Samuel Dash, the former chief counsel of the Senate Select Committee on Watergate, died on May 29 of heart failure. He was 79.
Dash studied at Temple University, but was forced to delay graduation in order to serve with the Army Air Corps in World War II. After he returned to the states, the New Jersey native completed his undergraduate work and received a law degree from Harvard Law School.
Over the course of his prestigious legal career, Dash cultivated a reputation for political independence. The ardent advocate for legal ethics taught criminal justice, constitutional law and professional responsibility courses at Georgetown University Law Center for nearly four decades, and directed the school’s Institute for Criminal Law and Procedures.
A lifelong privacy activist, Dash conducted the first nationwide investigation of wiretapping in 1957. He wrote several books that examined Fourth Amendment issues, including “The Intruders: Unreasonable Searches and Seizures From King John to John Ashcroft,” which was released this spring.
In 1973, the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities investigated the break-in at the Democratic campaign headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. As the committee’s chief counsel, Dash questioned White House officials during the televised hearings about President Richard M. Nixon’s secret White House taping system. The scandal eventually led to President Nixon’s resignation in August 1974.
After Watergate, Dash helped draft the independent counsel law to assure impartial investigation of issues involving the executive branch. He also served on numerous governmental inquiries, including stints as a special investigator for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and as a special counsel to the president of the Senate of Puerto Rico.
Dash returned to the public arena in 1994 when he agreed to serve as the ethics adviser to independent counsel Kenneth Starr in the Whitewater investigation of President Bill Clinton. He resigned four years later, when Starr testified before the House Judiciary Committee and advocated that President Clinton be impeached.
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