Interview by Bruce David and Dan Kapelovitz
The orchestrator of the Watergate break-ins and author of When I Was a Kid, This Was a Free Country tells it like it was, at least as he sees it.
Criminal-rehabilitation advocates could not ask for a better poster boy than G. Gordon Liddy. After spending nearly five years in prison for his roles in the Watergate burglaries and the Daniel Ellsberg break-ins, as well as for refusing to testify before Congress, the former rogue is now a successful radio talk-show host and author. He has written three best-sellers, including his highly entertaining autobiography, Will, in which he describes, among other things, how he overcame his fear of rats by eating one. In his latest book, When I Was a Kid, This Was a Free Country, Liddy longs for the America of his youth, when a kid could walk down the street carrying a shotgun, burn leaves in the gutter and make homemade firecrackers. More importantly, Liddy fears that people have lost the right to speak their minds. As an adamant believer in freedom of speech, HUSTLER lets Liddy mouth off on the government, the media and the "whacko greenies" (i.e., environmentalists).
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HUSTLER: Tell us about your book.
LIDDY: I experienced 70% of the 20th century and what little we've had of the 21st, and I was reflecting upon the fact that, these days, an awful lot of the liberties that I enjoyed as a youth are just not there. We lost them salami-tactics-style-just one slice at a time-always in the name of some perceived good, but we lost them. And the young people who I'm trying to reach do not miss what they never had. I want to show them what we used to have, how terrific it was, and alert them to the fact this is still happening, and that it's going to be up to them to stop it so that they don't lose even more.
HUSTLER: What do you believe are the causes for the erosion of our liberties?
LIDDY: The causes are that, unfortunately, the people who control this country-the elite in the media, the entertainment industry and in academia-believe themselves so better-educated than all the rest of us that they are anointed, if not by God then by divine right of punditry, to supervise the rest of us who aren't really smart enough to know what to do with our discretionary income. [They say] we ought to be buying small, roller-skate cars-we certainly should not be driving big SUVs the way I drive-and the way they exert control is through legislation. They get the approval for it by drumming it up in the editorial page, by yakking it up on the pundits' news programs on television and by having it blessed by the academics.
HUSTLER: Of course, on the Right, there's the giant corporations' influence on legislation.
LIDDY: The giant corporations are interested in advancing the interests of their shareholders and making money. That does not require them to restrict the liberties of the people.
HUSTLER: How do you respond to people who say that the corporations control our politicians?
LIDDY: The fact is they don't. Here is the problem with that argument: Essentially, it is the conspiratorial view of government, history and everything else that there is this great spiderweb, and in the center of the spiderweb sits, of course, the spider. Now, depending upon your particular prejudice, the spider is either the corporations, or it's the unions, or it's the Catholics, or it's the Jews, or it's the Masons, and they're controlling everything. Of course, that is nonsense. Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that those institutions wanted to control the world or control the country, they would cancel each other out.
HUSTLER: What is your position regarding the World Trade Organization?
LIDDY: It is an attempt to organize, to some extent, what would otherwise be a chaotic situation. We're in a global economy now, and the various countries of the world are trying to compete with the giant economy of the United States. Thus, you have the European Union, in which the countries of Europe are creating a very large trading bloc so that they can compete with the United States. The United States is countering that by creating a trading bloc between the United States, Canada and countries to the south of us, and so on.
HUSTLER: As a loyal defender of America's sovereignty, aren't you concerned that the WTO supersedes our own authority and hammers out agreements behind closed doors? Shouldn't these decisions be made by the citizens?
LIDDY: The citizens, in their wisdom, elect representatives. We have a representative government, a republic, and they, in the citizens' name, enter into treaties. Treaties are agreements, like a contract. There's an adage in the law that all language is subject to construction. People disagree on the meaning of phrases, and they get into arguments. That's what the court system is for. In these international agreements, they anoint an arbiter, and everybody agrees, "Okay, whatever the arbiter says, that's what we'll go along with." That's not sinister; that's just efficient.
HUSTLER: Would you agree that, if the American people knew what was going on, they might be upset about these agreements that their representatives are entering into?
LIDDY: What's going on is their own fault. They're supposed to be informed voters.
HUSTLER: How do you respond to the accusation that the corporate-owned press is not reporting the real news?
LIDDY: We're back to the spiderweb, and there's holes in that, because not all newspapers follow the same line.
HUSTLER: But now there are only, perhaps, six megacorporations that control basically all the news outlets.
LIDDY: In my hometown here, Washington, D.C., you've got two newspapers. You've got the Washington Post, which is liberal, leftist, and reports [some] things and doesn't report other things inconsistent with their agenda. And you've got the Washington Times, which is quite the opposite; so you can get a balanced view by reading both, although I also read the European press. I find that sometimes very rewarding.
HUSTLER: I gather you don't believe there is an environmental catastrophe looming on the horizon.
LIDDY: No. To which one of the many Henny Penny, the-sky-is-falling environmental catastrophes that the whacko greenies are peddling are you referring?
HUSTLER: You have to admit that we have seen an explosion of chemicals added into the ecosphere, which this planet has never seen before.
LIDDY: No, I don't. The air is actually probably cleaner right now than it was in my youth. I grew up not terribly far from Jersey City, New Jersey. "Everything for industry" was its slogan, and a smellier place you would never experience.
HUSTLER: You're talking about a coal-burning age in which the pollutants were, relatively speaking, benign. Two months ago, California Governor Gray Davis overturned a proposal that would have prevented recycling radioactive, contaminated metals into scrap, which will then be recycled into spoons, knives, zippers, your kids' braces and what have you.
LIDDY: There's a natural background radiation, and a lot of things radiate. What I would like to know, with respect to the example that you quote, is what is the level of radiation? If it registers on something which is recognized by scientific standards as hazardous, it should be banned. If it does not, then I would put it in the category of these environmental whackos who are terribly concerned about the pollution from CO2, which is carbon dioxide. If you don't have carbon dioxide, every plant in the world would die, and that is the deadly pollution that comes out of your mouth, sir, when you breathe out.
HUSTLER: Without knowing whether these radiation levels are harmful or not, would you knowingly put these braces on your child?
LIDDY: I would find out. I'll tell you what you do: You get yourself an ion chamber or a Geiger counter; somebody comes and says, "Here, put these braces on your kid's teeth," and you use the ion chamber or the Geiger counter. If the thing goes [makes sputtering noise], like that, hey, don't put them on your kid's teeth. If it doesn't, put them on the teeth.
HUSTLER: Dan Hirsch, the antinuclear activist and researcher who exposed a 1959 nuclear meltdown in Simi Valley, California, that had been covered up, says it's very difficult to detect these levels of radiation with a Geiger counter.
LIDDY: If the assertion is that there exists still some radiation coming from that area, and if the assertion is that the radiation is not detectable by Geiger counters or ion chambers, I fail to see the hazard. After all, nobody ever caught a cold at Three Mile Island.
HUSTLER: Except that there is a huge cancer cluster in that end of Simi Valley, which is where [nuclear-power company] Rocketdyne is located, and also in the surrounding areas.
LIDDY: Post hoc ergo hoc. That is Latin; it means, "After the fact, therefore because of the fact." That is a classical logical fallacy. All these elements, which could pollute if they were released in sufficient dosage-if you study toxicology, you will know that the poison is in the dose. You can take minute amounts of all kinds of things which, if you took large amounts of, you'd be in serious trouble.
HUSTLER: But can you take small amounts of the thousands of types of chemicals or pollutants that we pump out every day?
LIDDY: What chemicals? I mean, there's all kinds of things. Bicarbonate of soda? What are you talking about?
HUSTLER: What about the fact that Brookhaven Nuclear Laboratory was leaching plutonium into the water supply of Long Island for 11 years before they reported it?
LIDDY: Then they were certainly remiss in their obligation to their fellow citizens. Plutonium is highly dangerous. It's very, very poisonous. Again, I would ask you, how much, what in, and what were the parts per million, who died from it and so forth?
HUSTLER: You think the American press has a leftist bias, rather than a right-wing, pro-corporate bias, but recently 200,000 people protested in New York against the war and received shockingly little coverage, considering how many people showed up.
LIDDY: The reason, I suspect, is because those were the usual suspects. If you check the people who were there, it's your old Marxist Socialist Workers Party people, former Communist Party member people, hard leftists. One would expect them to take positions against the United States.
HUSTLER: Even if they're Communists, we don't exclude such events from the news; a 200,000-person rally is almost as big as the Vietnam demonstrations well after that war began.
LIDDY: But so what?
HUSTLER: It goes back to the issue of whether there's a left-wing or pro- government, pro-corporate bias in the press.
LIDDY: Except that that was evidence of left-wing bias, because they wouldn't want everybody knowing that all these Socialists and Communists and what have you were the ones who made it up.
HUSTLER: What do you think of the USA PATRIOT Act as it relates to the freedoms in this country?
LIDDY: I'm very wary of the PATRIOT Act. First of all, I was deathly against the internal-passport aspects of it. That got struck down, fortunately, in the Congress. The business where all the postal workers and utility people were supposed to be snitches-that got shot down, thank God. I do not like some of the provisions of the wiretapping statutes that are in there, because I think that they infringe on the Fourth Amendment. I would be very, very careful about the PATRIOT Act. We're gonna have to be eagle-sharp in watching them on virtually every case.
HUSTLER: I take it you're more forgiving of a Republican President passing this kind of act?
LIDDY: No, I'm not forgiving at all. I don't like the act. I'm sorry that it got through.
HUSTLER: How do you feel about the Bush Presidency in general?
LIDDY: I think it's very good, because he is pressing the war on Iraq; he's defending the United States. The best defense is a good offense.
HUSTLER: How do you justify the Iraqi war, since, apparently, there's no evidence they have nuclear weapons? Even the CIA recently rebutted the President's statement that Iraq was a threat to the United States, saying they pose no threat unless we attack them.
LIDDY: That CIA is the CIA under George Tenet, who is a Clinton holdover. He is far more interested in diversity, sensitivity training and all of that than he is in collecting and analyzing intelligence, and doing it properly and well. That report has been discredited itself by the rest of the intelligence community, and the fact is, no, Saddam Hussein does not possess a nuclear bomb. He has the entire nuclear bomb ready to just drop in the active material, which is U235. He only needs about the size of a softball, and he's good to go. I don't think it wise or prudent for us to wait until he gets that and uses it, say, against Israel, and then say, "Oh, all right, now we're going to take him out." I remember when Adolf Hitler marched in the Rhineland. We could have stopped Adolf Hitler then, and millions of lives in Europe would have been saved. I think we should learn from history.
HUSTLER: As a former FBI agent, how do you feel about the FBI being told not to look into the Bin Laden family before 9/11 because of Bush's connections to the Bin Ladens?
LIDDY: The Bin Laden family is not all tainted with the guilt of Osama bin Laden. It's a huge family, a big clan, and they have disowned Osama bin Laden. They don't talk to him or anything else. There are some of them who are, of course, sympathetic to him. I don't know which part of the Bin Laden family the FBI was restricted from investigating. It may have been the benign part.
HUSTLER: The FBI was restricted from investigating all but Osama, and, as soon as travel restrictions were lifted, the entire Bin Laden family was scooted out of the country before the FBI could talk with any of them. As you know, when there is a murder, or a mass murder in the case of Osama bin Laden's attack on the United States, you would want to interview the relatives, whether they were white sheep or black sheep.
LIDDY: I agree. I think it was a huge lapse by the FBI to allow the family to be ushered out of the country. I think they were caught napping.
HUSTLER: Do you think the FBI and CIA should be given more power to fight the war on terror?
LIDDY: No, I think that they've got ample legal ability to do their job. I don't think that they need any more powers.
HUSTLER: What are your thoughts on gun control?
LIDDY: A firearm is an inanimate object. It's a tool. You can put it down on the table, fully loaded, cock it, walk away. Nothing's going to happen until somebody picks it up and uses it for a good purpose or an evil purpose. All these laws that are directed at the guns are directed off target.
HUSTLER: It seems that we do need an armed citizenry to protect ourselves against the government.
LIDDY: Well, that's what the framers put the Second Amendment in there for. It wasn't to preserve hunting and things of that sort; it was so that, if the government ever again became tyrannical, the citizens would still possess the means to throw it off as they had thrown off the government of George III.
HUSTLER: Yes, but you seem to have more trust in our government than most these days.
LIDDY: Well, I don't know. I'm pretty distrustful of government. You must be nearly paranoid then.
HUSTLER: Maybe, but you're more comfortable with a right-leaning government than a left-leaning government?
LIDDY: Yes, because the left ones always want to take our liberties away and give them to the government.
HUSTLER: But it's your right-leaning Bush government pushing through the PATRIOT Act.
LIDDY: The PATRIOT Act is just one thing.
HUSTLER: It's one huge thing. What do you think about the Right's antisex, antiporn agenda, trying to control what transpires in people's bedrooms, such as what John Ashcroft would like to do?
LIDDY: Certain religious bodies feel more strongly about that than others, but I wouldn't say that the Right en masse has any one position on those things.
HUSTLER: What's your personal position on pornography?
LIDDY: Well, it's not my cup of tea, and I certainly don't want to see it available to children, but I think adults have the right to view what they want to view. I think that there's a First Amendment right to do that.
HUSTLER: What did you think of Ashcroft covering the breasts of the Spirit of Justice statue?
LIDDY: I really thought that was funny. I laughed like hell when I saw that. I used to be in that room. I've been in ceremonies in the Great Hall of Justice with the President of the United States, and I don't know of anybody who even noticed whether the statue's breasts were covered or not. And I know of no one who was offended.
HUSTLER: In your autobiography, Will, there are many instances when you are about to kill someone or planning to kill someone. Have you ever killed a man?
LIDDY: There's no statute of limitations on that stuff. The big "S" on my forehead that you see does not stand for "simple."