The Huston Plan was a 43-page report and outline of proposed security operations put together by White House aide Tom Charles Huston in 1970. It first came to light during the 1973 Watergate hearings headed by Senator Sam Ervin (a Democrat from North Carolina).
The impetus for this report stemmed from President Richard Nixon wanting more coordination of domestic intelligence in the area of gathering information about purported 'left-wing radicals' and the counterculture-era anti-war movement in general. Huston had been assigned as White House liaison to the Interagency Committee on Intelligence (ICI), a group chaired by J. Edgar Hoover, then Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director. Huston worked closely with William C. Sullivan, Hoover's assistant, in drawing up the options listed in what eventually became the document known as the Huston Plan.
Among other things the plan called for domestic burglary, illegal electronic surveillance and opening the mail of domestic "radicals". At one time it also called for the creation of camps in Western states where anti-war protesters would be detained.
In mid-July 1970 Nixon ratified the proposals and they were submitted as a document to the directors of the FBI, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA).
Out of these only Hoover objected to the plan, and gained the support of then Attorney General of the United States John Mitchell to pressure Nixon to rescind the plan. And despite the ultimate decision by the President to revoke the Huston Plan, several of its provisions were implemented anyway.
After the Huston Plan, the FBI lowered the age of campus informants, thereby expanding surveillance of American college students as sought through the Plan. In 1971, the FBI reinstated its use of mail covers and continued to submit names to the CIA mail program.
As details of the Huston Plan unfolded during the Watergate Hearings, it came to be seen as a part and parcel of what Attorney General Mitchell referred to as "White House horrors". This would include the Plumbers Unit, the proposed fire-bombing of the Brookings Institution, the 1971 burglary of the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the creation of a White House enemies list, and the use of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to punish those deemed to be enemies - similar to the controversy involving the Obama administration and Lois Lerner.
The Huston Plan was also investigated by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Sen. Frank Church in 1976, into activities of the CIA and abuses of domestic intelligence gathering.
In Popular Culture
The Huston Plan appears (and is explained in on-screen text) in a comedy sketch on the sixteenth episode of the second season of Saturday Night Live.
- Huston Plan: Hearings before the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, Church Committee, U.S. Senate, Sept. 23-25, 1975.
- SUPPLEMENTARY DETAILED STAFF REPORTS ON INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES AND THE RIGHTS OF AMERICANS, published by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
- Interview with Army whistleblower Chris Pyle, American Public Media