr. Wills proceeded to notify the police of possible suspected illegal activity. Five men were arrested that evening and an investigation ensued. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) traced payments made to the men arrested to the Committee for the Re-Election of the President. As evidence mounted a recording was identified in July 1973 that formally traced a cover-up of the investigation all of the way up President Nixon. In all, forty-three people would be arrested in connection with the incident and Richard Nixon would re-sign from the office of the presidency (versus face possible implications of impeachment) on August 9, 1974.
The investigation was largely aided by the efforts of two reporters for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Working with an alleged informant nicknamed “Deep Throat” they were provided with key evidences that demonstrated cover-up at all levels of government. The informant was officially confirmed via an article in Vanity Fair in 2005 (thirty-three years after the incident) as the number-two man in the FBI at the time, Deputy Director of the FBI, William Mark Felt.
The incident was the subject of a 1976 movie starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the famed Post reporters. For preparation of filming of the movie, Redford and Hoffman spent months within the offices of the Washington Post doing research. Although they were denied the right to film within the offices, a crew of workers measured every detail within to meticulously recreate the working environment. One individual involved in the actual incident, security guard Frank Wills, actually recreated his role in the film
In regards to Mr. Wills, sadly his years subsequent to unearthing one of the biggest scandals ever were a tragic tale. After seeking a raise for his role in the Watergate Scandal and being refused, Wills quit his position expecting greater opportunities down the road. Unfortunately, despite a short lived period on the talk show circuit, he found himself hopping from job to job. Short on cash he was forced to move in with his mother and when her health took a turn for the worse he dedicated his time to taking care of her. Wills was arrested for shoplifting in 1983 and died without a penny to his name in 2000.
Address: 2650 Virginia Avenue, NW, Washington, DC
IWalked Audio Tours To See This Site: Washington D.C’s White House and Foggy Bottom. (Download the MP3 tour here. iPhone application tour is available here. Please note, all WashingtonD.C. tours are now available as in-app purchases upon download of ourFREEWashingtonD.C.Tours application, which includes a nearly 4-hour tour of the National Mall.)