Watergate's Gay Informant
BY Advocate.com Editors
February 11 2011 5:00 PM ET
A new book Watergate Exposed is the story of Robert Merritt, a confidential informant to the FBI and D.C. Police (as told to by Doug Caddy), telling the story of one of the nation's biggest scandals through the eyes of the local gay community.
Merritt says he learned about the planned break-in at the Democratic National Committee located in the Watergate complex two weeks before it occurred. His source was James Reed, also known as Rita Reed, a drag queen who worked on the switchboard at the Columbia Plaza Apartments just blocks from Watergate. Reed, a close friend of Merritt, overheard the planned break-in being discussed while secretly listening in on a telephone conversation by two parties conducted through her switchboard.
Rita told Merritt what she heard on June 1, 1972. Two days later, Merritt reported the news to Detective Carl Shoffler, Merritt’s lover who also recruited Merritt as an informant for the police and the FBI two years earlier. Shoffler, in reality a military intelligence agent assigned to the D.C. police, immediately devised a clandestine wiretapping plan using triangulation to set up the burglars and also to bring down President Nixon, who claimed to have had had no prior knowledge of the break-in. His cohorts included a retired CIA agent and another U.S. intelligence agent.
Shoffler arrested the burglars inside the DNC’s offices in Watergate on June 17 and was immediately hailed as a hero. His entrapment role in setting them up was never revealed. He told Merritt that if he ever opened his mouth about what he knew, he would be killed. Merritt later became a fugitive from justice but continued to receive orders from Shoffler for the 18 years he lived in New York City while working as a confidential informant for the New York Police Department, FBI, and U.S. Attorney, all of which remained unaware of his “wanted’ status.
It was The Advocate’s article about Caddy in 2005 and a lengthy interview with Merritt in 1977 that prompted a collaboration on their two Watergate stories. The following is the book's foreword, written by Caddy from Watergate Exposed: