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How the Taped Conversations are Reviewed

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The archivists listen to and review the tapes according to the Federal Regulations

Processing the Nixon White House Tapes for public access requires archivists to review every second of recorded conversation and apply federal and legal guidelines. Included among these guidelines is Executive Order 13526, which mandates declassification of materials more than twenty-five years old. All of the Nixon White House Tapes that are available to the public have been thoroughly reviewed for declassification.

The Nixon Library staff applies complex agency guidelines, takes advantage of on-site visits from agency declassification specialists, and uses detailed reference information as well as textual records from the Nixon Presidential Materials to determine which portions of the Nixon White House Tapes no longer require protection for national security reasons.

Review of the Nixon White House Tapes typically includes:

  • A thorough review of every second of each White House tape, by two reviewers, before it can be edited.

  • Reviewers must apply complex National Security guidelines, privacy laws, and the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA) restrictions.

  • Once a tape is proposed for release, the National Archives is required to provide access to the tapes to a representative of the Nixon Estate and anyone on a registry list of former Nixon Administration staff members, who, if they are identified on a tape segment, have the opportunity to review those portions relating to them prior to the opening.

Restrictions  [See Also:  Why Taped Conversations are Withdrawn]

When reviewing the Nixon White House Tapes, archivists are required to restrict information that:

  • Violates a Federal statute or agency policy

  • Reveals national security information

  • Violates an individual's rights (pending)

  • Constitutes a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy

  • Discloses trade secrets or confidential commercial or financial information

  • Discloses investigatory/law enforcement information

  • Discloses purely private and personal information, as defined by PRMPA

  • Discloses non-historical material

  • Is Unintelligible (In some cases, the Nixon Library staff withheld certain portions which were so unintelligible that the staff could not adequately review them for release at this time. These portions are noted on the tape subject log as "[Unintelligible].")

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