"Big Brother in the White House"

The tapes contain significant passages on Nixon's domestic spying initiatives. One key conversation took place on May 28, 1971, when Nixon told his aides that with more surveillance of White House enemies, "maybe we can get a scandal on any, any one of the leading Democrats." Using what the Washington Post describes as a "hushed voice" (perhaps to elude the White House taping system), Nixon said point blank: "I want more use of wiretapping." He asked his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman: "Are we dealing adequately with their candidates, tailing them and so forth?" Haldeman responded, "We're on and off." Nixon wanted more spying. "Well, it should be more than on and off. I mean, that's something we can afford. That's better than hiring 18 more researchers, you know, little boys to go over there and try to figure out what the PR line should be. We can figure that one out. We can't get any information. Why don't you do that? Why don't you put your money on that?"

Nixon pondered his demands and then said, "I don't know, maybe its the wrong thing to do, but I have the feeling if you're gonna start, you got to start now." He then sounded a note of caution over covering his tracks: "Can't do that out of the White House." On another occasion he said, "I don't want the impression of this Big Brother in the White House, the president ordering, you know, bugging and snooping and the rest."

The White House tapes reveal that Nixon went the extra-legal mile to try to gain information on Senator Edward Kennedy, who Nixon considered to be a future contender for the office of president. On September 7, 1972, Nixon told his closest aides to place spies among a Secret Service detail assigned to protect Kennedy, who had been receiving numerous threats. "Plant one, plant two guys on him," Nixon said. "That would be very useful." Nixon hoped to uncover damaging information on Kennedy, and remarked excitedly that "we might just get lucky and catch this son-of-a-bitch -- ruin him for '76. It's going to be fun." Nixon reveled in the opportunity to spy on a key member of the Kennedy family, with which he had a long-standing personal grudge.

"He [Kennedy] doesn't really know what he's getting into," Nixon said amidst the plotting. "We're going to cover him, and we're not going to let him take no for an answer. He can't say no to the Secret Service."

Next: "Get Me the Names of the Jews"


Back to Nixon Basement Tapes Index



ParaScope site jump