(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Then-White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler dismissed it as a "third-rate burglary attempt." Forty years later, the Justice Department, a federal judge and a Texas academic are central figures in a document tussle that is bound further to illuminate the Watergate break-in and ensuing scandal that toppled the presidency of Richard Nixon.
As reported by the Associated Press, Luke Nichter, a history professor at Texas A&M University-Central Texas who oversees a Website of cataloged covert Oval Office recordings made by President Nixon, submitted a Freedom of Information Act request [5 U.S.C. sec. 552 et seq.] to the Justice Department, which last week responded that it would not object to the release of some Watergate-related documents.
The Justice Dept., however, does oppose materials that disclose personal information, grand jury data and documents concerning content derived from illegal wiretaps. Prof. Nichter, according to the AP article, specifically wants documents related to hearings involving testimony by former FBI agent Alfred Baldwin III, who listened to and transcribed conversations from a Democratic National Committee telephone that the seven Watergate burglars wiretapped on May 28, 1972, roughly three weeks before their arrest.
United States District Court for the District of Columbia Chief Judge Royce Lamberth will decide to which documents Prof. Nichter will have access. Last year, Judge Lamberth ruled the public should have access to a 297-page transcript of President Nixon's grand jury testimony.