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The Nixon Tapes: 1971-72

Nearly Decade-Long Public Service Reaches Milestone

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The famous — and infamous — Nixon White House tapes that reveal President Richard Nixon uncensored, unfiltered, and in his own words

President Nixon’s voice-activated taping system captured every word spoken in the Oval Office, Cabinet Room, and other key locations in the White House, and at Camp David — 3,700 hours of recordings between 1971 and 1973. Yet less than 5 percent of those conversations have ever been transcribed and published. Now, thanks to professor Luke Nichter’s massive effort to digitize and transcribe the tapes, the world can finally read an unprecedented account of one of the most important and controversial presidencies in U.S. history.

The Nixon Tapes, with annotations and commentary by Nichter and Professor Douglas Brinkley, offers a selection of fascinating scenes from the year Nixon opened relations with China, negotiated the SALT I arms agreement with the Soviet Union, and won a landslide reelection victory. All the while, the growing shadow of Watergate and Nixon’s political downfall crept ever closer. The Nixon Tapes provides a unique glimpse into a flawed president’s hubris, paranoia, and political genius.

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Visitors to this site know well that since its launch in 2007, nixontapes.org has always been a public service. It has never contained advertising, never collected personal information from visitors, and has always welcomedand responded toinquiries, suggestions, and research requests.

The goal of this public service has always been the same: to make the Nixon tapes easily accessible to the public. When the U.S. Supreme Court in 1974 ruled unanimously against President Nixon's use of executive privilege in blocking a subpoena of the tapes, in effect the court decided that the tapes belonged not to Richard Nixon, but to all of us.

Three decades later, in 2005, this public service began. After extensive listening and assessing the quality and integrity of the recordings, the process of digitization began. (More information can be found here.) The project was launched as nixontapes.org on July 11, 2007, and the digitization and uploading of all audio files was completed in 2009 — an effort that took more than two years of continuous work. As more tapes have been publicly released by the National Archives the site continues to be updated.

The next phase was the massive transcription effort, which has produced the largest collection of transcripts in existence. With the publication of The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972, this nearly decade-long public service reaches a significant milestone. The book puts more transcripts of the tapes within easy reach of the public than ever before. And, the audio that is the basis for the transcripts remains freely available on this site.

But this work is not done. Far from it. It has been a tremendous pleasure working with distinguished historian Douglas Brinkley on this project. We both agree that one day all audio and transcripts should be easily available in one location, whether on these pages or elsewhere. Until that happens, our work continues, and the publication of The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972 helps to ensure that it does.

 

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