AGENCY OF FEAR by Edward Jay Epstein


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Room 16, the famous Nixon dirty-tricks department in the Executive Office Building, was originally assembled as a task force against drugs and crime; but as an illicit operation it had the potential, Epstein writes, to accomplish ""a subversive shift of power at the top. . . tantamount to an American coup d'etat."" Drawing on the private files of trickster Egil Krogh, Epstein adds details to the previously known outline of clandestine executive operations, though his ""coup"" terminology seems as overstretched at the end as at the beginning. Adopting the drug-war rhetoric of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Nixon in early 1969 suddenly discovered an army of addicts and diverted agents from the FBI and other departments into what became successively the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement, the Office of National Narcotics Intelligence, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Room 16, the squad headquarters, is credited with a rash of violent, unconstitutional drug-related break-ins at Collinsville, Ill., as well as, earlier, the attempted burglary of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatric files. Epstein also accuses the Nixon crew of illegally diverting Law Enforcement Assistance Administration funds to White House use. On the comic side, Nixon's war on Turkish opium deprived the US cough-medicine industry of codeine, while his obsession with the ""French connection"" sent a squad of agents into the Marseilles sewers with special opium sniffers. Watergate, bagging Krogh, his superior John Ehrlichmann, Howard Hunt, and Gordon Liddy, closed the door to Room 16--just in time to avert a coup, Epstein would have it. He wrote Inquest (1966) after investigating the JFK assassination; this is another rather strident elaboration of a clouded episode, but this too may be much read.

Pub Date: May 30th, 1977
ISBN: 0860915298
Publisher: Putnam