The Nixon Papers Deal--An Archivist's Perspective
Maarja Krusten is a historian and a former National Archives Nixon tapes archivist.
Historians reacted with surprise when the Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation recently cancelled a scholarly conference on President Richard Nixon and Vietnam. In calling off the conference, the Reverend John H. Taylor, executive director of the Library, pointed to low registration figures. But scholars wondered if the Foundation simply got cold feet.
Alarmed by the cancellation, the 16 experts who were supposed to speak at the conference signed a petition. They sought suspension of a proposed transfer to the Library of the Nixon tapes and documents now held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in the Washington, D.C. area. The Archives and Mr. Taylor subsequently sought to reassure the historians through an exchange of letters. These essentially said that the Archives would continue processing Nixon’s records under existing statutes and regulations.
I once was a government archivist who screened for public access Nixon's tapes and documents at NARA. I understand why historians are leery. Aggressive tactics that previously served Mr. Nixon well as he sought to intimidate government officials and delay historical disclosures now haunt the Foundation.
The Orange County Register reported in March 2005 that “Taylor said the library supports free and total access to the documents, which federal archivists would manage. ‘The Nixon Foundation will have absolutely no say in what historians see and when they see it,’ he said.”
Archivists know better. Although NARA staffs the Presidential Libraries, Foundations often call the shots. And Mr. Nixon’s representatives have a troubling track record.
Mr. Nixon’s lawyers went to the Department of Justice in 1985, seeking a veto over archivists’ decisions to open historical records. A Congressional hearing revealed in 1986 that the Nixon lawyers discussed how John F. Kennedy's Library supposedly was releasing only the "most favorable" items.
The Reagan Justice Department granted the veto only to have it overturned later in court. The archival and historian communities are abuzz with speculation that with the forced removal of U.S. Archivist John W. Carlin by the Bush administration in February 2005, the veto may have been re-instated quietly.
Consider how differently the Archives has treated Nixon’s requests for deletions over the years. When NARA tried to open some of Nixon’s White House files in 1987, the former president blocked 150,000 pages from being released to scholars.
During the tenure of NARA Presidential Libraries chief James O’Neill (1980-1987), archivists took a transparent approach to their work. They informed the public of the extent to which Nixon disagreed with them. Public notices showed that although archivists tried to release all but 10 pages in a 270-page file, Nixon's representatives blocked the release of all 270 pages. Nixon's lawyer then argued in a publicly released letter that the government's regulations too narrowly defined "privacy." He also went on a public relations offensive, telling the press, “I can raise your hair on end with what the Archives thinks does not infringe privacy and should be released."
Later disclosures showed that among the blocked historical documents were ones dealing with the Watergate cover-up and the Vietnam War. John Taylor argued in a letter in the Chronicle of Higher Education in 1996 that the blocked items "were of the sort that are routinely withheld at other Presidents' libraries." Perhaps not, as the Archives later opened most of the contested items -- but only after Mr. Nixon died in 1994.
In 1991, historian Stanley I. Kutler wrote to NARA, asking when it planned to open the Watergate tapes. Presidential Libraries chief John T. Fawcett (1987-1994) replied that archivists had released all “integral file segments” relating to governmental abuses of power.
Dr. Kutler filed a lawsuit against the Archives in 1992. The Nixon records act called on NARA to disclose at the earliest reasonable date “the full truth about governmental abuses of power” known generally as Watergate. Testimony by working level archivists revealed that 200 hours of Watergate related conversations still remained undisclosed to the public.
Mr. Taylor sneered at us in 1998 for being “Hardy Boys,” writing of the Watergate tapes that “the archivists have done their worst.” The court case revealed that although NARA in 1989 received a list of 70 deletions to Watergate tapes from Nixon’s agent, it did not reveal to the public that it made cuts to the tapes at Nixon’s behest. Archivists (I among them) pleaded unsuccessfully with managers in 1989 to follow the same procedures as their predecessors had followed with Nixon’s objections to release of his files.
Had Dr. Kutler not filed his lawsuit, the public might never have known that Nixon’s agent compiled and gave us a list of deletions. In fact, the New York Times had reported reassuringly on June 5, 1991 that
“Mr. Nixon did not contest the release of the latest transcripts, [the Archives’ spokeswoman said]. Mr. Nixon's lawyer has previously said his client would not contest the release of transcripts relating to the Watergate affair.” Perhaps those assertions explain why NARA did not initially admit to the court in 1992 that it received from Nixon a list of deletions to the Watergate tapes. Nixon himself later admitted to the court during Dr. Kutler’s litigation that his agent had submitted a list of deletions to Watergate tapes.
It was not the only error in the news story published in 1991. The Archives’ spokeswoman also asserted in 1991 that “National Archives experts are cataloging and transcribing thousands of hours of remaining conversations, which will be released over time, but years will pass before all become public.” But the Archives had decided in the late 1970s not to transcribe the tapes, a decision borne out by its later releases of tape subject logs rather than transcripts. (If you look now at the National Archives website, you will search in vain for transcripts systematically produced by NARA’s archivists.)
The handling of Dr. Kutler’s litigation for access to Watergate cover-up tapes raised a number of troubling questions. Court documents filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed that, as implied in the 1991 news story, it would be years before the tapes would be ready for release. DOJ said that screening done by NARA during 1979-1987 represented merely a first archival go-around with the tapes and that a second review was forthcoming before Nixon's agents got a crack at them. But subpoenaed internal documents, such as a NARA Annual Work Plan, told a different story. They referred to completion of "final" review of the tapes in 1987. Documents from the late 1980s also showed plans by NARA for chronological releases of the tapes in phases, starting in 1991 with tapes recorded in 1971.
Ironically, Watergate figures H. R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman had told the story which the government later could or would not in court. They wrote in separate articles during the late 1980s that the National Archives' processing of the Nixon tapes was "virtually complete," implying that a public opening was near. At the same time, historians Stephen Ambrose and Joan Hoff both noted in separate publications that NARA was ready to start opening Nixon's tapes ("four thousand hours of White House tapes . . .processed by the Archives. . . which is ready to release them"). Compare that to what the Archives’ spokeswoman had said in 1991, before Dr. Kutler filed his lawsuit.
I was called as a witness in Dr. Kutler’s lawsuit and testified about the internal turmoil at the Archives during the late 1980s and early 1990s. I described how after leaving NARA employ in January 1990, I later attended a farewell party at the Nixon Project in 1992, during which I spoke to a former colleague. I said under oath that "She told me that review procedures were now so conservative that she felt she was being asked to review documents to see if there is any reason at all which would compel their release rather than reviewing them to see if there was any reason to restrict them. That was her personal opinion of how she was being asked to work." (Krusten deposition, Civ. A. 92-0662-NHJ, 152)
How would any researcher be able to discern a change in review procedures as drastic as that which reportedly took place after I left NARA employ? You simply would have no idea that any changes had occurred. You cannot ask to look at what is being withheld from you. NARA simply would tell you that it had screened materials, applied applicable regulations, and released the disclosable portions. End of story. So, much depends on who is in charge and what staff archivists are told to do.
The internal turmoil stopped after John W. Carlin became U.S. Archivist in 1995. Dr. Kutler and Gov. Carlin worked out a settlement, and NARA began releasing segments of Nixon’s tapes, a process that still is ongoing. But Gov. Carlin reportedly faced pressure from Bush operatives to halt a planned release of segments of Nixon’s tapes in November 2000. Gov. Carlin was forced out of his job prematurely, resigning in February 2005. Mr. Fawcett retired from government service in 1994 and now acts as a consultant, advising on presidential libraries’ issues.
Despite Mr. Taylor’s disclaimers, it is unlikely Nixon's estate will never object to any historical disclosures. NARA uses letter codes “a” through “h” to explain what is being restricted in tapes and documents. As Nixon's records are released in the future, look to see if any material was withheld under the code "c." The Archives openly used this code for a "pending or approved claim" in 1987 to inform the public that Mr. Nixon blocked the release of 150,000 pages. When NARA released most of the items, it clearly identified them as previously "contested."
Will NARA in the future follow the 1987 model of transparency, a process which, although potentially embarrassing to the Nixon estate, I believe best serves all the stakeholders? When I worked for Dr. O’Neill, we did not hesitate to inform the public that Nixon disagreed with our screening of his materials. The path that NARA chooses in the future may tell you whether the Nixon Foundation has a veto over historical disclosures. If you never see a “c” code, that is not necessarily a good sign.
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N. Friedman - 3/25/2005
I can see, from what is written, that the material is complex and arcane.
I hope that all is well.
Maarja Krusten - 3/23/2005
Interesting! Hard to say how it all will play out. The Presidential Libraries are so varied in nature, some are donor-restricted (for the Presidents from Herbert Hoover through Jimmy Carter), others, starting with Reagan's, are supposed to fall under public controln through statute. If I had to guess, I would say most Presidents and their families would have preferred a continuation of private control, that is, donor restriction, such as is found at the LBJ, JFK and other pre-Watergate libraries. It's only human to feel that way.
Poor NARA gets stuck with the responsibility of balancing the public's right to know against the interests of the records' creators. Not easy! Much depends on the different individuals involved, on all sides, so it's hard to predict how public access will work for individual President's records. As I said, I only give a brief glimpse backwards at some of my own experiences.
Sorry I can't give you a web link for Richard Cox's excellent overview of Presidential Libraries in Government Information Quarterly in 2002, which I mentioned in my post above. I suspect there are copyright issues. It was available in PDF through a third party web link last year but that no longer works. If you're interested in delving deeper into these arcane archival issues, see if you can find it at a library!
Thanks for making your way through my LOOOOOOOONG article and supplemental postings!
Brian R Robertson - 3/23/2005
Thank you for responding to my post. First off, I want to assure to you that I have no intention of "taking shots" at you. One of the things that I hate about posting online is that it is easy to misinterpret the tone and motives of the author. Also, I am no defender of the statements made or actions taken by any presidential Library Director in the past. I also think that the archivist who stated that it was his job to "make the President look good" is a disgrace to his profession. Furthermore, I completely agree with Dr. Cox's archival goal of providing accountability in the management of the records.
Obviously, the NARA affiliated presidential libraries have failed in one way or another in complying with the aforementioned archival mission. But, this same precedent does not have to apply to the proposed Nixon Library. For instance, the Foundation would manage the muesem and events and an independent NARA archivist staff could manage Nixon's presidential materials. Thus, the Nixon Library could be a proto-type for future presidential libraries.
Also, I don't think the Nixon Library would be able to manage a NARA affiliated library the same way the Kennedy board of directors and family manage theirs. There will be constant observation from the press, researchers, and academia to make sure that all of the materials are processed and managed properly. Thus, there would be a presidential library and muesem ran by the foundation and the presidential materials would be managed by the most professional archivists in the country. Then, scholars from across the country could discuss Nixon and his legacy without verbally assaulting and mocking one another (a possibility in 15 years?). It is too late to reform the Bush library but perhaps the Nixon Library could become a precedent for future Presidential libraries.
I know that my viewpoint must seem incredibly naive to you but I think that the Nixon Library has a lot of potential. I also do not claim to completely understand the details of your experiences in the fight for the tapes but I thought you would be interested in an outsider's viewpoint. Anyway, do you think that a NARA affiliated Nixon Library as I have described above is a at least a possiblity? I wish you the best and I hope that the final outcome of this bitter battle works out for all sides.
Maarja Krusten - 3/23/2005
Thanks so much, N! Glad you took the time to wade through what is an unusually long article for HNN. To say nothing of my supplements. This stuff is awfully complex and arcane, a real challenge for me to boil down. As it is, I only tell part of my story, as I explain to Mr. Robertson in the posting below.
Maarja Krusten - 3/23/2005
I'm back from dinner and just read your other post. Here are a few thoughts on that one and the one you posted here.
If you have been following my postings about NARA over the last year, you'll notice how carefully I source everything. Have you noticed that I almost always refer to information that is public record, even if not well known? For example, I cite news articles, court pleadings, testimony, etc. If you think about that, and why I am doing it that way, you might realize that I am only describing a small portion of what I and other former archivists experienced. I rarely rely on personal anecdote, rather I refer to articles, testimony, etc.
I'm not in a position to tell the whole story, sorry 'bout that. So, take your shots at me if you like, I've faced fire in worse situations, so what you say is no problem, but I'll just have to leave it at that. I can't offer a full defense of why I say what I say. What I write derives from my past experiences, even if I can't describe them all on a public website.
Of course, my article is entitled "an archivist's perspective," so it is just that. NARA's archivists hold a whole range of views. As described below, some even appear to believe that in dealing with a White House "our job is to make you look good." My article represents my views, I don't claim to represent the whole universe of archivists.
Consider what Richard Cox, a professor of archival studies, wrote in 2002. Tell me after reading this extract how you view the National Archives and its role in government. Here is what Dr. Cox wrote in "America’s pyramids: Presidents and their libraries," in Government Information Quarterly 19 (2002), 14-15:
"The Supreme Court’s decision that Nixon’s actions unduly
threatened important records, requiring unique action, points up an extremely important issue—who or what is responsible for protecting these records?
Much of this stumbles from the fact that the National Archives, which needs to be a watchdog of Presidential recordkeeping and not merely the custodian of the records, has long seen itself in a weak, subservient, or other flimsy role. The weakness of this federal agency,
both from legislative authority and internal problems, was dramatically revealed to the public by journalist Seymour Hersh’s description of the difficulties concerning the release of the Nixon tape recordings.
One commentator, Brian Chandler Thompson, on this relationship notes that the White House deals with “urgent matters of the moment” and the National
Archives with the “long-term view of history,” providing both “irony and symmetry in this relationship.” But there is deeper crack underlying this relationship, when this commentator notes that “There is a self-effacing pride in the modest boast made by an archivist in the Office of Presidential Libraries when he tells White House officials that ‘our job is to help make you look good.’" No, the role of the Office and the individual Presidential Libraries ought to be to help ensure accountability at least in the management of these records.
The small, limited nature of the National Archives and the powerful giant of the White House, alluded to by many working in the National Archives, is no excuse given the
overriding sentiment of the various legislative acts citing government ownership and public responsibility of the Presidential records. Believing also that any effort to establish controls over Presidential records while they are in current use is doomed to failure, as some in the National Archives seem prone to believe, is an abdication of responsibilities or, perhaps, the
result of wrong perspectives regarding the archival mission."
So, what is your view of "the archival mission?" How would you work as a subordinate official of the President through various administrations, Democrat or Republican? How do you balance the public's right to know against the vested interests of records' creators and avoid politicization in this environment? Again, put yourself into NARA as an employee, and look outwards at the stakeholders. How well could you balance their interests, given what Dr. Cox describes? Or don't you accept his view?
Maarja Krusten - 3/22/2005
Say Hi to Ron Sodano next time you chat with him, I know him from some social functions I attended at NARA. My late twin sister Eva was his mentor and supervisor - she was a senior archivist in the Records Declassification Division before her death from cancer.
Didn't see your earlier post, had stopped reading that thread by the time you put it up. Couple of questions for you. You refer today to personal conversation and the Nixon families' sensitivity. What is your view of the items in the so-called contested files? Was Mr. Taylor correct in describing them as "routinely withheld" or should they have been opened? Since they are open, you and others have had ample opportunity to study them, right? So, whatcha think? What is the proper scope of personal, under the PRMPA and its regs?
Also, whether you're in Maryland or CA, do you think you would be immune to repeats of the disputes over the 70 tape deletions? So, assume you're a Fed. Your boss gets an informal submission of a list of deletions from Nixon's estate. Researchers are counting on you to do the right thing. What do you do? How would you apply 36 CFR 1275? Remember, you need to balance the interests of all the stakeholders. Age (baby boomer, Gen Y) and politics (Republican or Democrat) have nothing to do with law and regulation or how one reacts to political pressure. So, the pressure is on - what would you do in the scenario described by Jack Hitt? Just a test to see how you'd handle being a Nixon Library archivist on the NARA payroll, LOL.
Brian R Robertson - 3/22/2005
Since there was no response to my earlier post at http://www.hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=56675#56675 , I thought I would attempt another one. Obviously, the Nixon estate is very sensitive about the release of President Nixon's personal conversations but I can't see why the Nixon Library and Nixon's critics can't work together?
For instance, a few years ago a tape was released where a frustrated Nixon mentioned using nuclear weapons on North Vietnam. The press had a field day and headlines such as "Nixon planned to bomb N. Vietnam" appeared all over the country. However, Dr. Kutler told me that Nixon was venting steam after an intense discussion of the war and he later corrected the media's sloppy coverage of the conversation. Thus, I don't see why the press, the Nixon Foundation, and scholars can't sit down and put the tapes into context and discuss them as they're released?
Also, I've used the Nixon Library and they've been very professional and helpful. The two archivists there have worked for the Reagan and the Kennedy Library. Numerous scholars have also used the library and have produced fine work. In fact, Dr. Irwin F. Gellman used and uses the library for his research and he produced the fairest work on Nixon's early political career.
The only researchers that have had problems with the library are those that did not even try to use it. For instance, Anthony Summers claimed the library wouldn't work with him but he did not even try to use the library. Summers research and claims are so questionable that Dr. Kutler refused to write the introduction to his book! Are we to believe the professional historian, Dr. Gellman, or the dubious claims of a muckraker?
Even the present archivist of the Nixon materials, Ron Sodano, has told me that there needs to be a Nixon Library in California. Of course, we can dwell on the negative comments made over a decade ago by the former Director of the Nixon Library about Bob Woodward and access to the library, or both sides can move forward to benefit generation Y(that's me) and future students of history.
In conclusion, I can't see why the battle of the tapes has become so personal to babyboomers? They can be moved to Yorba Linda and be opened to scholars (and be managed by NARA as they presently are) or they can sit in Maryland while both sides argue over access to them and demonize one another. I know that the fight for the tapes has been bitter and feelings have been hurt, but can't we move on and do what is in the best interest for students of history and future generations?
N. Friedman - 3/22/2005
Hi Maarja. You have written a very good article
Maarja Krusten - 3/22/2005
Here is what Jack Hitt wrote in Harper's in 1994 in an article called, "Nixon's Last Trump":
"In the 1980s archivists reviewed each minute of the entire 4,000 hours of the tapes and assembled a log of their contents, which runs to 27,000 pages. They wrote down the time and subject of each discrete conversation on what was officially termed an "abuse of governmental power" worksheet. Despite the tediousness of the task and the encumbrances of bureaucratic procedure, the full review was completed in 1987. The National Archives then stood ready to return Nixon's "personal" materials and begin the process of releasing the tapes. But each release required public notification of the participating parties in each conversation, opportunities for challenge, and then review by Nixon's lawyers. To accommodate the process, the archives allowed a Nixon representative--a man named Carlos Narvaez--to frequent the workstations of the archivists and review their reviews.
In 1991 the archives moved to make its first genuine tape release (the 12 1/2 hours of tape played in open court during the prosecution of John Mitchell were made public in 1980). The addition to the public knowledge involved 47 1/2 hours of tapes subpoenaed by Jaworski but not introduced as evidence. Before the archives could release them, Narvaez's reports to Nixon resulted in seventy objections. Surprisingly, these objections found a champion in the assistnat archivist for presidential libraries, John Fawcett.
Through a subsequent lawsuit, it became clear that Nixon made his complaints to Fawcett, who directed the working archivists to disguise Nixon's demands for retractions as internal decisions. The archivists balked. One was banished (to Denver); others quit."
Maarja Krusten - 3/22/2005
The implementing regulations for the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act are extremely complex. Please see
My deposition testimony, cited above, refers to the fact that Nixon Project employees Joan Howard, Paul A. Schmidt, and I all urged that the 70 items proposed for deletion by Nixon’s agent from the Watergate tapes be handled in the same way that Nixon’s previous claims against release of his White House Special Files had been handled. We urged referral to a Presidential Materials Review Board. Instead, NARA had a panel of 3 archivists, two of whom were subordinates of Presidential Libraries chief John Fawcett, look over the objections. At the panel’s direction, the Archives then cut from the tapes 38 of the items on the list of 70 but did not inform the public when it opened the tapes in 1991 that the source of the list was Nixon.
When Kutler filed his lawsuit for access to the Watergate tapes in 1992, NARA’s initial interrogatory responses (filed I believe in July 1992) described a referral of 70 portions of Watergate Special Prosecutor Tapes to a Senior Archival Panel, implying the referral came solely as a result of internal review by agency archivists. Of course, the National Archives had stated to the press in 1991 (NYT, 6/5/91)that Nixon did not contest the release of the Watergate tapes.
The NARA Senior Archival Panel is supposed to assist staff archivists in their review. The Senior Archival Panel has no jurisdiction over objections to release filed by Nixon and cannot make adjudicatory decisions about them.
Regulations state that Nixon’s claims are supposed to be handled by a higher level Presidential Materials Review Board. The Board includes the head of the Office of Presidential Libraries, NARA’s General Counsel, other senior executives, and one “public” member, usually a historian from another federal agency.
I would have preferred that NARA follow the precedent followed in 1987, when it received objections to the release of White House files from Nixon and referred his claims to the Presidential Materials Review Board.
When Nixon’s lawyer, R. Stan Mortenson, submitted objections to the National Archives in 1987 against release of the White House Special Files, he did not claim that all the blocked materials were personal and returnable to Nixon. His April 7, 1987 letter to Acting Archivist Frank Burke, which was released under FOIA, lodged objections to materials that NARA sought to open under differing claims. Some claims stated that “materials are personal or private and are not lawfully in the possession of NARA. Mr. Nixon requests the return of those materials.” Other claims stated merely that “such materials are within the scope of the presidential privilege of confidentiality and not subject to release.” Still other claims stated that release “would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
You should be able to obtain from NARA a copy of Mr. Mortenson’s April 7, 1987 letter to Acting Archivist Burke, which I quoted above. It was released to a researcher under the Freedom of Information Act some time between 1987 and 1990, when I left NARA employ. As a result, a copy then was placed in the public research room of what then was NARA’ s Nixon Project in Alexandria, Virginia. I was aware of the public copy at the time that I still worked at NARA. However, I obtained my copy after I left NARA employ. I did this by visiting the public research room of the Nixon Project, reading the document placed in the room, and following research room procedures by requesting that the archivist in charge of the room make a copy for me. My copy therefore carries the NARA label “copied at Nixon Project” which is how the Archives then indicated that a copy had been properly made for a member of the general public.
Maarja Krusten - 3/21/2005
[What Maarja Krusten testified to under oath about “that meeting. . . . in August or September of 1989” at the National Archives about the Watergate Special Prosecution Force tapes and receipt of Nixon’s deletion list. A few excerpts from the public record in the Kutler litigation]:
KRUSTEN: "Ms. [Joan] Howard, at that point, said, ‘John, you don’t understand. We are operating under different regulations. We don’t do things exactly the same way as you would in a donor-restricted library. We have certain procedures, such as Presidential Review Board, which we must use for consideration of such objections, and that we would want these items to be withdrawn in a fashion similar to objections raised in connection with the opening of the White House Special Files."
* * *
KRUSTEN: "Mr. [Paul] Schmidt, at the point, said that he did not feel comfortable lying to researchers and that he objected to being asked to do something that was unethical, improper, and possibly illegal."
* * *
KRUSTEN: "I did tell [John Fawcett, Joan Howard, Paul Schmidt, et al.] that, based on my experience in working with researchers, such as Bruce Oudes, Stanley Kutler and others, that I had noticed that they asked very pointed questions about our processing, in the sense that they wanted to know the procedures that were being followed in separation of independent archival review from President Nixon’s objections.
I was thinking of the fact that Mr. Oudes had filed a FOIA to obtain access to the White House Special Files objection list, and I cautioned Mr. Fawcett that it was my expectation that anything we did with the tapes would be under equally close scrutiny. . . .
Ms. Howard, again, said that she wanted us to follow our regulations, and we all agreed that a Presidential Materials Review Board--when I say ‘we all,’ I mean Ms. Happoldt, Mr. Schmidt, myself and Ms. Howard--urged that a Presidential Materials Review Board be the proper source of handling such objections.” [Krusten deposition, Civil Action 92-662-NHJ, 96-97, September 22, 1992)
[No Presidential Materials Review Board referral of the Nixon list took place]
* * *
[Discussions after the meeting among my colleagues at the Nixon Project, NARA, in 1989]
KRUSTEN: “We discussed the fact that we were uneasy about the fact that we were potentially embarking down a path which did not seem to give us much protection, and we expressed concern that this action might not be properly documented. . . .
I also expressed an opinion that we weren't serving the former president very well, and that's based on the fact that I had worked on Mr. Nixon's '68 campaign and was known amongst staff members as someone who had supported him in his policies and had some personal sympathy for him. I felt that the worst thing that could happen to him would be to be accused of covering up the cover-up, and that we should protect him as well as ourselves and act in conformance with our regulations." [Krusten deposition, Civil Action 92-662-NHJ, 96-97, 111, 112, 113, September 22, 1992]
* * *
[Possible adverse actions]
KUTLER’S ATTORNEY: "Do you have any concerns that any adverse actions could be taken against you or someone else because of the testimony you are giving in this deposition?"
DOJ ATTORNEY: "Objection. Compound."
KRUSTEN: "No. It’s my feeling that I and everyone who worked on the materials tried their very best to adhere to the regulations. When we felt that we were being asked to do something unethical, we protested to the extent that subordinate employees may do so without suffering punishment.
I think we were within our rights to warn supervisors that they were on a path that might not stand up to close scrutiny.
Certainly, I think it would have been in the Archives’s interest and Mr. Nixon’s interest to have the [Record Group] 460 [Watergate Special Prosecution Force tapes] opening handled in a manner other than it was, and I think I did everything I could to warn people that this should be done.
I know of no reason to punish people for attempting to warn an agency to conform to its regulations. And, in fact, to attempt to do so might be construed as an admission of guilt.” [Krusten deposition, Civ. A. 92-62-NHJ, 154.]
SOURCE: United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Excerpts from the Deposition Testimony of Maarja Krusten, in Civil Action 92-662-NHJ,
Stanley I. Kutler, et al., Plaintiff,
Don W. Wilson, in his official capacity as Archivist of the United States, Defendant,
Richard Nixon, Intervenor,
as copied from “Transcript of Proceedings” in author's possession.