The Washington Post

Charles Colson, Watergate figure who proposed firebombing Brookings, said near death

Charles Colson (August 2000 file photo) (Peter Dejong/Associated Press)

In June 1973, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke the story that Colson proposed firebombing the Brookings Institution as a cover-up or a diversionary tactic while operatives would attempt to recover politically damaging classified documents believed to be in in the office of then-Brookings fellow and former Kissinger aide, Morton Halperin.

Colson initially denied the claims to Woodward, but later called back to say, “I was asked about this by the federal prosecutors. I was aware that there was a discussion about how to get highly classified documents back. . . . There is always a possibility that I might have said it. . . . It is characteristic of me . . . but I never made it and certainly never meant it.”

Amid the Watergate scandal, Colson became a born-again Christian and began advocating for ministering to prison inmates. He founded the Prison Fellowship Ministries in 1976 and Justice Fellowship in 1983.

Jim Liske, chief executive of Prison Fellowship Ministries, issued a statement Wednesday saying Colson’s condition is deteriorating and that he “will soon be home with the Lord,” the Associated Press reported. Colson is 80.

Allen McDuffee writes about politics and policy and covered think tanks for The Washington Post from 2011 to 2013. He freelances and hosts a podcast at and is currently working on a book about the influence of think tanks in Washington.

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