Just after 1:30 in the morning fifty years ago, on June 17, 1972, Frank Wells, who was working as a night watchman in a large Washington apartment, office and hotel complex, noticed that someone had tampered with the locks and called the police. Police arrived and arrested five men who had stormed the offices of the United States Democratic Party, armed with microphones and cameras. The complex was called the Watergate and although it already had a wonderful history for the city of Washington, the next morning it began to make up a new history for the whole country and for the whole world.
The men arrested at Watergate worked in the White House, then led by Republican President Richard Nixon who would be re-elected for a second term a few months later: they were part of a group and project of sabotage, surveillance, and illegal activities, built by the paranoid and criminal thinking that grew in the White House throughout the Nixon administration years . Thought guided and induced himself and infected all his chief associates to the point of becoming ungovernable and producing insane and belated projects, as well as a great deal of public and judicial lies to prevent those projects from being revealed.
The revelation was entrusted with a series of parallel investigations that took more than two years to force Nixon to resign: the FBI investigation, which the White House has systematically hampered with cover-up and deterrence, the trial of those arrested at Watergate. Those who have long been silent on their own principles, those of a parliamentary committee charged with understanding something, and those of the few journalists—the most insistent and celebrated are those who will become of Washington Post – who kept finding what happened suspicious and not convinced by the accounts that it was just a “fourth degree robbery” or the work of a bad apple from the CIA.
But if those two years of investigation failed to fully explain the genesis of the Watergate storm, it ended up revealing to Americans the continued work of misdirection by the White House not to trace it and other initiatives to Nixon against policy. The opponents, as well as a number of other startling and manipulative stories that accompanied Nixon’s rich and varied political career: and televised Senate committee hearings made all too familiar a number of these stories’ protagonists and their various interests in illegal activities.
Many of these stories—which over fifty years have occupied dozens and dozens of books and novels, and there are still things we don’t know—are told in the podcast’s four episodes. Fourth degree theft, produced by The Post and told by director Luca Sofri, is online today fifty years after that night in Watergate. You can listen to it for free here on the post, on the app (Download it here) but also on major podcast platforms, such as spotifyAnd the Apple PodcastAnd the amazon music and google podcast. It starts like this:
The story always begins with a piece of masking tape. It’s a crazy, full of stories inside, that started long before the scotch, but when someone goes to tell it, in the end they always decide to start with the scotch. A piece of masking tape is attached to the door latch, and it is glued there so that the door does not close. It’s Saturday night, June 17, 1972, fifty years ago, it was a half past hour. Frank Wells is the security guard for a large, luxury apartment and office complex on the bank of the Potomac River in Washington: He’s recently hired and runs a round of checks, finding that one of the doors lets you go higher than the garage on the floors has a lock latch covered with a piece of eviction tape, so that Does not click or close the door.
It sometimes happens that the servants and workers who work nearby during the day put it up, so that they can move freely between the different spaces: the underground garage is very large, the complex also includes a hotel, offices and shops, and all need frequent maintenance. Frank Wells thought they would have forgotten about it, and removed it, allowing the lock to close. Then he continues his rounds, after half an hour he is back, and on the latch of the same door is an identical piece of masking tape. Someone blocked it again so it wouldn’t shut down. Wills reaches for a phone, calls the police, and asks someone to come over, because there’s something strange about Watergate.
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