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Texas professor asking DC court for sealed Watergate documents


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Texas professor asking DC court for access to long-sealed documents in Watergate case

By JESSICA GRESKO Associated Press

First Posted: February 07, 2012 - 5:31 pm

Last Updated: February 07, 2012 - 7:37 pm

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/896b1c71e2d44b66bd234e002fac167c/DC--Watergate-Court-Materials/#.TzHCzE92oIN.facebook

WASHINGTON — A history professor from Texas is seeking access to long-sealed court records that he believes may help explain the motivation behind the Watergate break-in that ultimately drove President Richard Nixon from office.

Luke Nichter of Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen, Texas, is seeking the release of potentially hundreds of pages of documents. On Tuesday, a judge in Washington gave the government a month to object to the request.

Nichter wants to unseal records that were part of the court case against seven men involved in the 1972 burglary.

He said the documents originally were sealed because they were seen as unnecessary to proving the group, which was tied to Nixon's re-election campaign, was responsible for the break-in at the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in Washington.

Nichter, who also runs a website cataloging secret recordings made by President Nixon in the White House, said the materials he wants may help answer lingering questions about the burglary. The documents may explain the motivation for the burglary, which has been disputed, he said.

In particular, he wants access to materials resulting from an earlier, successful burglary at the headquarters in May 1972. During that break-in, a wiretap was placed on at least one phone. It was during a second burglary more than two weeks later that the group was caught with additional bugging devices. Information about the contents of the initial wiretaps, which played a role in prompting the second burglary, were sealed and never revealed.

Nichter says the original reason for sealing the documents was they were seen as unnecessary to proving the group was responsible for the break-in at the Democratic National Committee's headquarters.

"These and other sealed materials may be the key to determining why the Watergate break-in occurred, who ordered it, and what the burglars were looking for," Nichter wrote in asking the chief judge of the federal court in Washington to unseal the materials.

He said it's time they are released.

"Nearly four decades after the break-in don't the American people deserve to know something closer to the truth?" Nichter wrote in another letter.

Nichter initially wrote to U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth about releasing the material in 2009, and the two have since corresponded about the issue. Lamberth said in a 2010 letter made public Tuesday that he believed the professor had "raised a very legitimate question" about accessing the material.

Lamberth previously has granted access to sealed Watergate material. Last year, he ordered that a secret transcript of President Nixon's testimony to a grand jury about the Watergate break-in be made public. Lamberth agreed with historians that arguments for releasing the transcript outweighed arguments for secrecy, because the investigations are long over and Nixon died in 1994.

Nichter said in a telephone interview Tuesday that like many people, he's just curious about the documents he's requested. He said he believes that if the government doesn't object, the material could be available in as little as two months. It's not clear exactly where the material is, although it likely is in the courthouse, Nichter said. It's also not clear exactly how many pages of material were sealed.

___

Jessica Gresko can be reached at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko

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Interesting, do you know the guy?

I have been told about his efforts, which should be praised, but I do not know him.

I agree, one could argue the people on the tapes have privacy rights but after 40 our right to know outweighs them, especially since they were involved in a major party presidential campaign. I thought Nichter might have looked you up, or vice-versa.

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Here is an article that is along the same lines.

December 17, 1991|By Tim Weiner | Tim Weiner,Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- A file designated WCD-9944-X-1 lies under lock and key on the sixth floor of the National Archives. Inside the file, faded and frail with age, is the oldest classified document in the United States.

Subject: troop movements in Europe. Date: April 15, 1917 -- nine days after the United States entered World War I. Classification: Confidential

The document stays secret because the U.S. Army says releasing it would damage national security.

Archives are opening and secret documents are being released in nations once locked behind the Iron Curtain. Lies are being erased and blank spaces are being filled in their official histories. Yet in Washington, millions of documents remain classified for no clear reason, according to historians, researchers and government officials.

The secrecy that keeps the seal on file WCD-9944-X-1 "signifies the level of absurdity that the classification system has reached," said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, who discovered the document's existence last month.

No one knows how many classified documents there are in the United States. "A mountain . . . tens of millions or hundreds of millions or billions," says Steven Garfinkle, whose job as head of the U.S. Information Security Oversight Office is to track the government's secrecy system.

No one knows how to go about reading, declassifying and releasing all those documents. "We've got to do something or that mountain's going to build up more," Mr. Garfinkle said. "What we going do? Wave a magic wand and declassify it? Burn it?"

File WCD-9944-X-1 is one of "several documents that date back to the World War I era that remain classified," Mr. Garfinkle said. "Obviously it seems absurd on the surface."

Michael Knapp, an archivist at the military reference branch of the National Archives, is one of the few people to have seen the document since 1917. He said he uncovered it in response to Mr. Aftergood's Freedom of Information Act request for "the oldest military document that we have that is still classified."

Mr. Knapp said the document discusses "troop movements in Europe" during the first days of World War I. He said he could not discuss its title, its length or its language, since it is classified "Confidential."

That secrecy classification remained in place after the Army last reviewed the document in December 1976. Under a 1981 presidential order tightening security strictures, a document may be classified "Confidential" if its disclosure would damage national security.

The secrecy system isn't changing fast enough for historians who want access to 20Th-century documents before the century ends.

Secrecy has caused huge deletions in the official compilation of foreign policy documents, "The Foreign Relations of the United States." The multi volume series, published since 1861, omits crucial chapters.

Do this is B.S how can troupe moments from WW1 effect National Security today? Also why is chapters omitted from The Foreign Relations of the United States." The multi volume series, published since 1861 what are they hiding?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is an article that is along the same lines.

December 17, 1991|By Tim Weiner | Tim Weiner,Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- A file designated WCD-9944-X-1 lies under lock and key on the sixth floor of the National Archives. Inside the file, faded and frail with age, is the oldest classified document in the United States.

Subject: troop movements in Europe. Date: April 15, 1917 -- nine days after the United States entered World War I. Classification: Confidential

The document stays secret because the U.S. Army says releasing it would damage national security.

Archives are opening and secret documents are being released in nations once locked behind the Iron Curtain. Lies are being erased and blank spaces are being filled in their official histories. Yet in Washington, millions of documents remain classified for no clear reason, according to historians, researchers and government officials.

The secrecy that keeps the seal on file WCD-9944-X-1 "signifies the level of absurdity that the classification system has reached," said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, who discovered the document's existence last month.

No one knows how many classified documents there are in the United States. "A mountain . . . tens of millions or hundreds of millions or billions," says Steven Garfinkle, whose job as head of the U.S. Information Security Oversight Office is to track the government's secrecy system.

No one knows how to go about reading, declassifying and releasing all those documents. "We've got to do something or that mountain's going to build up more," Mr. Garfinkle said. "What we going do? Wave a magic wand and declassify it? Burn it?"

File WCD-9944-X-1 is one of "several documents that date back to the World War I era that remain classified," Mr. Garfinkle said. "Obviously it seems absurd on the surface."

Michael Knapp, an archivist at the military reference branch of the National Archives, is one of the few people to have seen the document since 1917. He said he uncovered it in response to Mr. Aftergood's Freedom of Information Act request for "the oldest military document that we have that is still classified."

Mr. Knapp said the document discusses "troop movements in Europe" during the first days of World War I. He said he could not discuss its title, its length or its language, since it is classified "Confidential."

That secrecy classification remained in place after the Army last reviewed the document in December 1976. Under a 1981 presidential order tightening security strictures, a document may be classified "Confidential" if its disclosure would damage national security.

The secrecy system isn't changing fast enough for historians who want access to 20Th-century documents before the century ends.

Secrecy has caused huge deletions in the official compilation of foreign policy documents, "The Foreign Relations of the United States." The multi volume series, published since 1861, omits crucial chapters.

So this is B.S. How can troop movements from WW1 effect National Security today? Also why is chapters omitted from The Foreign Relations of the United States." The multi volume series, published since 1861 what are they hiding?

It probably isn't about WWI troop movements at all. It's probably about how we're making great strides in developing superior carrier pidgeons.

--Tommy

Edited by Thomas Graves
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