The final installment of secretly recorded phone calls and meetings from President Richard Nixon's White House will be released Wednesday, marking a final chapter in a campaign for public access that continues as memories of Watergate fade.
The recordings cap the chronological release of 3,000 hours of tapes Nixon recorded between February 1971 and July 1973 that have been released by the National Archives and Records Administration. The final installment covers the tumultuous three months when Watergate was closing in on the 37th president. Still, he forged ahead with Soviet peace talks, worked to cement Chinese relations and welcomed home Vietnam prisoners of war.
"This is a really big release in volume and importance, because of the time period it covers," said Luke Nichter of Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen, who runs a website cataloging Nixon's secret recordings. "This is the end of taping and this is Watergate really beginning."
The recordings released Wednesday from the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif., cover April 9, 1973, to July 12, 1973, the day before the existence of the covert recording system was revealed to a Senate committee probing Watergate.
Also unveiled will be 140,000 pages of documents, including more than 30,000 recently declassified items such as an intelligence analysis of Vietnam. Another 700 hours of Nixon tapes remain classified or restricted and haven't been released because of national security and privacy concerns.