Bernard Barker: CIA agent who took part in the Watergate burglary

Burglary – what burglary? That more or less summed up the view of Bernard Barker, Cuban nationalist, bitter foe of Fidel Castro and erstwhile undercover CIA operative, who was caught red-handed while committing the crime that led to the resignation of an American president.

Barker was first recruited by E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA colleague who had become master of dirty tricks for Richard Nixon, to carry out the 1971 break-in at the Los Angeles office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the "Pentagon Papers," a secret US government history of the Vietnam war.

A year later Hunt, the head of the so-called White House "Plumbers' Unit" turned to Barker again, this time as one of a five-man team who broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building in downtown Washington on the night of 17 June 1972. But a security guard noted that a lock had been tampered with and called the police, who found Barker hiding behind a desk in the DNC office, at 2.30 in the morning, wearing a business suit and surgical gloves, with $5,000 in $100 bills in his pocket.

For the rest of his life, he maintained he had done nothing wrong, only his patriotic duty, as a Cuban and an American. Testifying to the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973, Barker claimed Hunt had told him that the raid was to find proof that Cuba and other countries had made illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic party – something that could pave the way for the "liberation" of his country from Communist rule. "I see no difference between this and being a bombardier in World War II" (in which Barker served as on a B-17 Flying Fortress and spent over a year as a prisoner of war after being shot down over Germany in 1944). But the Watergate judge John Sirica was unimpressed by these arguments and sentenced Barker to up to six years in jail for wiretapping and theft, of which he ultimately served 18 months before being released in July 1975.

Bernard Barker was the son of an American couple living in Havana. Possessing both Cuban and US citizenship, he studied at the University of Havana. After the Second World War – in which he was said to have been the first Cuban to enlist in the American military – he served in the police and security forces of the dictator Fulgencio Batista. A year after Castro seized power, Barker fled to Miami in 1960 and joined the CIA, where he met Hunt as the two worked together to help organise the Bay of Pigs invasion. That operation, like the Watergate break-in 11 years later, was an unmitigated fiasco. But it made Barker for ever a hero in the Cuban exile community in his adopted city.

Washington, he noted ruefully in 1976, "is a place to keep away from. Cubans don't do very well up there." In Miami, however, it was a different story. "He was a brilliant man and a fighter against communism with exceptional perseverance," Eduardo Suárez Rivas, a former Cuban political prisoner told The Miami Herald last week. "I wish we had had many more like him in the fight against Fidel Castro."

Rupert Cornwell

Bernard Leon Barker, CIA agent: born Havana, Cuba 17 March 1917; married four times (one daughter); died Miami, Florida 5 June 2009.

Suggested Topics
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home