Post columnist jokes: What was Cheney trying to hide with that office fire?
Nick Juliano
Published: Friday December 21, 2007 |
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Conspiratorial wheels started spinning in plenty of people's minds this week when a fire broke out in Dick Cheney's ceremonial offices. The vice president is known for his penchant for secrecy, and between destroyed CIA tapes and missing e-mails, the government he helps run hardly lacks precedent for getting rid of potentially incriminating evidence.

For one Washington Post columnist, Wednesday's fire sparked reminders of an abandoned plot from the Watergate era, when a young Cheney was cutting his teeth of government service.

"Arson might seem a bit far-fetched to folks outside the Beltway, but it would not be the first time a small conflagration was planned by a White House official," writes Al Kamen Friday in his "In The Loop" column. "We recall that Watergate burglary mastermind G. Gordon Liddy plotted firebombing the Brookings Institution -- 'as a diversion,' he writes in his memoirs -- to get into the security vault and steal Daniel Ellsberg's Vietnam War papers."

Kamen recounts Liddy's plan to spark a nighttime fire and then infiltrate Brookings' headquarters with a crew of Cubans posing as firefighters, complete with their own bogus fire engine.

Liddy, who was then working for Richard Nixon's re-election committee, wrote that his bosses quickly squashed the idea -- because the decoy fire truck would be too expensive. As overseer of Nixon's crew of "Plumbers," whose goal was preventing damaging leaks, Libby did orchestrate the break-in at the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist, after Elsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. Most famously, Liddy was a key player in the burglary of Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate hotel.

"And now we have this curious, possibly successful fire Wednesday. So the obvious question is: What did they try to burn?" Kamen writes, presumably tongue in cheek. "(We'll let the appropriate authorities find the perps.)"

"Yes, it's the final In the Loop Contest for 2007," he declares. "Simply guess what documents or other materials the arsonists were trying to destroy. Could it have been a secret legal opinion from Cheney Chief of Staff David Addington, giving the vice president the inherent authority to set the fire?"

Contest details are here.