Watergate Tapes “national security” withholds issue
Sept 27, 2017: The following is a 2017 email exchange with Mrs. Cary McStay, Watergate Tapes supervisor, Nixon Presidential Materials Project at the National Archives:
To: Mrs. Cary McStay, Nixon Presidential Materials Project
Fm: Jerry Rogers, USAF
My reason for contacting you is this: Watergate “national security withhold ” tapes.
Ken Hughes at the Miller Center has previously told me there are 37+ hours of such tapes. Does that accord with your knowledge? If not then what is the number. Either ways can you:
1. Identify the tapes by NARA Conversation number?
2. Date/time, place of occurrence, participants?
3. Government agency responsible for withholding?
4. What will be the procedure to file for release?
From Cary McStay
Hello Mr. Rogers!
Congratulations on your book!
Mr. Hughes assessment of the amount of hours is accurate, and I can report we have made progress on declassification on the Tapes! At this time, we have cataloged all the national security withdrawals. We are working on a digital preservation master of the tapes. We have made a new high-quality digital copy of all the Tapes with national security (and have about one year left of work to complete all the Tapes). Now, from that digital copy, we are making audio versions of the withdrawals for agencies to review. We are in the process of having agencies visit to listen to the audio. We are developing digital processing procedures, so that we may then release the new versions of the conversations that reflect the agency decisions. The new version of the conversations will come from our new digital preservation master. However, we are having to birth all of these processes, so that’s takes time, but I feel we are well on our way.
So, to answer your questions. I can identify the withdrawals that are national security withdrawals on the Tapes. We can generally quickly find the other data points you mention (date, time, recording location, participants) although some are found quicker than others. For example, our catalog of the national security withdrawals has date and recording location information, but it does not have time and participant information, but that is easily found elsewhere.
We can identify the agencies responsible for withholding, but the release of the agency who has equity in a segment is not released to the public. I cannot make our catalog of the national security withdrawals available due to the presence of agency information.
The procedure for filing for release is for you to submit to us an email requesting review with as specific as possible the details for which withdrawals you want reviewed. We accept any cluster of information that helps us identify the specific withdrawal, such as conversation number and withdrawal number, date, time, and/or participants,
I am happy to help refine searches for you to determine which withdrawals may be of interest. So, please feel free to inquire further.
At this time, I would anticipate any Mandatory Declassification Review case you submit will be a duplicate of other cases, as we are in the process of working on every segment. Happy to add a case for you.
Feel free to contact me if you have further questions or wish to pursue a request!