1970 July 27

President Nixon Withdraws Approval of Huston Plan For Spying, Illegal Actions Against Americans


The Huston Plan, ordered by President Richard Nixon on June 5, 1970, called for a set of repressive and in some cases illegal methods against anti-Vietnam War activists. Nixon wanted action because of the massive student protests against the Vietnam War that began on May 1, 1970. Nixon originally approved the plan on July 14, 1970, but changed his mind and ordered it cancelled on this day. The plan was named after Tom Charles Huston, a Nixon administration staff person who specialized in national security. The exact reasons for the cancellation are still not clear. Most historians believe that J. Edgar Hoover, despite his own history of illegal actions, convinced Nixon to cancel the plan. Some historians believe that Hoover did not want other agencies, especially the CIA, intruding on his turf. Others argue that Hoover, aware of changing public attitudes on secret government actions, was worried about public exposure of some of the proposed actions.

Tom Huston was pushed aside in the White House and finally resigned in June 1971. Although the plan itself was cancelled, its spirit lived on. The Nixon White House established the “Plumbers” unit in 1971, which on September 9, 1971, burglarized the office of the psychiatrist treating Daniel Ellsberg, who had released the Pentagon Papers. When the burglary was revealed, the Justice Department dropped the criminal charges against Ellsberg because of official misconduct. On January 27, 1972, meanwhile, White House operative G. Gordon Liddy proposed GEMSTONE, a plan for a series of actions — many of them illegal — against anti-Vietnam War and anti-Nixon activists. The GEMSTONE plan was rejected, but it provided the model for the Watergate burglary, on June 17, 1972, which touched off the Watergate Scandal. The scandal ended with President Richard Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974.

Read the Church Committee Report on the Huston Plan (pp. 921–973): http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/church/reports/book3/html/ChurchB3_0479a.htm

Learn more: Stanley Kutler, The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon (1990)

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