Long-sealed Watergate documents may be released

By Jessica Gresko

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, June 2 2012 10:11 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this Oct. 19, 1973, file photo special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox talks to media outside the U.S. District Court in Washington after ousted White House counsel John W. Dean III pleaded guilty to conspiring to obstruct the Watergate investigation. Materials released by the Nixon Presidential Library on Tuesday, June 23, 2009, show aides trying to head off a U.S. constitutional crisis and save a presidency after Nixon fired Cox on Oct. 20, 1973, and forced out the two top Justice Department officials shortly after Cox voiced his objections to a proposed Watergate tapes compromise and said he planed to ask the federal courts to act on President Richard Nixon's "noncompliance with the court's order." (AP Photo/File)

John Duricka, AP

Enlarge photo»

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice says at least some materials sealed as part of the court case against seven men involved in the 1972 Watergate burglary should be released.

The agency responded Friday to a request by a Texas history professor who is seeking access to materials he believes could help answer lingering questions about the burglary that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.

Luke Nichter of Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen, Texas, wrote the chief judge of the federal court in Washington to ask that potentially hundreds of pages of documents be unsealed. The judge said in a letter made public earlier this year that the professor had "raised a very legitimate question" about whether the material should remain sealed.

Justice attorney Elizabeth Shapiro wrote in a court document filed Friday that the office would not oppose the release of at least some documents.

"Forty years after the break-in at the Democratic National Committee that began the chapter of U.S. history known as Watergate, no good reason exists to keep sealed many of the judicial records created during the trial of the Watergate burglars," she wrote.

But Shapiro said three categories of documents should remain secret: certain documents containing personal information, grand jury information and documents about the content of illegally obtained wiretaps.

In particular, Nichter wants access to records of at least two court hearings held behind closed doors and interviews and testimony given by Alfred Baldwin III, a former FBI agent who was hired to listen to and transcribe conversations from a phone the burglars wiretapped at the Democratic National Committee during a burglary on May 28, 1972.

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