Historians Try to Break the Seal on Nixon's Grand-Jury Testimony

Historians in the News

What did Richard M. Nixon tell members of a federal grand jury when he testified before them in June 1975? Hoping to find out, a leading Watergate historian and four historical associations have filed a petition in federal court to make that testimony public. Grand-jury testimony almost always remains sealed. In this instance, the petitioners said, the historical interest justifies opening it.

"There's important historical information in this testimony, and there's really no reason it shouldn't see the light of day," said Jim Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Association, one of the groups behind the petition. "The ability of scholars, journalists, and students to understand the past is dependent on their ability to access the important documents of the past," he added, noting that Nixon's testimony "drives at the center of some of the controversies at the heart of Watergate."

Public Citizen Litigation Group, the legal arm of the watchdog outfit founded by Ralph Nader, filed the petition last month on behalf of Stanley I. Kutler, a historian and emeritus professor of law at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, along with the AHA, the American Society for Legal History, the Organization of American Historians, and the Society of American Archivists. A number of historians contributed declarations of support for the motion. So did one of the few still-living players in the Watergate scandal, John W. Dean III, Nixon's White House counsel from 1970-73....
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