Breadcrumb

White House Tapes

UNDER CONSTRUCTION!

Welcome to the new White House Tapes page!  We are still working to refine the look and resolve all details.  We have aimed for as much audio continuity with our old website and apologize for any inconvenience during this change.

By the Summer of 2018, generally conversations from July 1972 - July 1973, excluding Cabinet Room conversations are online.  Most specifically audio is online or should be coming online shortly for the following tapes:

  • White House Telephone: Audiotapes 027-041; 043-046
  • Cabinet Room: Audiotapes 081-083
  • Camp David Study Table Phone:  Audiotapes 137-169
  • Camp David Study Desk Phone:  Audiotapes 176-186
  • Camp David Hard Wire:  Audiotapes 196-244
  • Executive Office Building: Audiotapes 275; 348-448
  • Oval Office:  Audiotapes 582; 607; 662 and 746-950

To directly access a tape, you can input its specific address following this convention: 

https://www.nixonlibrary.gov/white-house-tapes/[3-digit tape number]

Example

https://www.nixonlibrary.gov/white-house-tapes/147

Taping System History

A detailed history of the Nixon White House Tapes from their installation in 1971 to when the National Archives took possession in 1977.

  • On February 16, 1971 the United States Secret Service (USSS), at the request of President Nixon, installed recording devices in the White House. The first devices were installed in the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room. Over the course of the next 16 months new locations were added including: the president’s office in the Executive Office Building (EOB), telephones in the Oval Office, EOB office, and the Lincoln Sitting Room. Finally, recording devices were setup at Camp David including the president’s study in Aspen Lodge, and telephones on the president’s desk and study table.

    President Nixon was not the first president to record private conversations in the White House. President Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower experimented with recording select meetings and press briefings. However, Kennedy was the first president to extensively record meetings and Johnson continued that practice expanding the scope of recordings. During the 1969 transition Nixon learned that Johnson had recording equipment installed in the White House to record meetings and telephone conversations. According to the president’s Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman, Nixon “abhorred” the idea of recording conversations and he had the equipment immediately removed after the inauguration. However, over the next few years Nixon changed his mind about a recording system in response to a number of challenges in fully documenting his presidency with the accuracy he desired.

    Nixon was concerned that his meetings were not always reported accurately by participants and he wanted to ensure his private discussions were not misconstrued publicly to the benefit of others during his administration. Haldeman theorized, this may have been due to an individual’s lack of familiarity with the topics discussed but he also believed it was a way for those participants to bolster their own image. Another challenge was documenting presidential meetings with foreign leaders. Nixon preferred meeting with foreign dignitaries using only their interpreter. Nixon thought this lent an air of intimacy to the proceedings, which he believed furthered diplomatic discussions, it also presented a problem of ensuring the translations were accurate. At times, Nixon used a National Security Council (NSC) staff member, who understood the language, but did not attend as a translator. This practice, however, was not consistently followed and it still left gaps in the record. A complete record of his presidency, in order to aid in writing his memoir, was the objective and these methods all fell short.

    The Nixon administration tried a number of solutions to keep an accurate record of conversations and meetings. In 1969 and 1970 such efforts included note-takers in meetings or the president taking notes himself, debriefing the president after meetings, and having a note-taker outside the Oval Office catching participants leaving to record their thoughts. Nixon rejected these solutions which he felt were intrusive and did not capture the nuances and details of the conversations. As a last resort, the administration sought to enlist Lt. General Vernon Walters, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), known for his phenomenal memory, to work for the White House as President Nixon’s personal note-taker. However, General Walters bristled at the idea of being anyone’s note-taker.

    Two years into his presidency, Nixon, had still not discovered a solution for documenting meetings. It is unclear who reinitiated discussions about a recording system, however, according to Haldeman, Johnson had a conversation with a friend of Nixon’s regarding the benefits of a taping system while ostensibly discussing the process of setting up a presidential library. Johnson mentioned how helpful the recordings were in preparing his memoirs and how the Nixon Administration was mistaken in dismantling the system. Haldeman discussed the idea of recording his meetings with Nixon who subsequently agreed to set up a recording system in the White House. The challenge was to create a system that was low-maintenance and did not require much of the president––who was not comfortable with technology. Nixon settled on a voice-activated system unlike those of his predecessors. Haldeman believed the president would forget to activate the system when he wanted to record, therefore, the voice activation would ensure that the totality of conversations would be captured. The Secret Service maintained the system and would be responsible for replacing tapes and turning the systems on and off based on the location of the president. Haldeman’s assistants Lawrence M. Higby and Alexander P. Butterfield worked with the Secret Service to install the system.

    The recording system went live on February 16, 1971 in the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office. The first set of microphones were placed in the Oval Office––five in the president’s desk and one on each side of the fireplace; and two in the Cabinet Room under the table near the president’s chair. On April 6, the president’s EOB office––four microphones in his desk––and telephones in the Oval Office and the Lincoln Sitting Room were added to the system. Finally, the president’s office and two telephones in Aspen Lodge at Camp David began recording on May 18, 1972. Although Nixon was initially reluctant to record his conversations, once the system was in place he wanted a complete record of conversations which far exceeded anything his predecessors had done. What followed was an almost complete record of the president’s daily conversations until the system was shut down in July 1973.

  • Of utmost importance for the recording system was something that was hands-off for the president who was not tech-savvy. It also needed to be low maintenance for the Secret Service. Alexander Butterfield tasked Alfred Wong, head of Technical Services Division of the Secret Service, to install a system that met these requirements. The taping system was tied into the Secret Service’s presidential locator system. When the president entered a recording area the presidential locator was updated and an agent would set the recorder switch to the record/pause mode. Whenever the voice operated relay microphones detected sound the machines began recording. The machines would continue to record as long as sound was detected and when it became quiet the machines would return to record/pause after 20-30 seconds.

    Notably, the Cabinet Room is the only room that was not automatically turned-on with voice activation. While there were on/off switches installed near the president’s place on the Cabinet Room table he in all likelihood never used them. There was another switch installed near Butterfield’s desk and the responsibility for turning this system on and off fell to Butterfield. Often they were left on long after meetings concluded, capturing various sounds including tours, cleaning, and the daily bustle of the White House.

    Similarly, when the president entered the Oval Office, the EOB, or his Aspen Lodge study he triggered the activation of the recording machines. Often, when the president was in those rooms, even if he was not speaking, the machines continued, because of ambient noises, television, music, and other noises. These segments are known as room noise and while they are not released to the public archivists review the content to ensure there is no conversation or withdrawn material on them. See processing notes for more information on room noise.

    All of the recording stations were equipped with two Sony 800B recorders loaded with extremely thin .05mm tape. The recorders had a timer affixed to them that switched which recorder was active every twenty-four hours. During the weekend one recorder remained active for forty-eight hours. In order to keep maintenance low, the recorders operated at the slowest speed, 15/16, which allowed for up to six and a half hours of record time per reel. The quality of tape stock varied and the Sony machines and microphones were not made for recording conversations. All of these conditions have led to the original tapes––and all subsequent copies––to be of generally poor quality which makes listening a challenge.

  • Before Nixon all presidential records were the personal property of the president. After an administration was over the president was allowed to retain legal custody of their records. Presidents would often use their papers to write their memoirs and when finished, traditionally gave their papers back to the American people in the form of a deed of gift. Nixon, therefore, was confident in the precedent that his recordings and papers would remain in his custody like the presidents who proceeded him.

    That all changed on Friday July 13, 1973 when in a private interrogation with committee investigators Alexander P. Butterfield revealed the existence of a taping system in the White House. He believed he was just corroborating information that the committee already knew. During his public testimony, three days later on July 16, before the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities––also known as the Ervin Committee after the committees chairman Samuel Ervin––Butterfield revealed to the nation the existence of the White House Tapes. This was the final day the tapes were operational. The Camp David recordings had been completely shut down by late June but after Butterfield’s testimony the remaining recorders were also shut down.

    This revelation opened a new avenue in both the Senate investigation and the Special Prosecutor’s investigation. The recordings could help prove the validity of John W. Dean, III’s explosive allegations, before the committee on June 25, 1973, regarding the Nixon Administration or they could bolster the administration’s side of the story. New avenues of investigation also meant new avenues of litigation and obstruction as the Nixon Administration attempted to prevent the release of any tapes. Immediately after Butterfield’s testimony, Nixon directed Secret Service agents not to give testimony regarding their duties. On July 23 the committee voted unanimously to subpoena the tapes which required the president to deliver them to the committee. The Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox requested tapes and after being rebuffed by the administration secured a subpoena.

    On July 25 Nixon informed District Court Judge John Sirica he would not comply with Cox’s subpoena citing precedents which showed that presidents could not be “subjected to compulsory process from the courts.” The next day President Nixon wrote to Senator Ervin denying the committee access to the tapes citing executive privilege and separation of powers. Vice Chairman Howard Baker, a Tennessee Republican, suggested suing the President. On August 9 the committee sued the president in federal court. The case was dismissed due to a lack of jurisdiction and that decision was upheld upon appeal. The country now faced a full-blown constitutional crisis.

    The Special Prosecutor and the president’s lawyer, Charles Alan Wright, met in court on August 22. Judge Sirica eventually sided with the Special Prosecutor and the administration appealed the decision stating they would only comply with a decision from the highest court in the land. On October 12, the Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Special Prosecutor concluding that the president should turn the tapes over to Judge Sirica. They stated that the president was not above the law but also pleaded with both sides to make an out-of-court settlement. Nixon’s conundrum was to find a way to comply with the order without incriminating himself.

    Nixon proposed a compromise to create transcripts of the relevant tapes, give them to the Judge Sirica, and then subsequently fire Cox. Attorney General Elliot Richardson informed the president he would resign if that happened. The president’s new Chief of Staff, Alexander M. Haig, proposed the idea of using John C. Stennis to verify the president’s transcripts. Stennis, although well-respected, was 72 and had long been battling a serious illness. Only recently had he come back to the Senate. It was also well-known that Stennis was hard of hearing. The administration portrayed this as an acceptable method to allow access to the tapes while redacting personal details or national security information before it was submitted to the court. They believed that the only relevant sections of the tapes were those dealing directly with the investigation and wanted to use a broad national security brush to redact segments that were unfavorable to them.

    On October 16, the Nixon Administration proposed using a third-party to verify the president’s transcripts. Two days later, Cox rejected the compromise citing he could not rely on a unilateral determination of the evidence. Furthermore, the Nixon Administration only wanted to allow the Special Prosecutor to receive tapes regarding the break-in and cover-up, and Cox wanted tapes that were relevant to other areas of interest in the investigation. On October 20 Nixon ordered Richardson to fire the Special Prosecutor. Richardson resigned, and then the Assistant Attorney General William Ruckelshaus also resigned rather than carry out the order. The third-in-command Solicitor General Robert Bork agreed to carry out the order. This series of events, known as the Saturday Night Massacre, may have delayed the release of the tapes for a time, but the event ensured they would eventually be released.

    The firing of Cox on October 20 led to a firestorm of disapproval in Congress and around the country. In November Leon Jaworski accepted the position of Special Prosecutor and with the backing of a more confrontational Senate, he had more independence and protection than his predecessor. Soon afterwards the Special Prosecutor was informed that two tapes requested were missing and that the tape for June 20, 1972 had an 18 ½ minute gap. The Nixon Administration stated the erasure was accidental, and the president’s personal secretary, Rose Mary Woods, claimed she had inadvertently erased that portion of tape. On November 26 lawyers for the president released seven tapes to Judge Sirica and after listening to the tapes Sirica released a portion of them to Jaworski on December 21. Those tape segments proved helpful in corroborating the case against the administration. The grand jury indicted a number of the president’s aides, and in May, Haig was informed by Jaworski, that the president had been named as an unindicted co-conspirator.

    On April 16, 1974 Jaworski issued a subpoena asking for sixty-four additional tapes. The president once again opposed the subpoena in court, citing executive privilege and separation of powers. Judge Sirica ruled against the president on May 20 which gave the administration until the May 31 to comply or appeal. The president appealed and Jaworski asked the Supreme Court to take immediate jurisdiction. On July 8 the Special Prosecutor and the president’s lawyer, James St. Clair, presented their arguments before the Supreme Court. United States v. Nixon was an unanimous 8-0 decision; Associate Justice William Rehnquist recused himself, against the president. Handed down on July 24 the decision effectively ended the presidency of Richard Nixon and allowed the Special Prosecutor access to all the tapes that were subpoenaed––including the June 23, 1972 tape which contained the “smoking gun” conversation.

  • Richard Nixon resigned on August 9 and within one month the former president signed an agreement with the Administrator for the General Services, Arthur F. Sampson. This contract, the Nixon-Sampson Agreement, covered all the tapes and documents of the Nixon presidency. It stipulated that the government would keep all materials in a federal facility behind a two-key system. Access would require the approval of both Nixon and the administrator (or their proxies). Nixon could access the materials for judicial cases and the tapes would become government property on September 1, 1979. However, Nixon reserved the right to order their destruction at any time. Furthermore, the agreement required the tapes to be destroyed on September 1, 1984 or upon Nixon’s death, whichever happened first. Lawsuits sprang up immediately seeking to void this agreement. Congress stepped in and passed the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA). On December 19, 1974, President Gerald R. Ford signed PRMPA.

    PRMPA stated that the Archivist of the United States shall retain complete possession and control of original recordings, as well as all papers, documents, other materials created during the Nixon administration that had historical or commemorative value. The act allowed for access to the materials by former President Nixon and the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, as well as for the purpose of legal discovery and ongoing governmental business. Section 104 of PRMPA mandated that the General Services Administration (GSA), of which NARA was originally part of as the National Archives Records Service (NARS), submit to each house of Congress a set of proposed regulations describing procedures for processing and providing public access to the Nixon Presidential materials in its possession. Section 105 of PRMPA provided the Federal Court for the District of Columbia (DDC) with exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases challenging the legal or constitutional validity of the act or implementing regulations. DDC also retained jurisdiction to settle disputes involving custody and control over the materials or compensation resulting from the seizure of the materials.

    The US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of PRMPA in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services. The Supreme Court's decision on June 28, 1977, allowed the National Archives to take possession of the Nixon Presidential materials. In a memorandum signed on July 29, 1977, by Counsel to the President Robert J. Lipshutz and GSA Administrator Jay Solomon, the White House Office of Counsel formally transferred custody and control over the Nixon Presidential materials to the National Archives. On August 9, 1977, sensitive Presidential materials, including Haldeman's Diary, were transferred from the EOB to a vault within the National Archives.

    Soon after the Supreme Court handed down its decision, GSA submitted a set of implementing regulations to Congress which was approved on December 26, 1977, and became effective on January 16, 1978. The fourth set of implementing regulations refined the meaning of presidential historical materials to include materials made or received by the president and his staff in fulfilling their constitutional and statutory duties of the Office of the President. The regulations further distinguished presidential materials from private or personal materials which relate only to an individual's family or non-public affairs. The implementing regulations also stipulated that the National Archives must prioritize the identification and segregation of personal materials interfiled with presidential materials, and return any personal materials to their owner in a timely manner. With formalized definitions of presidential and personal materials in place, a distinction could now be made under PRMPA between materials for retention by archivists and others that must be returned to individuals.

Finding Aids

  • Each tape has a Tape Subject Log as the archival finding aid. A log indicates each conversation, the date, time, location, participants, and includes action statement in particular highlighting participants movements. Each conversation on a tape then has an hierarchical outline of topics discussed in the conversation.  Any withdrawal within a conversation will be identified at the point where it occurs. For more information please see the Archival Processing section.

    All Tape Subject Logs are available in our PDF Index.

    Below is a sample of a logged conversation.

    Image
    Sample Tapes Conversation Log

     

  • Watergate Trial Tapes

    Transcripts and audio related to White House Tapes played in court as part of Watergate trials.

    Watergate Special Prosecution Force

    Transcripts created by the Special Prosecutor during the course of the investigation.

    Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Transcripts

    Transcripts created as part of a special project.

    Automobile Safety and Airbag Transcript

    Transcripts created as part of a court case.

    Nixon's Trip to China

    Transcripts and audio of select conversations segments related to Nixon's trip to China.

    • To download the CD-ROM contents as a .zip file (including a Searchable Index, Logs and/or Transcripts, and Scope and Content Notes), click here. To download, right click on link and select "Save Link" or "Save Target" to your computer. Extracting the files requires file extraction software, such as StuffIt or WinZip, that can "unzip" (open) the compressed .zip file, once it is completely downloaded on your computer. The file is 157 MB.

Online Listening

As of Summer 2018, conversations from July 1972 - July 1973, excluding Cabinet Room conversations, are available on the website.  The Nixon Library is in the process of re-reviewing the White House Tapes and working to provide all conversations online.  As more Tapes are completed, the Library will add them to the website.

  • Audiotape 245            Audiotape 246            Audiotape 247            Audiotape 248            Audiotape 249             Audiotape 250

    Audiotape 251            Audiotape 252            Audiotape 253            Audiotape 254            Audiotape 255             Audiotape 256

    Audiotape 257            Audiotape 258            Audiotape 259            Audiotape 260            Audiotape 261             Audiotape 262

    Audiotape 263            Audiotape 264            Audiotape 265            Audiotape 266            Audiotape 267             Audiotape 268

    Audiotape 269            Audiotape 270            Audiotape 271            Audiotape 272            Audiotape 273             Audiotape 274

    Audiotape 275            Audiotape 276            Audiotape 277            Audiotape 278            Audiotape 279             Audiotape 280

    Audiotape 281            Audiotape 282            Audiotape 283            Audiotape 284            Audiotape 285             Audiotape 286

    Audiotape 287            Audiotape 288            Audiotape 289            Audiotape 290            Audiotape 291             Audiotape 292

    Audiotape 293            Audiotape 294            Audiotape 295            Audiotape 296            Audiotape 297             Audiotape 298

    Audiotape 299            Audiotape 300            Audiotape 301            Audiotape 302            Audiotape 303             Audiotape 304

    Audiotape 305            Audiotape 306            Audiotape 307            Audiotape 308            Audiotape 309             Audiotape 310

    Audiotape 311            Audiotape 312            Audiotape 313            Audiotape 314            Audiotape 315             Audiotape 316

    Audiotape 317            Audiotape 318            Audiotape 319            Audiotape 320            Audiotape 321             Audiotape 322

    Audiotape 323            Audiotape 324            Audiotape 325            Audiotape 326            Audiotape 327             Audiotape 328

    Audiotape 329            Audiotape 330            Audiotape 331            Audiotape 332            Audiotape 333             Audiotape 334

    Audiotape 335            Audiotape 336            Audiotape 337            Audiotape 338            Audiotape 339             Audiotape 340

    Audiotape 341            Audiotape 342            Audiotape 343            Audiotape 344            Audiotape 345             Audiotape 346

    Audiotape 347            Audiotape 348            Audiotape 349            Audiotape 350            Audiotape 351             Audiotape 352

    Audiotape 353            Audiotape 354            Audiotape 355            Audiotape 356            Audiotape 357             Audiotape 358

    Audiotape 359            Audiotape 360            Audiotape 361            Audiotape 362            Audiotape 363             Audiotape 364

    Audiotape 365            Audiotape 366            Audiotape 367            Audiotape 368            Audiotape 369             Audiotape 370

    Audiotape 371            Audiotape 372            Audiotape 373            Audiotape 374            Audiotape 375             Audiotape 376

    Audiotape 377            Audiotape 378            Audiotape 379            Audiotape 380            Audiotape 381             Audiotape 382

    Audiotape 383            Audiotape 384            Audiotape 385            Audiotape 386            Audiotape 387             Audiotape 388

    Audiotape 389            Audiotape 390            Audiotape 391            Audiotape 392            Audiotape 393             Audiotape 394

    Audiotape 395            Audiotape 396            Audiotape 397            Audiotape 398            Audiotape 399             Audiotape 340

    Audiotape 341            Audiotape 342            Audiotape 343            Audiotape 344            Audiotape 345             Audiotape 346

    Audiotape 347            Audiotape 348            Audiotape 349            Audiotape 350            Audiotape 351             Audiotape 352

    Audiotape 353             Audiotape 354            Audiotape 355            Audiotape 356            Audiotape 357             Audiotape 358

    Audiotape 359            Audiotape 360            Audiotape 361            Audiotape 362            Audiotape 363             Audiotape 364

    Audiotape 365            Audiotape 366            Audiotape 367            Audiotape 368            Audiotape 369             Audiotape 370

    Audiotape 371            Audiotape 372            Audiotape 373            Audiotape 374            Audiotape 375             Audiotape 376

    Audiotape 377            Audiotape 378            Audiotape 379            Audiotape 380            Audiotape 381             Audiotape 382

    Audiotape 383            Audiotape 384            Audiotape 385            Audiotape 386            Audiotape 387             Audiotape 388

    Audiotape 389            Audiotape 390            Audiotape 391            Audiotape 392            Audiotape 393             Audiotape 394

    Audiotape 395            Audiotape 396            Audiotape 397            Audiotape 398            Audiotape 399             Audiotape 400

    Audiotape 401            Audiotape 402            Audiotape 403            Audiotape 404            Audiotape 405             Audiotape 406

    Audiotape 407            Audiotape 408            Audiotape 409            Audiotape 410            Audiotape 411             Audiotape 412

    Audiotape 413            Audiotape 414            Audiotape 415            Audiotape 416            Audiotape 417             Audiotape 418

    Audiotape 419            Audiotape 420            Audiotape 421            Audiotape 422            Audiotape 423             Audiotape 424

    Audiotape 425            Audiotape 426            Audiotape 427            Audiotape 428            Audiotape 429             Audiotape 430

    Audiotape 431            Audiotape 432            Audiotape 433            Audiotape 434            Audiotape 435             Audiotape 436

    Audiotape 437            Audiotape 438            Audiotape 439            Audiotape 440            Audiotape 441             Audiotape 442

    Audiotape 443            Audiotape 444            Audiotape 445            Audiotape 446            Audiotape 447             Audiotape 448

  • Audiotape 449            Audiotape 450            Audiotape 451            Audiotape 452            Audiotape 453             Audiotape 454

    Audiotape 455            Audiotape 456            Audiotape 457            Audiotape 458            Audiotape 459             Audiotape 460

    Audiotape 461            Audiotape 462            Audiotape 463            Audiotape 464            Audiotape 465             Audiotape 466

    Audiotape 467            Audiotape 468            Audiotape 469            Audiotape 470            Audiotape 471             Audiotape 472

    Audiotape 473            Audiotape 474            Audiotape 475            Audiotape 476            Audiotape 477             Audiotape 478

    Audiotape 479            Audiotape 480            Audiotape 481            Audiotape 482            Audiotape 483             Audiotape 484

    Audiotape 485            Audiotape 486            Audiotape 487            Audiotape 488            Audiotape 489             Audiotape 490

    Audiotape 491            Audiotape 492            Audiotape 493            Audiotape 494            Audiotape 495             Audiotape 496

    Audiotape 497            Audiotape 498            Audiotape 499            Audiotape 500            Audiotape 501             Audiotape 502

    Audiotape 503            Audiotape 504            Audiotape 505            Audiotape 506            Audiotape 507             Audiotape 508

    Audiotape 509            Audiotape 510            Audiotape 511            Audiotape 512            Audiotape 513             Audiotape 514

    Audiotape 515            Audiotape 516            Audiotape 517            Audiotape 518            Audiotape 519             Audiotape 520

    Audiotape 521            Audiotape 522            Audiotape 523            Audiotape 524            Audiotape 525             Audiotape 526

    Audiotape 527            Audiotape 528            Audiotape 529            Audiotape 530            Audiotape 531             Audiotape 532

    Audiotape 533            Audiotape 534            Audiotape 535            Audiotape 536            Audiotape 537             Audiotape 538

    Audiotape 539            Audiotape 540            Audiotape 541            Audiotape 542            Audiotape 543             Audiotape 544

    Audiotape 545            Audiotape 546            Audiotape 547            Audiotape 548            Audiotape 549             Audiotape 550

    Audiotape 551            Audiotape 552            Audiotape 553            Audiotape 554            Audiotape 555             Audiotape 556

    Audiotape 557            Audiotape 558            Audiotape 559            Audiotape 560            Audiotape 561             Audiotape 562

    Audiotape 563            Audiotape 564            Audiotape 565            Audiotape 566            Audiotape 567             Audiotape 568

    Audiotape 569            Audiotape 570            Audiotape 571            Audiotape 572            Audiotape 573             Audiotape 574

    Audiotape 575            Audiotape 576            Audiotape 577            Audiotape 578            Audiotape 579             Audiotape 580

    Audiotape 581            Audiotape 582            Audiotape 583            Audiotape 584            Audiotape 585             Audiotape 586

    Audiotape 587            Audiotape 588            Audiotape 589            Audiotape 590            Audiotape 591             Audiotape 592

    Audiotape 593            Audiotape 594            Audiotape 595            Audiotape 596            Audiotape 597             Audiotape 598

    Audiotape 599            Audiotape 600*          Audiotape 601            Audiotape 602            Audiotape 603             Audiotape 604

    Audiotape 605            Audiotape 606            Audiotape 607            Audiotape 608            Audiotape 609             Audiotape 610

    Audiotape 611            Audiotape 612             Audiotape 613            Audiotape 614            Audiotape 615             Audiotape 616

    Audiotape 617            Audiotape 618            Audiotape 619            Audiotape 620            Audiotape 621             Audiotape 622

    Audiotape 623            Audiotape 624            Audiotape 625            Audiotape 626            Audiotape 627             Audiotape 628

    Audiotape 629            Audiotape 630            Audiotape 631            Audiotape 632            Audiotape 633             Audiotape 634

    Audiotape 635            Audiotape 636            Audiotape 637            Audiotape 638            Audiotape 639             Audiotape 640

    Audiotape 641            Audiotape 642            Audiotape 643            Audiotape 644            Audiotape 645             Audiotape 646

    Audiotape 647            Audiotape 648            Audiotape 649            Audiotape 650            Audiotape 651             Audiotape 652

    Audiotape 653            Audiotape 654            Audiotape 655            Audiotape 656            Audiotape 657             Audiotape 658

    Audiotape 659            Audiotape 660            Audiotape 661            Audiotape 662            Audiotape 663             Audiotape 664

    Audiotape 665            Audiotape 666            Audiotape 667            Audiotape 668            Audiotape 669             Audiotape 670

    Audiotape 671            Audiotape 672            Audiotape 673            Audiotape 674            Audiotape 675             Audiotape 676

    Audiotape 677            Audiotape 678            Audiotape 679            Audiotape 680*          Audiotape 681             Audiotape 682

    Audiotape 683            Audiotape 684            Audiotape 685            Audiotape 686            Audiotape 687             Audiotape 688

    Audiotape 689            Audiotape 690            Audiotape 691            Audiotape 692            Audiotape 693             Audiotape 694

    Audiotape 695            Audiotape 696            Audiotape 697            Audiotape 698            Audiotape 699             Audiotape 700

    Audiotape 701            Audiotape 702            Audiotape 703            Audiotape 704            Audiotape 705             Audiotape 706

    Audiotape 707            Audiotape 708            Audiotape 709            Audiotape 710            Audiotape 711             Audiotape 712

    Audiotape 713            Audiotape 714            Audiotape 715            Audiotape 716            Audiotape 717             Audiotape 718

    Audiotape 719            Audiotape 720            Audiotape 721            Audiotape 722            Audiotape 723             Audiotape 724

    Audiotape 725            Audiotape 726            Audiotape 727            Audiotape 728            Audiotape 729             Audiotape 730

    Audiotape 731            Audiotape 732            Audiotape 733            Audiotape 734            Audiotape 735             Audiotape 736

    Audiotape 737            Audiotape 738            Audiotape 739            Audiotape 740            Audiotape 741             Audiotape 742

    Audiotape 743            Audiotape 744            Audiotape 745            Audiotape 746            Audiotape 747             Audiotape 748

    Audiotape 749            Audiotape 750            Audiotape 751            Audiotape 752            Audiotape 753             Audiotape 754

    Audiotape 755            Audiotape 756            Audiotape 757            Audiotape 758            Audiotape 759             Audiotape 760

    Audiotape 761            Audiotape 762            Audiotape 763            Audiotape 764            Audiotape 765             Audiotape 766

    Audiotape 767            Audiotape 768            Audiotape 769            Audiotape 770            Audiotape 771             Audiotape 772

    Audiotape 773            Audiotape 774            Audiotape 775            Audiotape 776            Audiotape 777             Audiotape 778

    Audiotape 779            Audiotape 780            Audiotape 781            Audiotape 782            Audiotape 783             Audiotape 784

    Audiotape 785            Audiotape 786            Audiotape 787            Audiotape 788            Audiotape 789             Audiotape 790

    Audiotape 791            Audiotape 792            Audiotape 793            Audiotape 794            Audiotape 795             Audiotape 796

    Audiotape 797            Audiotape 798            Audiotape 799            Audiotape 800            Audiotape 801             Audiotape 802

    Audiotape 803            Audiotape 804            Audiotape 805            Audiotape 806            Audiotape 807             Audiotape 808

    Audiotape 809            Audiotape 810            Audiotape 811            Audiotape 812            Audiotape 813             Audiotape 814

    Audiotape 815            Audiotape 816            Audiotape 817            Audiotape 818            Audiotape 819             Audiotape 820

    Audiotape 821            Audiotape 822            Audiotape 823            Audiotape 824            Audiotape 825             Audiotape 826

    Audiotape 827            Audiotape 828            Audiotape 829            Audiotape 830            Audiotape 831             Audiotape 832

    Audiotape 833            Audiotape 834            Audiotape 835            Audiotape 836            Audiotape 837             Audiotape 838

    Audiotape 839            Audiotape 840            Audiotape 841            Audiotape 842            Audiotape 843             Audiotape 844

    Audiotape 845            Audiotape 846            Audiotape 847            Audiotape 848            Audiotape 849             Audiotape 850

    Audiotape 851            Audiotape 852            Audiotape 853            Audiotape 854            Audiotape 855             Audiotape 856

    Audiotape 857            Audiotape 858            Audiotape 859            Audiotape 860            Audiotape 861             Audiotape 862

    Audiotape 863            Audiotape 864            Audiotape 865            Audiotape 866            Audiotape 867             Audiotape 868

    Audiotape 869            Audiotape 870            Audiotape 871            Audiotape 872            Audiotape 873             Audiotape 874

    Audiotape 875            Audiotape 876            Audiotape 877            Audiotape 878            Audiotape 879             Audiotape 880

    Audiotape 881            Audiotape 882            Audiotape 883            Audiotape 884            Audiotape 885             Audiotape 886

    Audiotape 887            Audiotape 888            Audiotape 889            Audiotape 890            Audiotape 891             Audiotape 892

    Audiotape 893            Audiotape 894            Audiotape 895            Audiotape 896            Audiotape 897             Audiotape 898

    Audiotape 899            Audiotape 900            Audiotape 901            Audiotape 902            Audiotape 903             Audiotape 904

    Audiotape 905            Audiotape 906            Audiotape 907            Audiotape 908            Audiotape 909             Audiotape 910

    Audiotape 911            Audiotape 912            Audiotape 913            Audiotape 914            Audiotape 915             Audiotape 916

    Audiotape 917            Audiotape 918            Audiotape 919            Audiotape 920            Audiotape 921             Audiotape 922

    Audiotape 923            Audiotape 924            Audiotape 925            Audiotape 926            Audiotape 927             Audiotape 928

    Audiotape 929            Audiotape 930            Audiotape 931            Audiotape 932            Audiotape 933             Audiotape 934

    Audiotape 935            Audiotape 936            Audiotape 937            Audiotape 938            Audiotape 939             Audiotape 940

    Audiotape 941            Audiotape 942            Audiotape 943            Audiotape 944            Audiotape 945             Audiotape 946

    Audiotape 947            Audiotape 947            Audiotape 949            Audiotape 950*

     

    * Denotes a blank tape see Archival and Processing History - The First Review: 1978-1993 for more information regarding these tapes.

    • Conversation Number:  001-021
      Audio file
      Date:   April 7, 1971 
      Abstract:   Telephone conversation between the President and Henry Kissinger, the President asks if Kissinger has heard any reaction to his just delivered Vietnam speech and complaints about the military. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   475-023
      Audio file
      Date:   April 8, 1971 
      Abstract:   The President and US Ambassador to Iran Douglas MacArthur II talking frankly about problems in the Middle East and US policy towards Israel. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   002-002
      Audio file
      Date:   April 19, 1971 
      Abstract:   The President orders Deputy Attorney General Richard Kleindienst to drop a Department of Justice appeal of a corporate merger involving the ITT corporation. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   534-002(3)
      Audio file
      Date:   July 1, 1971 
      Abstract:   The President instructs his Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman to have someone break into the Brookings Institution and "clean out" the secret documents in their safes. Kissinger is present during this conversation. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   541-002
      Audio file
      Date:   July 21, 1971 
      Abstract:   The President, H.R. Haldeman, and John Connolly discuss replacing Spiro Agnew as Vice President. Nixon offers the position to Connolly who turns him down. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   542-006 
      Audio file
      Date:   July 22, 1971 
      Abstract:   Oval Office conversation between the President and White House Counsellor Donald Rumsfeld discussing Vice President Agnew's problems in dealing with the press.

     

    • Conversation Number:   587-007 
      Audio file
      Date:   October 8, 1971 
      Abstract:   Oval Office conversation in which the President and his chief domestic policy advisor John Ehrlichman are preparing for a meeting with CIA Director Richard Helms. Ehrlichman wants access to CIA documents about the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Ngo Dinh Diem coup in South Vietnam in 1963, and other previous administrations intelligence operations. Ehrlichman informs the President how he plans to use this information once received. Some of this information was later used in composing a forged cable showing President Kennedy's involvement in the assassination of Diem. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   590-002
      Audio file
      Date:   October 13, 1971 
      Abstract:   Oval Office conversation between the President and Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman discussing the press contingent for the President's forthcoming visit to the People's Republic of China.

     

    • Conversation Number:   011-105 
      Audio file
      Date:   October 17, 1971 
      Abstract:   A telephone conversation between the President and Secretary of State William Rogers regarding US strategy on the upcoming United Nations General Assembly vote on whether to expel Taiwan from the UN. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   011-143
      Audio file
      Date:   October 19, 1971 
      Abstract:   The President and Attorney General John Mitchell discuss appointing William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   013-008
      Audio file
      Date:   October 26, 1971 
      Abstract:   A telephone conversation between the President and California Governor Ronald Reagan after the UN votes to expel Taiwan from the UN General Assembly. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   294-006
      Audio file
      Date:   November 18, 1971 
      Abstract:   Old Executive Office Building office conversation in which the President and Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman discuss the annual "photo op" for Thanksgiving. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   624-021
      Audio file
      Date:   November 24, 1971 
      Abstract:   The President, Henry Kissinger and Secretary of State William Rogers change the US government policy of neutrality in the India-Pakistan War and secretly "tilt" toward Pakistan. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   017-021  
      Audio file
      Date:   December 31, 1971 
      Abstract:   Telephone call to UN Ambassador George Bush on New Years Eve. Nixon is still in the Oval Office working. He calls to thank Bush for his work during the Taiwan debate and efforts to stave off an India-Pakistan conflict. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   022-006
      Audio file
      Date:   March 23, 1972 
      Abstract:   Telephone conversation between the President and Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler in which the President complains about former US ambassador to Chile Edward Korry's testimony in Congress regarding the 1970 Chilean election. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   701-009
      Audio file
      Date:   April 4, 1972 
      Abstract:   Oval Office conversation between the President and H.R. Haldeman discussing the press and public relations. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   191-018 (segment 1)
      Audio file
      Date:   May 18, 1972 
      Abstract:   Conversation from the Presidential retreat at Camp David. The President and Henry Kissinger are discussing Kissinger's previous meeting with Ivy League college presidents who met with him in the aftermath of the President's decision to mine Haiphong harbor and escalate bombing in North Vietnam on May 8, 1972. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   191-018 (segment 2)
      Audio file
      Date:   May 18, 1972 
      Abstract:   A second excerpt from the May 18, 1972 Camp David conversation between the President and Henry Kissinger. 

     

    • Conversation Number:   726-001 
      Audio file
      Date:   May 19, 1972   
      Abstract:   Oval Office meeting between President Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew, Henry Kissinger, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Thomas Moorer. Nixon is insistent that the Air Force conduct bombing sorties in accordance with his instructions and orders.

     

    • Conversation Number:   035-035 
      Audio file
      Date:   December 28, 1972
      Time:   4:00 pm - 4:15 pm
      Location:   White House Telephone
      Abstract: In this excerpt, President Nixon discussed with his National Security Advisor Henry A. Kissinger the effectiveness of the bombing of the Hanoi and Haiphong areas in North Vietnam that had begun on December 18. They discussed the North Vietnamese decision to return to negotiations for a peace agreement and their options for convincing the South Vietnamese to accept a settlement.

     

    • Conversation Number:   153-020 
      Audio file
      Date:   November 14, 1972
      Time:   2:40 pm - 3:08 pm
      Location:   Camp David Study Table
      Abstract:   In this excerpt, President Nixon talked with his aide Charles W. Colson about his landslide victory over George S. McGovern in the 1972 presidential election and the reasons for his reelection.

     

    • Conversation Number:   157-026 
      Audio file
      Date:   December 9, 1972
      Time:   12:22 pm - 12:58 pm
      Location:   Camp David Study Table
      Abstract:   In this excerpt, President Nixon discussed with his aide Charles W. Colson his efforts to build a "New Majority" coalition of conservatives including traditionally working class members of the Democratic Party. They talked about the appointment of building trades union leader Peter J. Brennan as Secretary of Labor and the opportunities this would bring for reaching out to workers.

     

    • Conversation Number:   035-078 
      Audio file
      Date:   January 3, 1973
      Time:   8:39 pm - 8:59 pm
      Location:   White House Telephone
      Abstract:   In this excerpt, President Nixon talked with his aide Charles W. Colson about the administration's relations with the Washington Post as the Watergate investigation proceeded.

     

    • Conversation Number:   035-051 
      Audio file
      Date:   January 2, 1973
      Time:   8:56 am - 9:03 am
      Location:   White House Telephone
      Abstract:   In this excerpt, President Nixon discussed with Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger pending Supreme Court cases including the landmark pornography case Miller v. California and the President's appointments to the Court including William H. Rehnquist.

Archival and Processing History

A processing history of the Nixon White House Tapes from 1978 through the present. 

  • The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) took physical possession of the White House Tapes in August of 1977. From March through April of 1978, NARA’s primary focus was on creating a preservation copy of the original tapes. The original tapes were .5 mil and 6 ½ hours long and they were recorded at the very slow speed 15/16 inches per second (ips). NARA staff rewound the original tapes onto larger seven inch reel with a four inch hub which provided a tighter, more even wind. The preservation duplicate was on 1.0 mil tape and it was recorded at 3 ¾ ips. This copy is known as the “S-Copy”. However, because of ongoing legal disputes, at this time, NARA was not permitted to listen to the tapes and instead had to complete the duplication process by monitoring signal levels on the machines.

    By September 1978, NARA had finished the duplication and started to processes the tapes in order to gain intellectual control over the collection. The original tape boxes had very little information about the content of the tapes and usually only included an approximate date of creation. Archivists listened to the tapes to start piecing together participants, subjects, date, location etcetera. This process also included a review of the content to identify restricted sections of each conversation in accordance with PRMPA, and its implementing public access regulations­­––which is more fully described below. During this period the existence of seven blank reels of tape was discovered: 171, 173, 175, 187, 600, 680, and 950. These reels may have been placed on the recorders but were never used. Nonetheless they were given number designations. They are currently arranged as the Blank Sound Recording Series.

    Despite gaining more intellectual control over the collection archivists needed a solution for quickly and consistently navigating the tapes to find specific conversations and restrictions in order to comply with PRMPA and the various legal decisions. To solve this problem, NARA created another duplication of the tapes for reference use. This copy, known as the “Enhanced Masters,” had additional technical processing which included spectrum analysis, signal boosting, noise removal, and each tape was stamped with Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE) timecode. The Enhanced Masters were made on 3 ¾ ips and 1.5 millimeter tape. Each reel was approximately one-hour long with multiple reels making up a full tape. The timecode enabled archivists to fully comply with PRMPA restrictions.

    Now that archivists could accurately pinpoint segments of the tapes they began a comprehensive review of the tapes. Under PRMPA, and a subsequent agreement in 1979, NARA was required to return personal and private conversations to the former president. Any conversation where Nixon was not using the constitutional or statutory powers of the office of the Presidency was considered personal. Therefore, conversations with his family and conversations where he was acting as the head of the Republican Party––and speaking purely in his private political role––were to be returned.

    All presidential conversations had to be reviewed by NARA under PRMPA guidelines and segments found to have restricted content were separated into their proper PRMPA categories. The PRMPA guidelines define eight restriction categories:

    A: Violate a Federal statute or agency policy;

    B: Reveal national security information;

    C: Violate an individual’s rights (pending);

    D: Constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;

    E: Disclose trade secrets or confidential commercial or financial information;

    F: Disclose investigatory/law enforcement information;

    G: Disclose purely private and personal information, as defined by the PRMPA;

    H: Disclose non-historical material.

    During this review, NARA was also required by court subpoenas to provide transcriptions for sections of conversations needed in court. (Previously, some transcripts were created by the FBI and the Special Prosecutor during the Watergate investigations.) This process was incredibly time consuming and it was impossible to guarantee 100 percent accuracy, therefore, NARA created detailed subject logs of all conversations except when mandated by the courts to create a transcript. The subject logs described the main conversation topics, sub-topics, participants, entrances and exits by staff, and telephone calls. Paired with the Presidential Daily Diary, archivists were able to add exact time of day or approximate time of day to each room and telephone conversation.

    The review process was detailed and comprehensive. Each tape had a processing folder which held all documentation regarding that tape. The tape was then reviewed by two archivists, both of which listened to it in its entirety. During the first review, an archivist created a detailed subject log of the topics and people in the conversation, marked the movement of staff in and out of the office space, and flagged PRMPA restriction categories. To aide in review archivists used a plethora of historical sources­­––including the Presidential Daily Diary, Public Papers, staff memorandum, and any other pertinent primary and secondary sources––in order to ensure historical context for the conversations. Withdrawal sheets were also created in order to document decisions regarding the PRMPA restrictions. These sheets listed the beginning and ending timecode, the beginning and ending keywords, and the restriction category of the withdrawal. After the completion of this review a second, more senior, archivist re-reviewed the tape to verify the first reviewer’s decisions. After a thorough review the tape was passed on to Archives Specialists for editing.

    Upon receiving the reviewed tape, Archives Specialists used the reviewer’s decisions to physically delete the restricted content from the tape and splice in 10 seconds of blank leader tape. These blank leaders were marked with the tape, conversation, and withdrawal number. Similarly, blank leader tape was spliced onto the restricted tape sections with the identifying information and all of these were spliced together into a large reel based on PRMPA restriction category. This method allowed for any withdrawal to be easily found and reinserted back into a conversation when appropriate. All of these changes were made to the “Enhanced Masters” and the “S-Copy” remained untouched.

    In the late 1980’s a dispute arose between the Nixon and NARA. After releasing twelve-hours of conversations and transcripts created by the Watergate Special Prosecution Force (WSPF), which were played in court during the Watergate trials, NARA prepared to release the rest of the subpoenaed tapes, however, the former president sought to block their release. The release of these tapes was delayed until 1991. This delay was also coupled with a decision by the NARA to re-review all the tapes. This controversial decision led to a large turnover in staff who disagreed with NARA’s decision to re-review the tapes.

    On May 17, 1993 three-hours of Abuse of Governmental Power (AOGP) conversations were released by the NARA. One of the primary directives of PRMPA was “to provide the public with the full truth, at the earliest reasonable date, of the abuses of governmental powers popularly identified under the generic term “Watergate”.” While many of these conversations were identified by the WSPF, many were not, and archivists identified conversations that met this standard based on the criteria which were investigated by the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities 1972. The ten categories were:

    1. Misuse of Government Agencies
    2. Watergate break-in
    3. Watergate cover-up
    4. Campaign practices
    5. Obstruction of Justice
    6. Campaign financing
    7. Milk Fund Investigation
    8. Hughes-Rebozo Investigation
    9. Emoluments and Tax Evasion
    10. International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) Investigation

    The AOGP was the final release of this era of tapes review; and with the Nixon’s death in 1994 only sixty-three hours of conversation had been released to the public. Despite PRMPA mandating the speedy review and release of the tapes to the public, Richard Nixon had been able to significantly delay the release of the majority of the tapes for over a decade.

  • The delay in the release of the tapes led directly to a scheduled release of tape conversations known as the chronological releases. The chronological releases was a result of the long delay and constant legal wrangling between NARA and Nixon spurred a lawsuit from historian Stanley Kutler and the advocacy group Public Citizen. Nixon’s lawyers joined the suit and in 1996 a compromise was reached. The Tapes Settlement Agreement stipulated that 201 hours of AOGP conversations would be quickly released, Cabinet Room conversations would be released next, and then the remaining tapes would be released in five chronological segments, with the fifth segment, being the largest, split into five smaller segments.

    The Abuse of Governmental Power conversations were released in three parts on May 17, 1993, November 18, 1996, and February 1999 with 2,224 conversation segments totaling 258 hours from February 1971 through July 1973.

    The Cabinet Room Conversations were released to the public in two parts on October 16, 1996 and February 28, 2002 and consisted of 83 tapes with 436 conversations totaling 154 hours from February 1971 through July 1973.

    The chronological releases included all tapes from a date range in every location except the Cabinet Room, which were released separately. Furthermore, a process was created for the Nixon estate and other individuals who were recorded to object their release. The only outstanding issue not agreed upon was the Nixon estate’s dispute with NARA’s decision to retain a complete copy of the tapes including the “G” personal returnable segments. The Nixon estate believed those segments should be returned while NARA wanted to retain them until work was completed.

    Archivists began reviewing the tapes in accordance with PRMPA regulations and the Tape Settlement Agreement. In addition to the PRMPA categories, archivists also withheld certain portions of conversations that they could not adequately review for release at the time because they were unintelligible. These portions are noted on the tape subject log as “Unintelligible.” For all of the PRMPA withdrawals (except those removed because they were unintelligible), the tape subject log noted the relevant restriction category and the duration of the withdrawal. For national security withdrawals, the tape subject log also indicated the main topic of the withdrawal.

    NARA also began another tapes duplication effort in 1993. The “S Copy” had been erased during 1985-86 and the “Enhanced Copy” was beginning to exhibit sticky-shed syndrome. Sticky-shed is when the binder which holds magnetic tape together starts to degrade causing the tape to stick. Baking can counteract sticky-shed for a period of time but archivists decided it was best to create new preservations copies. Four new copies were created including a new preservation analog, the “P-Analog”, on 1.5 mm on ¼ inch open reels at 3.75 ips.

    The second and third copies served as the preservation digital copy which was made on Digital Audio Tape (DAT) AMPEX #467 cassette. These are known as the “P-DATs” and from this copy a fourth copy was created, the “Edited DATS or E-DATs” which had the “G” segments erased with a 1 kHz tone. Archivists used the E-DAT to complete the first four chronological releases. All copies of the digital and analog masters were stamped with SMPTE timecode to facilitate archival work. All of the masters had the audio equalized and processed to reduce some of the noise and imperfections in the recordings. Due to the ongoing legal disputes at the time archivists were unable to listen to the “G” segments for more than a few moments to set or check the levels.

    The 1st Chronological Release was made public on October 5, 1999 and consisted of 134 tapes with 3,646 conversations totaling 443 hours from February through July 1971.

    The 2nd Chronological Release was made public on October 26, 2000 and consisted of 143 tapes with 4,140 conversations totaling 420 hours from August through December 1971.

    The 3rd Chronological Release was made public on February 28, 2002 and consisted of 170 tapes with 4,127 conversations totaling 426 hours from January through June 1972.

    The 4th Chronological Release was made public on December 10, 2003 and consisted of 154 tapes with 3,073 conversations totaling 238 hours from July through October 1972.

    The next chronological releases would not come for another four years. During that time the Nixon Presidential Library, which was not part of the National Archives, became an official Presidential Library on July 11, 2007. As part of this agreement the Nixon Foundation deeded the political portions of the tapes to the federal government. Previously, all political conversations had been classified as “G” personal returnable. Those conversations could now be reviewed and released to the public. The new criteria for personal returnable was the former president’s health, his personal finances, and the private, non-public activities of the First Family (Thelma “Pat” Nixon, Tricia Nixon Cox, Edward Cox, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, and David Eisenhower). Access to the tapes was now governed by the regulations under PRMPA, the 1996 Tapes Settlement Agreement, and the 2007 deed of gift.

    Under the 2007 deed of gift agreement, the Nixon Foundation also allowed NARA to retain and release room noise captured on the tapes that had been designated as “G” material under PRMPA. If President Nixon was alone in a room during a room noise recording, the room noise was withdrawn as “G” personal returnable. If President Nixon was not in the room, the room noise was withdrawn as either “G” or as “H” non-historical. Archivists reviewed these room noise segments the same as conversations, however, room noise segments were not released directly to the public, but they are available upon request.

    The 5th Chronological release was the first release to include the 2007 deed of gift provisions including the release of the political “G” which had until that point been restricted. Archivists retired the E-DATs and began to use one of the P-DAT copies for review work. At the same time the Nixon Library acquired two SADiE4 Digital Audio Workstations [DAWs]. The DATs were imported into the SADiE system which staff could use to edit and output conversations to CD. Starting in 2007 conversations were simultaneously released online via the Nixon Library website. Now a more thorough record of the presidency could be obtained from the tapes, and the tapes were beginning their shift from analog to digital.

    5th Chronological Release Part I was made public July 11, 2007 and consisted of 3 tapes with 165 conversations totaling 11.5 hours from November 1972.

    5th Chronological Release Part II was made public on December 2, 2008 and consisted of 55 tapes with 1,398 conversations totaling 198 hours from November 1972 through December 1972.

    5th Chronological Release Part III was made public on June 23, 2009 and consisted of 36 tapes with 994 conversations totaling 154 hours from January through February 1973.

    5th Chronological Release Part IV was made public on December 9, 2010 and consisted of 75 tapes with 1,801 conversations totaling 265 hours from February through April 1973.

    5th Chronological Release Part V was made public on August 21, 2013 and consisted of 94 tapes with 2,905 conversation totaling 340 hours from April through July 12, 1973.

    The release on August 21 was the last portion of the tapes that had not been made public. After 35 years of review and multiple legal challenges archivists had finally released all of the Nixon White House Tapes to the public.

  • Even before the August 21, 2013 release, Nixon Library archivists had begun preparation for the next iteration of the tapes. In 2010 the Nixon Library submitted a proposal for funding to NARA’s Preservation Programs to create a new preservation analog copy of the tapes. Due to the 2007 deed of gift there was a significant portion of “G” conversations that needed to be reviewed and released. In 2011, NARA approved the funding with the caveat that the new preservation copy would be digital, since analog tape have gotten increasingly rare and expensive.

    From June 2011 through September 2012, the Nixon Library procured the digital equipment and storage necessary for a project of this magnitude. Two SADiE6 DAWs for preservation mastering; 4 Dell DAWs with WaveLab for digital review, editing, and quality control; and 2 Synology Network Attached Storage (NAS) units were acquired. The goal of the project was to be a complete digital preservation transfer, conforming to NARA preservation standards and practices, of the “P-Analog” copy of the tapes for digital review, editing, and release.

    Before archivists began digitally transferring the project, Nixon Library staff undertook a massive data digitization and modernization project in 2013 which included creating a tape dataset in an Excel comma-separated values (CSV) format that contained the following data from every single conversation: identification name, dates, times, participants, recording location, latitude and longitude, description, and other pertinent information. Archivists also took data that was locked in Microsoft Access databases––participant names, conversation subjects, and main topics––reorganized and modernized the data to comply with current archival standards. This data was placed in Excel spreadsheets and was made compatible with Extensible Markup Language (XML) to be used as metadata for digitized tapes. Staff digitized the information from the boxes tapes were housed in which would also be used for metadata and quality control. Furthermore, staff digitized every national security withdrawal into Excel spreadsheets and segregated them by recording location to aid in Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR).

    The next stage of the project was the digital transfer of the “P-Analog” tapes. Following the recommendations of NARA’s Preservation Lab, the Nixon Library elected to do a flat transfer of the tapes. As discussed above, during the Chronological Review era all of the tape reels were processed and had signal boosting in order to improve audibility. A flat transfer streamlined the process and was more in keeping with current archival principles. The digital format was an uncompressed stereo Broadcast WAV­­––as defined by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)––with a frequency of 96 kHz and 24 bits. The file size was going to be about 2 GB/hour and a full transfer was going to require approximately 14 TB for two preservation copies.

    The digital transfer was completed by connecting a Studer to the SADiE6 system, playing the tape, and recording it in real-time into the SADiE6. Each reel was approximately one-hour long and there were anywhere from one to seven reels per tape. Once an entire tape was completed the XML data created earlier was inserted into the tape reels with BWF MetaEdit and then the entire tape was rendered out from the SADiE6 to the Nixon Library servers. From that point on archivists would work in a digital environment and would open the reels in WaveLab to conduct quality control. During the quality control process archivists checked the audio levels, SMPTE timecode levels, metadata, and overall soundness of the digital file. If the file passed quality control MD5 checksums were embedded and two clones of the files were created and placed on different servers. If the file did not pass quality control, it was sent back to be re-digitized to fix the error. The complete digitization of the tapes is scheduled to be completed by Fall 2018.

    With the preservation process underway archivists began working to develop the next steps for processing national security information. By 2012 all national security withdrawals had been officially requested through MDR procedures. Archivists used the MDR requests to create a queue for which tapes were to be processed and reviewed first. Archivists needed to simultaneously develop processes for MDR in addition to the tapes review process already in place. Therefore, the Nixon library developed a two-pronged strategy to accommodate both MDR and tape review. In order to process tapes, archivists began another digitization project. This project involved taking analog determination sheets––which document the SMPTE timecode beginning and end of each conversation, room noise, and withdrawals­­––and digitizing them. These would be used in conjunction with WaveLab to create montages. Montages are like onion skins that archivists can use to modify and markup the tapes without changing the files. To complete a montage an archivist has to digitally splice together each reel to recreate a complete tape––which were broken up into separate one-hour reels during preservation––and then add in markers for conversations, withdrawals, and room noise. After a montage is completed, the tape is then ready to be processed for MDR review.

    Next archivists developed a new method for MDR review. The necessary data was digitized, but archivists now needed a way to automatically populate the data in analog sheets. These sheets would be given to the various equity holders to facilitate their review of restricted segments. Furthermore, archivists needed a way for the MDR reviewers to listen to the various segments. To solve the first problem archivists created new MDR review documents, based on the textual model, but with important changes that reflected the audio nature of the collection. Archivists then used mail merge in Microsoft Word to pull from various Excel spreadsheets to automatically populate MDR documents. It was important for archivists to move away from the CD model of the Chronological Review era so that they could harness all the advantages of the digital format. CDs are also expensive, inefficient, and need to be disposed of properly. The Nixon Library decided to invest in five Sony Walkman NW-E390 MP3 players. With these archivists could load playlists for reviewers and they could harness the metadata they had to embed in MP3’s identifying information which would aid MDR reviewers.  

    With these issues settled archivists began the process of getting every national security withdrawal reviewed. They also had to re-review all the “G” withdrawals from the 1st through the 4th Chronological review. Using the methods developed by their predecessors, archivists began to review the tapes for content. Much of tape review remains the same. A tape is reviewed by two archivists to ensure compliance with PRMPA, the Tapes Settlement Agreement, and the 2007 deed of gift. There are some areas where current tape processing is different however. Previous eras, inserted a 10 sec 1 kHz tone into every withdrawal. Mainly, this was done because of the limited space available on CDs and audiocassettes. With the tapes completely digital archivists edit out the restricted segment and insert in a 1 kHz tone of the same length as the withdrawal. When a tape is finished, each conversation is rendered out separately as a high-quality mono uncompressed Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) Broadcast WAV EBU at 44.1 kHz and 24 bits. Those Broadcast WAVs are then embedded with metadata at the conversation level. The WAVs are then converted into MP3s at 320 kbps, metadata added as needed, and then are posted to the website as the public access copy of the tapes.

    Some of the overriding goals of this review of the tapes was to bring all tapes into conformity with the 2007 deed of gift. There are large segments of political conversations that are now going to be available to the public for the first time. Simultaneously, archivists are updating and standardizing the tapes finding aid. The finding aid­­––which has been created at different times, with different technology, and different standards––needed to be brought up to modern archival standards.  This standardization includes language and appearance. One major change is how “unintelligible” withdrawals will now be treated like every other withdrawal on the tape subject logs with identification information and duration. Previously, the logs marked these withdrawals only with [unintelligible] but no other identifiable information or duration. This change will improve transparency between archivists and the public.

    Building upon the work of previous archivists to improve both the clarity and consistency of tapes and finding aids was paramount. Previous eras had to contend with reviewing tapes and at the same time potential legal threats. With those threats now removed, archivists had the time to standardize the language and update decision-making processes to more closely align the entire collection with current archival standards. To accomplish this an internal manual was created with detailed work-flows and best practices. Training to review tapes is intensive and archivists seek to form a collaborative atmosphere in order to best interpret the various laws and regulations ensuring compliance with the law and maximum public transparency. With all archivists on the same page there will be a uniformity of purpose and practice that will create a better product for the public.

    In the Spring of 2018 the Nixon Library released the first batch of new tapes with the intent to release new tapes in full after review and MDR work is completed. As of September 2018 all 4,042 reels of the Nixon White House Tapes have been digitized.

Bibliography