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James McCord, CIA Burglar in Watergate, Dies Off the Grid

No announcement was made of death nearly two years ago
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2019 5:15 PM CDT
The Watergate complex in 2009, where James McCord broke into Democratic national headquarters in 1972.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(Newser) – As a CIA operative, James McCord Jr. lived in the shadows, emerging for a time into the glare when he was arrested and convicted in the Watergate break-in—the 1972 crime that ultimately led to Richard Nixon losing his presidency. When McCord died nearly two years ago, he was firmly back in the shadows: No announcement of his death on June 15, 2017, was made, the Los Angeles Times reports. Kennedys and King brought it to light about three weeks ago, running a photo of the tombstone. The Washington Post then got a look at his death certificate, which says McCord died at his home in Douglassville, Pa., at age 93. Pancreatic cancer was listed as the cause of death. His wife, Sarah, died in 2014. McCord had three children, but the Post was unable to reach anyone in his family or compile a list of survivors.

McCord was a 19-year CIA veteran when he and four Cuban nationals, carrying a walkie-talkie, briefcases, bugging devices and cameras, broke into Democratic national headquarters in Washington's Watergate complex. McCord later said he never was sure what they were supposed to be looking for, per the Times. They were caught after Frank Wills, a security guard on his rounds, noticed a door ajar and tape over the lock. The White House cover-up that later was traced to Nixon was on: "There was political pressure applied to the defendants to plead guilty and remain silent," McCord wrote to the judge. He struck a deal to avoid a long prison sentence, instead serving four months after helping prosecutors follow the trail from the break-in to the White House. He wouldn't turn on the CIA, he wrote. "I was completely convinced that the White House was behind the idea and ploy which had been presented, and that the White House was now turning ruthless." Nixon resigned in August 1974. (Read more Watergate stories.)

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