“I am not a crook.” Whether you remember it like it was yesterday or you hadn’t been born yet– these words, uttered by President Nixon are infamous. Now, thanks to Public Citizen, more of Nixon’s words will at long last be available to the public.
Thanks to a Public Citizen legal victory, a key piece of Watergate history – the grand jury testimony of former President Richard Nixon – will be made public for the first time today by the National Archives and Records Administration. Sealed since 1975, Nixon’s grand jury testimony before the Watergate Special Prosecution Task Force is sure to raise some eyebrows.
In 2010, Public Citizen filed a petition in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia requesting, on behalf of historian Stanley Kutler, the American Historical Association, the American Society for Legal History, the Organization of American Historians and the Society of American Archivists, that the court unseal the transcript of Nixon’s testimony and related materials. Public Citizen argued that the testimony should be released because of the exceptional historical importance of Watergate and Nixon’s legacy, and because the concerns that support secrecy of grand jury records no longer apply to this decades-old material.
Allison Zieve, director of the Public Citizen Litigation Group, was lead counsel for the petitioners.
Although the Department of Justice opposed the release of the grand jury records, Attorney General Eric Holder proposed in October revising the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to acknowledge that historically significant grand jury records should not be kept sealed forever.
In addition to releasing transcripts of Nixon’s testimony, the National Archives will release segments of transcripts of White House conversations taped between 1971 and 1973 that are part of the grand jury record. Unrelated to the testimony, the Archives will make available 45,000 pages from the collection of Nixon’s chief domestic policy aide, sound recordings of Nixon’s recollections of a visit to the Lincoln Memorial and additional video oral histories.
It’s not the first time that Public Citizen has successfully sought release of records with exceptional historical importance. In 1999, Public Citizen attorneys successfully obtained release of the transcript of the Alger Hiss grand jury proceedings.
For more information and legal documents, visit http://www.citizen.org/litigation/forms/cases/getlinkforcase.cfm?cID=616. For information about what the Archives is releasing, visit http://www.archives.gov/research/investigations/watergate/nixon-grand-jury/. And to get in touch with one of our experts on this– drop a line to me, Lady Liberty, at engage (at) citizen dot org.