Mystery of Watergate tape’s missing 18 minutes may finally be solved
2009 07 30

By Tim Reid | TimesOnline.co.uk

One of the great political mysteries — what was said by President Nixon during a suspicious 18-minute gap on the Watergate tapes — could soon be solved thanks to a keen-eyed amateur sleuth and modern crime-fighting technology.

The missing section of a 79-minute conversation between Mr Nixon and his Chief of Staff, H. R. “Bob” Haldeman, was erased deliberately.

It recorded a meeting on June 20, 1972, three days after operatives connected to the White House broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex — a burglary that caused the scandal that destroyed Mr Nixon’s presidency.


President Nixon with H R 'Bob' Haldeman, his Chief of Staff, in the Oval office


The discovery of the gap was an explosive development during the Watergate investigations, convincing many that Mr Nixon or his aides had erased that portion of the tape because it incriminated the President in a cover-up.

Once it became known that Mr Nixon had recorded meetings secretly in the White House, the President faced congressional and court subpoenas to hand the tapes over. These eventually sealed Mr Nixon’s fate, but the unexplained 18 minutes of silence has troubled historians ever since.

The US National Archives, which holds the Watergate files, has tried to fill in the blanks. In 2001 it set up a panel to see if new technology could bring back what was said on the tape, but nobody could.

An amateur Watergate sleuth, however, has convinced the archives that there could well be another way to solve the puzzle: using notes taken by Mr Haldeman at the meeting.


Mr Haldeman was a meticulous note taker who wrote in longhand on yellow legal notepads.

Phil Mellinger, a former analyst at the National Security Agency who has delved into the notes, reports, testimony and evidence relating to Watergate, said he had a “eureka” moment in October last year when he visited the National Archives and asked to see Mr Haldeman’s notes from the June 20 meeting.

An assistant brought them out but there were only two pages. They had four sets of holes in the top left-hand corner, suggesting that staples had been taken out and new ones inserted later.

“Wow — I suddenly realised that at the top of page two, the discussion of Watergate was ending,” Mr Mellinger told The Times, “The first page of notes went right up to the time they started discussing Watergate. I believe page two was about the last minute of the 18-minute discussion.”

Mr Mellinger believes that in 1973, when the Watergate scandal began heating up, Mr Haldeman destroyed the pages that covered the gap in the tape, then restapled the remainder.

The notes were subpoenaed in 1974 and retrieved from a White House safe to which only Mr Haldeman had the combination.

Yet nobody noticed that he provided only two pages of notes from the 79-minute conversation. It is unlikely that he sat through a large part of the meeting without taking notes.

Mr Mellinger has convinced the archives to subject the existing notes to electrostatic detection analysis, which can capture indentations on paper. The hope is that what was written on the allegedly missing pages can be recreated.

Mr Haldeman usually wrote in felt tip pen but on this day he used a ballpoint, greatly improving the chances of success. “I’m pretty confident this will work,” Mr Mellinger said.

During the Watergate hearings Mr Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, said she had mistakenly erased five minutes of the tape when she answered a telephone behind her left shoulder, causing her foot to slip to the transcription record pedal.

When asked to recreate this, the contortion involved looked so improbable that it became referred to jokingly as the “Rose Mary Stretch”.

Nixon was finally brought down by another recording, the “smoking gun tape”, dated June 23, 1972.

In it he can be heard agreeing that the FBI should be called off investigating the Watergate burglary — clear evidence that he was ordering a cover-up. He resigned on August 9, 1974.

Careless words

— Bill Clinton’s bid for the presidency nearly failed in 1992 when a former lover, Gennifer Flowers, released tape recordings of intimate conversations with him

— The world was given an insight into Tony Blair and George Bush’s working relationship in 2006 when a microphone picked up their conversation about the Israeli offensive in Lebanon. “Yo Blair,” Mr Bush said, speaking through a mouthful of bread

— In 1984 Ronald Reagan did not realise a radio microphone was on when he joked about Russia: “My fellow Americans . . . The bombing will begin in five minutes”

Source: Times database

Article from: TimesOnline.co.uk

The Nixon Tapes: Watergate, Dean & Liddy

Article from: YouTube.com/a>

The Nixon Tapes: Smoking Gun

Article from:
YouTube.com







Related Articles
When Nixon Met Elvis
McNamara's 'other' crimes: the stories you haven't heard
Agent Orange Continues to Poison Vietnam
Rice may have admitted to conspiracy, former Nixon counsel says
"Deep Throated" Media Swallows Banker Lies
Russ Baker - Family of Secrets: Poppy Bush
Hotel that sparked Watergate up for auction
Watergate 'Deep Throat' dies
Rose Mary Woods Stretch


Latest News from our Front Page

Detekt: A New Malware Detection Tool That Can Expose Illegitimate State Surveillance
2014 11 21
Recent years have seen a boom in the adoption of surveillance technology by governments around the world, including spyware that provides its purchasers the unchecked ability to target remote Internet users’ computers, to read their personal emails, listen in on private audio calls, record keystrokes and passwords, and remotely activate their computer’s camera or microphone. EFF, together with Amnesty International, ...
New UK spy chief says tech giants aid terrorism, privacy not ‘absolute right’
2014 11 21
Robert Hannigan, the new head of GCHQ The new head of Britain’s GCHQ, the UK equivalent of the NSA in the U.S., said he believes privacy is not an absolute right and that tech giants must open themselves up to intelligence agencies. “GCHQ is happy to be part of a mature debate on privacy in the digital age,” Hannigan said. “But privacy ...
LOL: Atheist Feminist Pornographer Used as Moral Authority in T-shirt Row
2014 11 21
Dr. Matt Taylor was thrust into the headlines this last week, largely for his lead role in successfully landing a spacecraft on a comet 300 million miles from earth that travels at a speed of 85,000 mph. In short, Taylor and his colleagues pulled off one of the most amazing achievements in contemporary science and space exploration, and in a ...
Forty Years that Unmade France
2014 11 21
Eric Zemmour is a well-known French author and television personality. Of Algerian-Jewish origin, he may seem an unlikely spokesman for French tradition, but he has emerged in recent years as a prominent scourge of ideological orthodoxy. He is unquestionably the most prominent mainstream French commentator who speaks candidly about race. Eric Zemmour This role comes with a price. In 2011 he was ...
Richard Spencer Under Fire
2014 11 21
The Flathead Beacon has a story on the mobbing of Richard Spencer consequent to the publicity over the Budapest conference. The city council is being asked to “an ordinance barring hate-group activities in the community.” As several of the comments note, the First Amendment seems to be of no concern to these activists. The article is interesting ...
More News »