Plumbers Unit Documents

"The Plumbers Unit" was a discreet collection of White House staff created under President Nixon in 1971 to stop information "leaks" to the press, which had become a nagging problem to the president and his upper level staff. The following three documents deal with a variety of issues pertaining to it.







CONFIDENTIAL September 29, 1971


FROM: Fred Malek [Director, White House Personnel Office]


The purpose of this memo is to brief you on my plan for dealing with the problem of leaks.


 Since the President’s forceful direction on this problem, there have been a minimum of

major improper disclosures requiring your attention. However, the number of minor, hard to

track down, infractions has continued. In fact, a CIA study predicts that at the present rate, we

will have 4 times the number of improper disclosures of national security information this year

as we had in 1970. This study is attached at Tab A, and John Ehrlichman tells me it is the basis

for his recent comments to you on this subject.


 Responsibility for dealing with this problem has been centralized with me. However, it

will be necessary to have separate approaches for national security leaks and domestic leaks.

National Security. As you know, Bud Krogh [aide to Chief Domestic Adviser John

Ehrlichman] and David Young [former National Security Council aide to Henry Kissinger],

under Ehrlichman’s direction, are already conducting a comprehensive investigation of national

security leaks. They plan to continue this, and any efforts on my part to actually investigate will

be redundant. Rather, my role will be to keep informed of their efforts, to crack down hard on

any violators who are uncovered, and to report to you on any cases needing your intervention.

Their problem to date is identifying the violators, but I feel they are on the right track.

 Domestic. This covers all leads not involving national security, some of which could

involve [the Department of] State or DOD [Department of Defense]. There are, of course, a

large number of minor infractions in this area, and I do not believe we at the White House

should try to locate the origins except in the most obvious cases. Rather, I plan to remain

continually alert to leaks, forcefully call them to the attention of Department Heads, insist on

actions, and follow through to ensure actions are taken. Where multiple sources are involved,

we would coordinate the follow through from here. When a violator is identified, I would

ensure a hard crackdown.






July 22, 1971

TO: John Ehrlichman [Chief Domestic Adviser]

FROM: Charles Colson

RE: Further on Pentagon Papers

    As we discussed earlier this week I met today with Bud Krogh and reviewed with him

what he has done to date and what his immediate plans are.

    We both agreed that the major task at hand is to pull together all of the information that

is available in Justice, Defense, CIA, State and outside. We must determine whether we have a

case that can be made public with respect to Ellsberg and any conspiracy with colleagues.

    At the moment I think Bud has a good investigative mechanism (although he thinks he

will need the full time services of Jack Caulfield, a matter I would like to discuss with you).

Leddy [Counsel to the Committee to Reelect the President, G. Gordon Liddy] is an excellent

man. Hunt can be very useful. . .

    Whether we can make the case publicly is one question; a second question is where the

political punch line is even if we can make the case. To paint Ellsberg black is probably a good

thing; to link him into a conspiracy which suggests treasonous conduct is also a good thing, but

the real political payoff will come only if we can establish that there is what the National

Review has called a “counter government” which is deliberately trying to undermine U.S.

foreign policy and the U.S. position in the world and that it is the President who stands against

this “counter government,” who conquers them and who rescues the nation from the subversion

of these unsavory characters. We must be certain we can direct this effort in a way that gives us

the political positions we need and ties our political opposition into the enemy camp.

 There is a second objective, however, as to which I think the political payoff is even

more significant. Congressional hearings will begin this fall in both the Senate and the House on

the revelations of the Kennedy/Johnson papers. It is in this forum that we can clearly nail our

prospective Democratic opponents, thoroughly discredit the Kennedy power elite which

masterminded our foreign policy during the Kennedy Administration and which LBJ

unfortunately inherited. There is considerable research which must be done into the events and

personalities of the entire era. We need to know the vulnerable points like the Diem coup, build

our case from what is in the public record and what we can dig out ourselves and see that it is

adequately fed to the people on the Hill who will be on our side during the hearings. Bud had

not focused on the second objective. IN my opinion, it is politically more promising to us,

although I am clearly in favor of doing both.

 As to the first effort (i.e., Ellsburg) [sic] Bud and Dave Young are working in tandem. I

question, however, whether Dave should be involved at this stage in the second effort.

 I have assigned Howard Hunt the job of going through the Pentagon Papers, picking out

those areas where we might be able to expose the Harrimans, the Warnkes, the Cliffords, the

Vances, the McGeorge Bundys and McNamaras, etc. He will begin an independent investigation

of the facts surrounding each of these key targets as he has done with the coup episode. Each of

the prospecitve Democratic opponents next year can be vulnerable if we can tie them or their

advisers into gross misjudgments committed during this period.

 There is some considerable internal delicacy to this second phase. My thought is that

Howard should do a complete evaluation both substantively and politically over the next few

weeks. When that is completed we will have to make a decision as to the points that we can and

want to make and the modus operandi.

 It seems to me that at this point you and I need to spend a few minutes to be sure that we

are tracking correctly on this and to cover one or tow administrative points that have been raised.

[from: Colson Papers, Nixon Archives, National Archives]






July 28, 1971

MEMORANDUM FOR: Charles Colson

FROM: Howard Hunt

SUBJECT: Naturalization of Ellsberg

 I am proposing a skeletal operations plan aimed at building a file on Ellsberg that will

contain all available overt, covert and derogatory information. This basic tool is essential in

determining how to destroy his public image and credibility.


Obtain all overt press material on Ellsberg and continue its collection;

Request CIA to perform a covert psychological assessment/evaluation on Ellsberg;

Interview Ellsberg’s first wife;

Interview Ellsberg’s Saigon contact: the restaurant owner, Nicolal, and his mistress whom

     Ellsberg coveted;

Request CIA, FBI, and CIC for their full holdings on Ellsberg;

Examine Ellsberg personnel files at ISA (Pentagon) and the Rand Corporation, including

     clearance materials;

Obtain Ellsberg’s files from his psychiatric analyst;

Inventory Ellsberg’s ISA and Rand colleagues; determine where they are, and whether any might

    be approachable.

 I realize that, as a practical matter, not all foregoing items can be accomplished; even so,

they represent desiderata.

[from: Statement of Information Impeachment Inquiry, Committee on the Judiciary, H.R., 93rd Cong., 2 session, 208]