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For the record, I dearly love conspiracy theories.

United Airlines Flight 533 from Washington to Chicago crashed a few miles short of Chicago's Midway Airport on December 8, 1972, killing two people on the ground and 43 of the 61 people on the plane. Among those killed was Dorothy Hunt, the wife of CIA agent/Watergate plumber/accused Kennedy assassin E. Howard Hunt. Within days of the crash (conspiracy theories took longer to form back then), Chicago activist Sherman Skolnick began claiming that the plane had been sabotaged in order to kill Mrs. Hunt. Why? According to Skolnick, Dorothy Hunt had allegedly received some of the million dollars that Richard Nixon had allegedly promised E. Howard Hunt to keep quiet about his alleged role in the Kennedy assassination -- and it was feared that Mrs. Hunt might be willing to spill the beans about what she had learned from her husband.

Among the suspicious circumstances alleged by Skolnick and others:

Fifty FBI agents arrived at the scene of the crash almost immediately, although the nearest FBI office was a 40-minute drive away -- additionally, fifty FBI agents would seldom be in one office, even in Chicago; they were usually out in the field, unless they had gathered together for a special project.

The pilot had a significant amount of cyanide in his blood. Although some said he could have inhaled cyanide from chemical reactions in the crash, others say that the 3.9 micrograms per milliliter in the pilot could only be the result of deliberate poisoning.

Nixon also appointed two of his close associates to the investigation, and another Nixon friend was soon after named to a position with United Airlines and was involved in every phase of the investigation.

After the crash, the flight recorder disappeared and then was allegedly returned by the Chicago Sanitation Department, which said it had picked it up by mistake at the crash site. Why the garbage haulers were carting off fresh debris from a crash site was never explained...

Of course, the obvious argument against this whole conspiracy theory is that no one in the government would kill that many people just to eliminate one inconvenient witness to a crime that may never have occurred and then work so hard to cover it all up.

But the best argument against the theory is that Nixon had no real motive to assassinate Kennedy -- he disliked Kennedy for defeating him in the election, but only comic book supervillains hold grudges like that. In addition, if Nixon had ordered the deaths of JFK, Dorothy Hunt, and all the other people on Flight 533, why didn't he have Woodward and Bernstein killed...?

But hey, ain't conspiracy theories fun?

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