Friday, 13 July 2018


On this day in 1973 during senatorial investigation the White House deputy chief of staff revealed the existence of a secret taping and tapping system installed in the Oval Office and Camp David and on chief telephone lines. Richard Nixon’s predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, had installed a similar system in the White House during his administration to preserve historical moments, which Nixon had initially removed.
Two years into his presidency, however, Nixon conceded that there was no alternative other than an audio record to preserve conversations and decisions and had the elaborate, voice-activated system installed covertly, known only to a select few aides and the secret service. After the revelation, citing executive privilege Nixon refused to turn over the tapes to the senate committee, knowing that they contained incriminating proof that the president conspired to obstruct justice by directing that the Federal Bureau of Investigation halt their investigation into the Watergate break-in. Nixon’s compromise offer was to release summaries to the office of the special prosecutor, which was rejected and precipitated the so-called “Saturday Night Massacre” when Nixon tried to dismiss the prosecution and intermediaries resigned rather than do so. The audio recording system was removed a few days after its existence became public knowledge on 18 July but a legacy of over thirty-five hundred hours of record, most of which has not been reviewed or transcribed, remain.