Scorpions’ Dance: The President, the Spymaster, and Watergate

Jefferson Morley. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-27583-7

In this eye-opening investigation, journalist Morley (The Ghost) scrutinizes the CIA’s involvement in the Watergate scandal. Drawing on taped conversations between Richard Nixon and CIA director Richard Helms, Morley claims that “the Watergate affair originated in the clandestine collaborative relationship” between the two men. He points out that five of the seven burglars had CIA connections and notes that an agency informant helped burglar James McCord destroy documents after the break-in. The book’s most intriguing sections delve into events that occurred before Watergate, as Morley details how Helms worked with Nixon to escalate the Vietnam War and prevent Chilean president Salvador Allende from taking office after his 1970 election. Morley also documents Helms’s involvement in the downplaying of the CIA’s “pre-assassination knowledge” of Lee Harvey Oswald, the killing of Chilean general René Schneider, and the surveillance of U.S. citizens involved in the antiwar movement, and notes that Helms’s success in publicly distancing the CIA from the Watergate scandal enabled it to avoid scrutiny of the burglars’ other activities, including “intrusions at the Chilean Embassy and the offices of Chilean officials.” Packed with lucid analyses of complex geopolitical events, this is a vital reconsideration of recent American history. (June)