Canadian Security Magazine

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Last secret Nixon tapes to be released; cover China, Vietnam, US Soviet summit

The final installment of secretly recorded phone calls and meetings from U.S. President Richard Nixon's White House will be released Wednesday, marking a final chapter in a campaign for public access.


The recordings cap the release by the National Archives and Records Administration of 3,000 hours of tapes Nixon recorded between February 1971 and July 1973. The final installment covers the tumultuous three months when the Watergate political scandal that would force Nixon’s resignation was closing in.

Still, he moved ahead with Soviet peace talks and a thawing relationship with China.

The recordings cover April 9, 1973, to July 12, 1973 – the day before the existence of the covert recording system was revealed to a Senate committee.

Also unveiled will be 140,000 pages of documents, including more than 30,000 recently declassified items such as an intelligence analysis of the Vietnam war. Another 700 hours of Nixon tapes remain classified or restricted and haven’t been released because of national security and privacy concerns.

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Previous tape releases show the president as a paranoid man. Tapes released in 2009 show, in particular, his obsession with the Kennedy family. He ordered surveillance of Ted Kennedy in hopes of catching him in an affair.

Wednesday’s release promises to be equally revealing, with conversations between Nixon and longtime diplomat Henry Kissinger, three future presidents and Brazilian soccer superstar Pele.

Nixon met with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in June 1973 for the only summit ever recorded on a U.S. presidential taping system. The meeting was a follow-up to Nixon’s visit to the Kremlin the year before and was the first attempt at U.S-hosted peace talks with the Soviets in six years.

Faced with impeachment and a possible criminal indictment, Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974 – a little more than a year after the tapes end.