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Nixon, Hoover Bonded Over FBI Dark Arts, Pinups: Lewis Lapham

Lewis Lapham, of
Lewis Lapham, of "Lapham's Quarterly," in New York. Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg

Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) -- One night in October 1969, President Richard Nixon, Attorney General John Mitchell and counsel John Ehrlichman went over to J. Edgar Hoover’s place for a manly dinner.

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation chief served them drinks in his living room, its dingy walls covered with glossy photos of Hoover posing with dead movie stars.

After a meal of chili and steak, served in a dining room lit by lava lamps burbling green, purple and red, they went for after-dinner drinks to a basement decorated with posters of naughty pin-ups.

All night the president and his men lapped up Hoover’s tales of illegal FBI exploits, including secret bugging, late-night entries and black-bag jobs.

Soon, the FBI was mounting extensive operations aimed at the country’s new left. When the plan was formalized, approved by the president and presented to Hoover, he balked, fearing it would bring down the FBI.

The president then created the Plumbers, his own secret squad of burglars and wire tappers headed up by ex-FBI man G. Gordon Liddy.

I spoke with Tim Weiner, author of “Enemies: A History of the FBI,” on the following topics:

1. Invention of the FBI

2. Hoover’s Manipulations

3. Hatred of CIA

4. From Hero to Villain

5. Modern Surveillance State

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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