Age of Secrets  - The Conspiracy that Toppled Richard Nixon and the Hidden Death of Howard Hughes   by Gerald Bellett
(notes from the book)

Published in Canada by Voyageur North America, 1995 - hard cover, 1st edition


To understand Watergate one must know the target of the CIA burglars. Did Richard Nixon know and approve the operation?

John Herbert Meier

Chapter 1 - "Beginnings of Intrigue"

After WWI the German economy was ruined by post-war reparation payments. The German people were demoralized by the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.

John Meier's father, Herbert Meier

John Meier

Chapter 2 - "Dialogues With the Great Enigma"

1924, 19 year-old Texan Howard Hughes inherited his father's Hughes Tool Company and fortune.

1959 Hughes gave Meiers a job in the computer division at Hughes Aircraft. Meier & family moved to California. Meier later worked at Remington Rand Univac. Within two years Bill Gay hired Meier at Hughes Dynamics.

Meier started a consulting company with Hughes Aircraft as a client.

Both Meier and Hughes were proponents of nuclear disarmament. Meier became a director of an anti-nuclear activist group "Fund For Survival". Hughes donated $$ to it. Also members were Steve Allen and actor Robert Ryan. The fund wanted to see a controlled dismantling by the United Nations.

Chapter 3 - "The Atomic Energy Commission"

1966, to dodge state income tax Hughes left California. Was concerned that the Atomic Energy Commission's (AEC) atomic testing in Nevada was not safe, so he hired Meier to look into it.


1967 Meier gave his report on radiation hazards to Bob Mahue (future head of Hughes' Nevada Operations)

Hughes was stunned, and made Meier his scientific advisor to gather info to fight the AEC. Meier was put on Mahue's payroll to distant himselft from Hughes if things got too hot.

Meier investigated, visited test sites, interviewed AEC personnel. Learned about radiation contamination into the atmosphere and underground water contamination. For the next three years Hughes and the AEC fought each other. Meier hired George Roth as an assistant to monitor the water for radiation.

Hughes saw a psychic, Peter Hurkos.

Age 61, Hughes was in failing health and thought he could cheat death by cryonics: freezing a dead body until science advanced enough to resuscitate the body and prolong life. This way Hughes could live forever!

At the AEC's headquarters in Las Vegas, Meier met with an angry Robert Miller, director of the AEC's Nevada program. He told Meier to "back off," this is national security.

Hughes told Meier to hire anybody he wanted to fight the AEC, including Washington lobbyists. He hired Joseph Napolitan & Associates.

1968 Hughes' requests to postpone "Boxcar" (AEC's biggest nuclear bomb to date) were ignored by the AEC and President Johnson.

May 1968: on Hughes' behalf Meier and Maheu met with V.P. Hubert Humphrey (who was anti-nuclear) to discuss the AEC and nuclear testing. Maheu has testified that Humphrey accepted 1/2 of a $100,000 bribe. But according to Meier, Humphrey almost beat up Maheu when he was offered the $$ and didn't accept it.

Meier supported Robert Kennedy for President.

June 4: Meier talked to RFK and Paul Schrade and arranged a meeting to discuss ending underground nuclear testing.

June 5: RFK killed, Schrade wounded.

Meier now supported Hubert Humphrey for President.

July 8: Meier met with Don and Edward Nixon, and Bebe Rebozo (Richard Nixon's confidant) in NY to make Hughes' position on the AEC and nuclear testing clear.

Meier quietly hired Thomas E. Murray Jr. to help fight the AEC.

July 29, 1968: Maheu convinces Meier to help some of his friends get jobs at Hughes aircraft. It turns out they were CIA guys looking to use the company as cover for activities abroad.

Maheu claims he delivered a $50,000 bribe to V.P. Humphrey that same day, but according to Meier that never happened.

Humphrey convinced Pres. Johnson to commission a presidential panel to study Meier's data on the AEC and nuclear testing. When Johnson got the panel's report he wouldn't let Meier or Humphrey see it!

Chapter 4 - "The CIA Takes Notice"

Meier purposely gave Don Nixon some bogus "Top Secret" election info from the Humphrey campaign, hoping to screw up the Nixon campaign.

Mike Merhige

Meier realized that Maheu & Associates were a CIA front in the Hughes empire.

The job of getting the Civil Aeronautics Board to let Hughes take over Air West was handled by Maheu and Hughes' New York lawyer Chester Davis.

March 1969: at the Airport Hotel in Miami, Ken Wright (the head of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) gave Bebe Rebozo a million dollars cash (for Richard Nixon from Hughes). Meier was also there in the room. CIA people were outside everywhere for protection.

April 1969: CIA dirty tricks team, headed by Cuban-American Virgino Gonzales, took pictures of Ted Kennedy having sex with a woman at the Sands Hotel (owned by Moe Dalitz).

July 1969: at the height of the reports of the Chappaquiddick incident, two Las Vegas papers were about to report the Kennedy sex incident at the Sands Hotel, but with the help of Meier was squelched by Larry O'Brien, Steve Smith (Ted Kennedy's brother-in-law), and Joe Napolitan (political consultant to the Democrats).

The White House was afraid Meier would tell what he knew about the million $ pay-off.

Both the CIA and the Secret Service had full cover on Meier and Don Nixon.

Bebe Rebozo asked Robert Maheu and Richard Danner (Hughes employee) to order Meier to stay away from Don Nixon.

Joaquin Balaguer, President of the Dominican Republic

Chapter 5 - "Hughes Cleans House"

Meier posed questions to the AEC that were hard for them to answer.

April: Nixon press aid, Herb Klein, gave a speech promoting the Anti-ballistic Missle program and more underground tests.

Sept 16: Another bomb detonated in Nevada.

Hughes let Nixon know he was leaving Nevada but wouldn't go quietly.

Dr. John Gofman and Dr. Arthur Tamplin of the AEC's radiation health program spoke out about the hazards.

U.S. Air Force officer Col. Raymond E. Brim

Preston Truman, victim of radiation fallout in Utah as a boy.

Former Alaska Governor Mike Gravel was anti-nuclear, credited Hughes and Meier with preventing the spread of nuclear power within the U.S.

1969: Hughes asked Meier (& not Maheu) to help fix the problem of "skimming" losses in his casinos.

Robert Maheu

Hughes wanted:

This would get rid of Maheu. (Gay, in L.A., and Raymond Holliday, who ran Hughes Tool Company, both hated Maheu.)

Maheu was pissed, so Meier quit working for him.

Chapter 6 - "The Jennifer Project"

After leaving Maheu, Meier created the Nevada Environmental Foundation to continue fighting the AEC, financed by Howard Hughes.

Late 1969: the CIA wanted to use the Hughes Tool Company as a front to build a high-tech "The Hughes Glomar Explorer" vessel to salvage sunken submarines. "The Jennifer Project" was to retrive the sunken Soviet sub 750 miles northwest of Hawaii. Also involved was Goodwin Knight, former Governor of California. But then, Hughes pulled out of the plan.

Easter week, 1970: the AEC exploded another bomb in Nevada. Hughes ordered Meier to take the anti-nuclear crusade to foreign countries.

Meier discovered the CIA was supplying Hughes with drugs, and wondered if it was effecting his mental state.

Meier and his family went to Switzerland and purchased Hughes' cryonic equipment from Dr. Buhler to be shipped to the Hughes Medical Institute in Miami.

Hughes was deteriorating mentally. Meier was concerned that the CIA in Hughes' companies were taking over Hughes without him knowing it.

Chapter 7 - "Flight"

October 29, 1970: Meier told Don Nixon that if President Nixon doesn't help Hughes with the AEC, Hughes will leave the U.S., continue to fight, and destroy Richard Nixon.

Mike O'Callaghan was elected Governor of Nevada.

November 13: Holliday signed an agreement with the CIA to build the Glomar Explorer.

November 14: Hughes signed away control of his Nevada holdings to Gay, Davis and Holliday.

Hughes left Nevada and went to Paradise Island in the Bahamas under Daniel Ludwig's protection.

Maheu claimed Hughes was kidnapped and sent his people to Paradise Island to rescue him.

Ludwig's people captured Maheu's people at the Britannia Beach Hotel.

Mahue assumed control of Hughes' Nevada Operation.

December 4: Intertel (associated with Ludwig) stormed some eleven cashier's cages before Maheu and the Clark County Sheriff's Office evicted them.

Authorities were convinced that Hughes wanted his organization disbanded.

December 7: Intertel agents raided Maheu's command post at The Frontier Hotel, the staff fled out the back.

Resorts International

The fight against AEC ended, Hughes was no longer a problem for the CIA or the White House.

By spring of 1971 Meier had been under surveillance for three years.

Chapter 8 - "The Bait"


Meier, George Clifford (journalist) and Hubert Humphrey talked many times about how they could use their knowledge of the million $ Hughes bribe to get Richard Nixon in trouble.

November 5: at a restaurant Don Nixon asked Meier if Larry O'Brien (now chair of the Democratic National Committee) had an office in the Watergate complex. (He did.) Meier told Don that Paul Schrade was going to help Meier run as a Democrat in New Mexico for the Senate, and Meier was going to tell him everything they wanted to know about Hughes and Richard Nixon.

Meier and Humphrey wanted Richard Nixon to commit an irrational act that would cost him the election.

Bebe Rebozo and Secret Service agents told Meier not to talk to the IRS. They urged Meier to speak to Blech.

At lunch Meier told Don Nixon that he gave Larry O'Brien all of his Hughes info. Meier overheard Don telling this to Richard Nixon on the phone.

Chapter 9 - "Hoax"

By the end of 1971 Meier was campaigning for Senator of New Mexico when a bogus book claiming to be an authorized biography of Hughes was written by Clifford Irving. Chester Davis and the CIA helped make it look like Meier was a part of the hoax, which damaged Meier's political career.

Chester Davis told Meier that he made a mistake taking on the CIA. "....we're gonna fix you."

Chapter 10 - "The Plumbers"

Columnist Jack Anderson reported that $100,000 had been skimmed from one of Hughes' casinos and paid to Nixon after the election.

Nixon and his staff were very vengeful; used the IRS and other fed agencies to go after their enemies.

The Special Investigations Unit

The Mullen Company

E. Howard Hunt was the first chief of covert operations for the CIA's mysterious Domestic Operations Division. Virgino Gonzales, now doing surveilance on Meier, was part of that division.

February 4, 1971: Mitchell authorized the burglary of O'Brien's office at Watergate and publisher Hank Greenspan's office in Las Vegas. Hunt met with a Hughes security man for info on Greenspan's office. The burglaries didn't happen.

Mitchell quits as Attorney General and joined CREEP (Committe for the Re-election of the President).

The Office of Security

February 8, 1971: Don Nixon asked Meier to help recover damaging information given to Larry O'Brien. Meier said no.

February 29, 1971: Meier, George Clifford and Louis Russell met at a restaurant. Russell claimed that the Republicans were planning to break into O'Brien's office in the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

Louis Russell

Through Hunt and McCord, the CIA had infiltrated the Plumbers and CREEP -- and with Russell's connections to George Clifford, also the Meier/Humphrey group.

1972, Clifford and Jack Anderson wrote a book publicizing White House dirty dealings and classified documents. Office of Security assigned CIA surveillance on them.

In March, Hunt plotted to murder Jack Anderson.

McCord was investigating Anderson, and gave a report to the Office of Security. Don Nixon and the CIA probably knew by now that the Democrats were aware of the million $ pay-off and were planning to expose it.

Early 1972: the White House, CIA and Hughes organization wanted to know what explosive information was in Larry O'Brien's office.

March 20: The Hughes Tool Company (Chester Davis) filed a law suit against Meier in Salt Lake City for mining properties he helped purchase for Hughes. Claimed Meier was part of a conspiracy to divvy up $8 million of profits with some other people.

March 21: Meier went to Vancouver, B.C., wanted to talk to Howard Hughes about the deal. At a restaurant John Holmes and Dick Hannah (Hughes' chief spokesman) told Meier it was impssible to see Hughes. Two guys, claiming to be Hughes' bodyguards, told Meier to leave his hotel the next day.

When Meier returned to Albuquerque his campaign office had been burglarized and phones were bugged.

May 11, 1972: Don Nixon offered Meier a solution to his IRS problems if he'd help retrive what he had (supposedly) given to O'Brien. Meier refused.

May 20, 1972: Humphrey told Meier that Don Nixon was heard threatening that the administration was going to do something against O'Brien because of his dealings with Meier and Maheu.

May 26: Unsuccessful break-in to O'Brien's office.

May 27: Another unsuccessful break-in to O'Brien's office.

May 28: They succeeded! -- bugged phones, photographed some documents, but apparently didn't get what they wanted.

June 16: They returned, and this time were arrested.

Clifford was right: Nixon's worries of the Hughes $1 million pay-off led to an irrational act.

At least four of the anti-Nixon conspirators received accurate information of the planned burglary long before it happened: Hubert Humphrey, George Clifford, John Meier, and Bill Haddad.

Meier and his family went to Canada and bought a house. Gonzales and the CIA were looking for him. A Mr. Johnson from British Intelligence found Meier, wanted to talk to him. They met in London. He asked Meier if he'd be interested in moving to England. Meier preferred Canada. He asked Meier if he'd speak to some people in London.

Senator George McGovern beat Humphrey in the 1972 Democratic primary. Despite press reports of the break-in, not much was tying Nixon to it. McGovern didn't have the guts to make the $1 million Hughes payment to Nixon an issue during the campaign. He blew it! Nixon won. If Humphrey would have been Nixon's opponent he would have publicized the issue like crazy.

Chapter 11 - "Hear No Evil"

Meier went to Canada.

Securities and Exchange Commission attorney William C. Turner asked Meier to help in the investigation of the Air West takeover by Hughes. Meier agreed.

January 25, 1973: Meier met with Buhler in Liechtenstein and asked about Hughes' whereabouts. Buhler said it was impossible to see Hughes but asked if Meier would work for Chester Davis. Meier said no.

In Vancouver at the Immigration office Intertel served Meier papers for the civil suit against him by Summa Corporation for his part in purchasing mining claims.

February 22: In London on business Meier's hotel room was searched, torn apart. He knew he was being followed.

March 5: Meier met with Susie Wyss in Paris.

Back in the U.S.: The Senate Select Committee on Presidential Activities (known as the Watergate Committee) was being formed.

In London Meier met Robbie Robertson who had contacts in Scotland Yard who might have information on Hughes.

July 12, 1973: While Meier and his family were in Hawaii a man came up to Meier and told him to call Dr. Buhler in Liechtenstein before leaving for Canada.

August 9, 1973: Meier crossed the border from Canada to the U.S. with his family to go crabbing and was arrested by IRS agents. Took him to Point Roberts jail where Nixon's Secret Service agents talked to him. They said he was under arrest for tax evasion but could go home if he surrendered all documents with his lawyer, Robert Wyshak, pertaining to Hughes, Nixon, federal operations, and CIA. (This is the stuff the Watergate burglars were after months before. The White House didn't want Meier giving this information to the Watergate committee.) Meier refused.

Meier appeared in Seattle before a U.S. magistrate. He posted bail and went back to Canada.

Meier's grand jury:

* The CIA prevented the IRS form interviewing Buhler about Meier.

* Buhler was subpoenaed in 1967 to testify about organized crime and the use of Swiss bank accounts and Liechtenstein financial establishments in fraudulent schemes. To escape, the CIA took him out of the country.

* Buhler, a lawyer and businessman, had been connected with stock and tax fraud, illegal arms deals, kidnapping and questionable overseas payments on behalf of American corporations.

* Ralph Kaminski (lead investigator for the IRS) described Buhler as a "bagman, a courier and a paymaster" for the CIA in Europe.

September 8: Meier and Clark Clifford met in Canada. Clifford told Meier to give the Watergate committee everything but his actual documents -- only give those in public.

October 12: Meier flew to Washington. On the plane a man sitting next to him searched through his briefcase while Meier was in the bathroom.

Clifford said he too had been followed.

October 13: Humphrey said he was with them all the way, "This is our one chance to get rid of Nixon."

That afternoon Meier and his attorney, Wyshak, met with the Watergate investigators and told them most everything, including the payoff to Rebozo in Miami. It was reported that Wyshak said Nixon would have to resign once Meier gave his testimony.

That night at a restaurant Henry Kissinger waked in. Clifford had some fun by introducing Meier to him. Kissinger hissed, "Son-of-a-bitch."

Later that night Clifford told Meier that his seven hour conversation with the Watergate committee has been passed to the White House. Also, Chester Davis' people had been briefed. Clifford stressed to be careful not to hand over documents unless it could be done in public.

A week later Meier met with more investigators. They asked for his records but he refused unless it was public.

December 11: The committee's chief counsel, Sam Dash, said he believed the break-in had to do with Don Nixon and John Meier.

The L.A. Times reported that Dash claimed it was a credible theory that O'Brien's office had been searched to determine what he knew about Don Nixon's ties to Howard Hughes.

Meier expected to give testimony when the hearings reconvened in the New Year, but Clifford said that there wasn't going to be anymore investigation. Meier's information involving Howard Hughes goes much deeper than just Nixon. They would never allow Meier on T.V. They all struck a deal. Nixon was finished.

(Part 2)