Bernard Barker, 92, burglar in the Watergate break-in

New York Times / June 7, 2009
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NEW YORK - Bernard L. Barker, one of the burglars whose 1972 break-in at the Watergate building in Washington led to the resignation of President Nixon, died Friday. He was 92.

His stepdaughter, Kelly Andrad, told the Associated Press that Mr. Barker, who had lung cancer and heart problems, died at his suburban Miami home after being taken to Veterans Affairs Medical Center the night before.

Mr. Barker, a Cuban-born American, was recruited for undercover operations during the Nixon administration by E. Howard Hunt Jr. The ties between the two went back to Hunt's days in the CIA and the planning of the 1961 invasion of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba.

In 1971, Mr. Barker took part in a break-in at the Los Angeles office of psychiatrist Daniel Ellsberg, who disclosed the Pentagon papers to the press.

Then on June 17, 1972, Mr. Barker was found crouching under a desk at Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office building. Three other men caught with him also had ties to the Bay of Pigs operation. A fifth, James W. McCord Jr., was security chief for Nixon's reelection campaign.

In May 1973, Mr. Barker told the Senate Watergate committee that his aim in the Watergate break-in had been to find proof that the Democratic Party had received financial support from the government of Cuba and thus speed the "liberation" of Cuba.

Mr. Barker pleaded guilty in January 1973 to seven charges of conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping. Later, however, he asked Judge John J. Sirica to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea and stand trial. Sirica denied that request, and on Nov. 19, 1973, he sentenced Mr. Barker to a prison term of 18 months to six years.

In January 1974, Mr. Barker was freed from prison to appeal that decision. On July 11, 1975, Sirica told Mr. Barker and the other three Cuban-Americans involved in the Watergate break-in that he was reducing their sentences to time served.

After his release from prison, Mr. Barker, a former real estate agent, went to work for the city of Miami as a sanitation inspector in a federally financed jobs program. He later worked as a city building inspector but took early retirement at the age of 64 rather than fight allegations that he had been loafing on the job.

In repeated interviews, Mr. Barker expressed no regrets about his role in the Watergate and Ellsberg break-ins, saying he believed he had been acting in the interests of national security. But in 1976, he did tell a reporter: "Washington's a place to keep away from. Cubans don't do very well up there."