Secret Watergate Files Released…

The government on Nov. 29 finally released more than 850 pages of once-secret documents from the Watergate political scandal, meaning that only a few more sets of Watergate documents remain sealed…The Washington Post story contain a few nice nuggets:

The files do not appear to provide any significant new revelations in the 40-year-old case that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon and criminal prosecutions of many of his top White House and political aides. But the files provide useful context for historians, revealing behind-the-scenes deliberations by the judge then in charge of the case, U.S. District Court Judge John J. Sirica, along with prosecutors and defense lawyers…

One new transcript of an in-chambers meeting between Sirica and then-Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in July 1973 shows that the judge revealed secret probation reports indicating that Hunt had cited orders from “very high” Nixon administration officials. Several of Hunt’s co-defendants had previously denied any White House involvement in court testimony, and Sirica told Cox and other prosecutors that he felt the new information “seemed to me significant.

And:

Reports from prison psychiatrists and probation officers also show that four of Hunt’s co-defendants justified their role in the Watergate break-in on national security grounds, saying they were under orders to search for evidence that Cuban government funds supported Democratic party campaigns. Dean said Friday that Hunt once told him that excuse was a ruse used to persuade the others to participate in the burglary.

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Nearly 40 years later, this seems anticlimactic…unless you are a historian interested in finding out exactly how all of this went down:

A federal judge has ordered the release of long-sealed records relating to the 1973 trial of Watergate conspirators G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord, both of whom served as officials of President Richard Nixon’s re-election bid.

Chief Judge Royce Lamberth, acting on a petition from Texas A&M history professor Luke Nichter, issued an order Friday setting in motion the unsealing.

Lamberth’s order (posted here) unseals all records in the case apart from grand jury records, sentencing reports relating to living individuals, and “documents reflecting the contents of illegally obtained wiretaps.” The Justice Department had agreed with unsealing of the Liddy case records, aside from those three categories.

In an interview Friday, Nichter hailed the judge’s decision. “The National Archives has told me they have an enormous quantity of Watergate records still sealed,” the professor said. “They’ve told me they hope to bring these documents out of legal limbo, but you can’t get them under [the Freedom of Information Act.] It takes extraordinary action by a judge to bring them out.”

Nichter said he believes at least some of the sealed records relate to Alfred Baldwin, a potential witness in the Libby case who was involved in wiretapping the Democratic National Committee’s Watergate office that was broken into. Prosecutors sought to put Baldwin on the stand, but third-parties—apparently those overheard in the wiretaps—managed to block his testimony…

English: G. Gordon Liddy, famous for his invol...

English: G. Gordon Liddy, famous for his involvement (and ultimate imprisonment) in the Watergate scandal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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