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The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, Twelfth Edition
David M. Kennedy, Stanford University
Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University
Thomas A. Bailey
Examining the Evidence Activites
Chapter 40: The Stalemated Seventies, 1968-1980

Examining Related Evidence: The "Smoking Gun" Tape, June 23, 1972
This internet activity is based on the Examining the Evidence feature found on page 961 of The American Pageant, Twelfth Edition. Or you can view the feature here.

From the beginning of the Watergate tape controversy, Nixon tried to restrict access to the tapes. At one point he offered to release edited transcripts so that he could maintain control over the content. Eventually the tapes were relinquished to the special prosecutor who played parts of them in court. Historians have been fighting ever since for public access to the tapes. Now historians at the National Archives and Records Administration and the Miller Center at the University of Virginia are working to make the Nixon tapes and transcripts of them available to the public. If you have Real Player you can listen to some of the Nixon tapes.

The National Archives has a collection of Nixon Presidential Materials. Explore this website to answer the following questions:

  1. When were the Nixon White House Tapes made available for duplication to the general public?
  2. When did was the White House taping system installed?
  3. What technical difficulties make it hard to hear some parts of the recordings?
  4. When was the existence of the White House taping system made public?
  5. About how many hours of recordings does the National Archives have?
  6. Can you listen to the "Smoking Gun" tape online? How?
  7. Why do you think Nixon wanted to record all of these conversations?
  8. Try to listen to one of the tapes either at the NARA website or at the Miller Center site. Once you listen to a tape then identify it, describe its quality, and describe what your impression is of Nixon from the tape.
  9. One of the things about the Nixon tapes that shocked the American people was Nixon’s use of profanity. In fact, the term "expletive deleted" became a part of popular culture because of these tapes. Is this a legitimate reason for editing the tapes or restricting access to them?