Nixon Using Hidden Tape Recorders in Oval Office

Unbeknownst to many of his visitors in the Oval Office, President Richard Nixon had hidden microphones throughout his office that recorded all conversations. I just read an article this morning about the National Archives trying to get 18 minutes of missing audio transcribed pertaining to Watergate: "Papers May Unlock Watergate Mystery"

According to the above-referenced article, it is being suggested that a technique called electrostatic detection analysis could be used to analyze indentations on the second page of notes to determine what had been written on the pages above it, hopefully ascertaining what was said during that missing 18-minute recording. [Are you kidding me?!]

Nixon secretly tape-recorded conversations for two and a half years. In 1998 or thereabouts, a judge eventually ordered the Archives to cut out personal, private, and some political conversations from the 3,280 hours of conversations the public still had not heard.

In the Oval Office, five microphones were installed in the President's desk and two in wall lamps by the fireplace. They were stowed under the table in the Cabinet Room, at the Camp David Presidential retreat and in Nixon's private office at the Old Executive Office Building. Recorders also were wired to various phones, including one in the Lincoln Sitting Room, where Nixon liked to make calls in the evening and listen to classical music.

The government seized all the tapes when Nixon resigned in 1974.

I was one of two transcriptionists sent to National Archives brand-new (at that time) office complex in Maryland to transcribe a selected portion of these Nixon tapes. We took laptops and full-size keyboards to the site. The quality of the audio was absolutely horrible, some worse than others.

The technology sure has come a long way. If they can't hear it on the audio, they can now analyze paper with electrostatic detection analysis. Sounds like a good plot for CSI Miami, if you ask me.

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Comment by Jennie Ann on August 1, 2009 at 7:44
I was surprised to learn that Nixon had all his conversations recorded. It was almost as if he was fearful of something. Paranoia really is the great destroyer. It ended up biting Nixon in the butt.

I do enjoy working in D.C. There is a diversity of topics. That's for sure.

My all-time favorite job was getting the opportunity to transcribe Paul Newman for an ABC television show. I have always been a fan of his.

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