Bernard Leon Barker (March 17, 1917 – June 5, 2009) was a Watergate burglar and undercover operative in CIA directed plots to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Investigators have revealed evidence linking him to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, including eyewitness accounts placing him at the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, on November 22, 1963.
Frank Sturgis and Bernard Barker, 1960 (top) and 1972
|Born||Bernard Leon Barker
March 17, 1917
|Died||June 5, 2009 (aged 92)
Miami, United States
Barker was born in Havana, to a Russian American father and a Cuban mother. Therefore, Barker was a dual citizen of Cuba and the United States. At the age of 16, Barker joined the ABC, a revolutionary group opposed to then president Gerardo Machado Morales. It was during this period that he acquired the nickname "Macho". Worried by these developments, Barker's father sent him to live in the United States. In 1935 Barker became an American citizen, but he returned to Cuba in order to study at the University of Havana.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, triggering American entry into World War II, Barker joined the U.S. Air Force, where he became a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress crewman and a Second Lieutenant bombardier. On his thirteenth combat mission, he was shot down on a bombing raid to Brunswick, Germany, February 10, 1944. The Germans held him as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft I in Barth. The Red Army liberated the camp on May 2, 1945.
After the war, Barker returned to Cuba and joined the secret police under Fulgencio Batista. He was later recruited by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and worked for them as an undercover agent. He also did work for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He joined the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.
Two eyewitnesses, Seymour Weitzman and Malcolm Summers, positively identified a photograph of Barker as the armed man they saw behind a fence at the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, when President Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963. Cuban exile Harry Williams, a collaborator in U.S. led plots to overthrow Fidel Castro, revealed that Barker in 1963 was working for Miami mob boss Santo Trafficante, who is suspected of having masterminded the assassination with New Orleans Godfather Carlos Marcello.
In September 1971, his former CIA superior, E. Howard Hunt, recruited him for the "Plumbers", the Nixon White House's "Special Investigations Unit". He was recruited by Hunt to find background information on Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg was under watch for leaking the "Pentagon Papers", a series of articles featured in the New York Times in 1971 detailing U.S. government secrets concerning the Vietnam War's history. Along with Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, Barker broke into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis J. Fielding, in Los Angeles. The mission's purpose was to find discrediting information on Ellsberg. The mission was completed, but largely unsuccessful in finding any damaging information about Ellsberg.
In 1972, Barker was one of the five burglars paid by the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP), Nixon's re-election campaign fundraising committee, for a break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, and subsequently was convicted in the Watergate scandal. The others were Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez and James McCord. Along with the other Watergate burglars, G. Gordon Liddy, and E. Howard Hunt, Barker was charged with, and pled guilty to, wiretapping, planting electronic surveillance equipment, and theft of documents.
Barker also worked with CRP to get monies which went into the Nixon campaign coffers off the books; it was via his bank account that twenty-five thousand dollars from Archer Daniels Midland Chief Executive Dwayne Andreas was obtained by CRP in violation of campaign finance laws.
On March 7, 1974, Barker, along with Ehrlichman, Charles Colson, Liddy, Martinez, and Felipe de Diego, was indicted for the Ellsberg burglary. Barker was released pending appeal after serving one year of a two-and-a-half to six-year sentence.
After Barker's release from prison, he worked as a building inspector for the city of Miami, Florida, earning $18,512 per year. He chose early retirement in 1982 rather than fight proceedings seeking his dismissal for loafing on the job.
Barker died of lung cancer in his Miami home on June 5, 2009, aged 92. His fourth wife, Dora Maria Barker, survived him.
Two of the burglars of the Democratic headquarters, Bernard L. Barker and Frank Sturgis, were denied pardons by President Carter.