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Egil Krogh tells his story in "Integrity"

Thirty years ago, Krogh was behind Nixon's closed doors. Today he wants others to learn from his mistake.

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President Richard Nixon, much like George W. Bush, believed in an expansive interpretation of executive power, especially in the context of "national security." Nixon once expressed an almost imperial sense of executive infallibility, telling interviewer David Frost that "when the president does it, it's not illegal." Nixon had no qualms about ordering illegal surveillance of political opponents or burglarizing opponents' offices in search of evidence with which to discredit them. Nixon's views led to Watergate, and his eventual resignation.

Egil "Bud" Krogh worked for Richard Nixon, and went to prison trying to do his bidding. Yet unlike Nixon himself or Nixon's other White House conspirators, Krogh did the unthinkable: He took full responsibility for his illegal actions and pleaded guilty to violating his victims' civil rights. In retrospect, Krogh admits that "my absolute loyalty to President Nixon personally and to his view of the national security threat had skewed my perspective. This kind of absolute loyalty lacked integrity...." Krogh rejected Nixon's expansive view of national security "as a blanket justification for any type of conduct."

Integrity is Krogh's enlightening, straightforward description of how he went wrong and how he's tried to make it right. It begins with the divisiveness of an unpopular war and a president trying to defend his policy. When military analyst Daniel Ellsberg leaked the top-secret Pentagon Papers (a pessimistic view of US involvement in Vietnam) to The New York Times in 1971, Nixon went ballistic and wanted Ellsberg punished.

In a July 1971 meeting with Krogh's boss John Ehrlichman (counsel to the president), Nixon described his plan to undermine Ellsberg: "I really need some [S.O.B.] ... who will work his butt off and do it dishonorably," said Nixon. "We are going to use any means. Is that clear?" In order to destroy Ellsberg, Nixon needed somebody loyal who wouldn't ask troubling questions and could keep his mouth closed.

Ehrlichman gave the assignment to Bud Krogh, telling him it "had been deemed of the highest national security importance by the president." Krogh, a former Navy officer who had babysat Ehrlichman's kids, soon hired G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt to handle operational issues. Initially, Krogh believed both patriotism and loyalty justified his conduct. In an effort to smear Ellsberg, a burglary of his psychiatrist's office was carried out, after being approved by Ehrlichman. The burglars broke in on Aug. 11, 1971, but found nothing of use.

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