Jan. 21, 2000
By Janon Fisher
NEW YORK (APBnews.com) -- On the morning of June 23, 1972, then-President Richard Nixon and one of his top aides, H.R. Haldeman, hatched a plan to
use the CIA to cover up the break-in at the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate Hotel.
The conversation, or rather the recording of it known as the "Smoking Gun," proved that the president not only knew about the break-in but tried to
use the CIA and the guise of national security to cover it up.
The tape was the devastating evidence that led to Nixon's resignation and has had lasting effects on the nation's faith in government.
This tape and 204 hours of other so-called "abuses of governmental power" recordings were released today by the National Archives and Records
Administration under an agreement stemming from a lawsuit between the advocacy group Public Citizen, history professor Stanley Kutler and the estate
The Smoking Gun conversation along with the others released today were recorded by various bugs placed in telephones and other locations around the
Oval Office by the Secret Service at Nixon's request. Former presidential aide Alexander Butterfield first disclosed the existence of the system
during testimony before the Senate Watergate committee in July 1973.
According to the National Archives, recording stopped soon afterward, but the equipment was not removed until after Nixon left office in August 1974.
Just five days after the Watergate break-in, Haldeman and Nixon discussed methods for damage control and the Republican Party fund-raiser who gave
investigators their first clue the president was involved.
In the tape Haldeman briefs Nixon on new developments in the Watergate investigation. He says, "Now on the Democratic break-in thing, we're back in
the problem area because the FBI is not under control, because Gray doesn't exactly know how to control them. ... Their investigation is now leading
into some productive areas."
Acting FBI director's role discussed
The solution: Haldeman and Nixon discuss having Vernon Walters, deputy director of the CIA, contact acting FBI Director Pat Gray and call him off the
Haldeman says: "The way to handle this now is for us to have Walters call Pat Gray and say, 'Stay the hell out of this. This is business here. We
don't want you to go any farther on it.' That's not an unusual development."
And the key to Nixon's involvement came in the form of a Republican fund-raiser.
His name was Kenneth Dahlberg, and the cashier's check for $25,000 that he had raised for Nixon's re-election committee was deposited into the bank
account of Bernard Barker, one of the Watergate burglars. According to the book Final Days, by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, this was the first
link prosecutors found between the president and the break-in.
In the recordings Haldeman tells Nixon of the discovery.
Nixon: "But they've traced the money to 'em."
Haldeman: "Well they have, they've traced to a name, but they haven't gotten to the guy yet."
Nixon: "Would it be somebody here?"
Haldeman: "Ken Dahlberg."
Nixon: "Who the hell is Ken Dahlberg?"
Haldeman: "He's ah, he gave $25,000 in Minnesota, and the check went directly to this guy Barker."
Listen to the conversation between Nixon and Haldeman.
[Edited on 24-10-2002 by quaneeri]