The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

November 30, 2012

U.S. government releases once-secret Watergate files

WASHINGTON — Watergate Judge John J. Sirica aided the prosecution in pursuing the White House connection to the Democratic headquarters break-in by providing the special prosecutor information from a probation report in which one of the burglars said he was acting under orders from top Nixon administration officials, according to once-secret documents released Friday by the National Archives.

One newly public transcript of an in-chambers meeting between Sirica, the U.S. District Court judge in charge of the case, and then-Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in July 1973 shows the judge revealed secret probation reports indicating that E. Howard Hunt had cited orders from officials high up in the Nixon administration. Several of Hunt's co-defendants had previously denied any White House involvement in court testimony, and Sirica told Cox and other prosecutors that he felt the new information "seemed to me significant."

The government released more than 850 pages from the Watergate political scandal, providing new insights on privileged legal conversations and prison evaluations of several of the burglars in the case. A federal judge had decided earlier this month to unseal some material, but other records still remain off limits.

The files do not appear to provide any significant new revelations in the 40-year-old case that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon and criminal prosecutions of many of his top White House and political aides. But the files provide useful context for historians, revealing behind-the-scenes deliberations by Sirica, the U.S. District Court judge in charge of the case, along with prosecutors and defense lawyers.

The documents stem from the prosecution of five defendants arrested during the June 1972 Watergate break-in and two men, Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, who were charged as the burglary team's supervisors. All seven men were convicted.

In the conversations between Cox and Sirica, the special prosecutor agreed with the judge's concerns that the probation report should be sealed and thanked him for the information. Cox promised that his team would not divulge the new information unless they felt there was a prosecutorial need and returned for a hearing to make it public. "Unless we came back," Cox told Sirica, "we wouldn't reveal it."

Former Nixon White House lawyer John Dean, who cooperated with prosecutors and testified against Nixon during an explosive congressional hearing in June 1973, said Friday after reviewing some of the newly released files that he believed Sirica "was very aggressive for a judge, even more than the White House was aware of at the time. No one in the Nixon White House knew exactly where he was coming from." Dean added that while Sirica's investigative zeal was well-known, his dealings with Cox and other prosecutors were "eye-opening."

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the files unsealed earlier this month after a request from Luke Nichter, a professor at Texas A&M University-Central Texas. Nichter wrote Lamberth in 2009 asking for release of the materials. Lamberth held back other sealed materials but agreed to ask the Justice department to explain the reasoning for keeping those materials secret.

The documents released by the Archives also reinforce Sirica's reputation as a gruff, no-nonsense jurist. During pretrial hearings in December 1972, Hunt's defense attorney sought to delay the trial after the former CIA man's wife was killed in a plane crash.

Sirica refused to put the trial on hold unless there was proof Hunt was suffering from a serious medical condition, according to the transcripts. "If he is just emotionally upset, that, in my opinion, is not a valid excuse," Sirica said. "If he gets tired during the day, I will arrange for him to go down and take a rest for two or three hours if he wishes."

A doctor who examined Hunt said in a letter to Sirica in early January 1973 that he suffered from ulcers and other gastrointestinal ailments but "has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer." The doctor, Charles E. Law Sr., said he was worried that Hunt would weep in court, especially when questioned by prosecutors.

Reports from prison psychiatrists and probation officers also show that four of Hunt's co-defendants justified their role in the Watergate break-in on national security grounds, saying they were under orders to search for evidence that Cuban government funds supported Democratic party campaigns. Dean said Friday that Hunt once told him that excuse was a ruse used to persuade the others to participate in the burglary.

___

Online:

http://www.archives.gov/research/investigations/watergate/us-v-liddy.html

 

1
Text Only
National and world
  • House Obama Lawsuit.jpg Republican-led House approves lawsuit against President Obama

    Just a day before lawmakers were to begin a five-week summer recess, debate over the proposed lawsuit underscored the harshly partisan tone that has dominated the current Congress almost from its start in January 2013.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Russia Putin web.jpg Sanctions could damage Russia

    The sanctions go further than earlier penalties — which had largely targeted individuals — by broadly limiting the trade of weapons and of technology that can be used in the oil and military industries. The EU also put its capital markets off-limits to Russian state-owned banks.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Libya web.jpg Thousands flee to Tunisia to escape Libya fighting

    Many diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador, have pulled out of the country. With the interim government paralyzed, the fighting threatens the planned opening session of the newly elected parliament on Aug. 4.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obit Robert Drew web.jpg Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies

    Starting in 1960 with “Primary,” Drew produced and sometimes directed a series of television documentaries that took advantage of such innovations as light hand-held cameras that recorded sound and pictures.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama Ukraine Russia_Hass_W.jpg GOP-led House approves lawsuit against Obama

    The suit will contend that Obama has exceeded his constitutional powers in the way he has enforced the 2010 health care law.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Texas: Gay-marriage ban best for children

    Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage allows the state to promote the birth and upbringing of children in “stable, lasting relationships,” the state’s attorney general argued Tuesday while asking a federal appeals court to reinstate the ban.

    July 30, 2014 1 Story

  • OKCupid, Facebook not alone in studying consumers

    Dating is hard.

    July 29, 2014

  • Abortion-Mississippi_Hass.jpg U.S. appeals court blocks Mississippi abortion law

    The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to overturn Mississippi’s 2012 law requiring abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • U.S. Court: Virginia marriage is for all lovers

    “We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote.

    July 28, 2014

  • Sierra Leone West Af_Brac-1.jpg New fears about Ebola spread after plane scare

    Patrick Sawyer’s death on Friday has led to tighter screening of airline passengers in West Africa, where an unprecedented outbreak that emerged in March has killed more than 670 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

Featured Ads