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Historians’ Law Suit Gets Release of Nixon Grand Jury Files

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 by

  In the federal court case, of In Re Petition of Stanley Kutler, et al’, filed by Stanley Kutler, Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, the American Historical Association, the American Society for Legal History, the Organization of American Historians, and the Society of American Archivists, the Court was asked to unseal the transcripts of President Richard M. Nixon’s grand jury testimony during June 23 and 24, 1975.

According to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) press release, the Watergate Special Prosecution Force (WSPF) had decided that it  was necessary to question former President Richard M. Nixon in connection with various investigations being conducted by  the Special prosecutor at the time. According to courts documents, the agreement to take President Nixon’s testimony in connection with its open investigations, was conducted in a manner that would avoid litigation over such issues as executive privilege.

“On June 23 and 24, 1975, President Nixon testified for eleven hours before two members of the grand jury and several WSPF attorneys. Afterward, a full transcript of the proceeding was read to the remaining members of the grand jury in Washington, DC.”

Traditionaly grand jury testimony is to remain secret. But the rule of grand jury secrecy is not without exceptions. After considering several factors raised by the petitioners and the government, the judge decided that “Taken together, the Court finds that the relevant factors weigh in favor of unsealing President Nixon’s grand jury testimony and the WSPF’s associated materials, subject to NARA’s review procedures. The special circumstances presented here—namely, undisputed historical interest in the requested records—far outweigh the need to maintain the secrecy of the records. The Court is confident that disclosure will greatly benefit the public and its understanding of Watergate without compromising the tradition and objectives of grand jury secrecy”.

As a result of this ruling, the National Archives has opened 26 files from its Records of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force (WSPF) collection including transcripts of President Nixon’s grand jury testimony of June 23-24, 1975. There are some redactions made for the privacy of still-living persons and for national security.

The materials may be obtained at the following websites:

Government Printing Office (GPO)
Our Archives – Wiki

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