More Break-ins Plotted
It's no secret that the Nixon administration at times resorted to petty burglary -- the botched break-in against Democratic Party offices at the Watergate Hotel sparked the scandal that ultimately forced Nixon to resign. The newly released tapes reveal that Nixon ordered additional break-ins that would have been just as scandalous, had they been carried out. In one significant case, Nixon told his aides to steal documents from the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C. think-tank that employed former government analysts who had turned against the U.S. war in Vietnam. Nixon was outraged by the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, a secret history of the war that had been leaked to the press. In the summer of 1971 Nixon and his top aides discussed ways of obtaining similar materials they believed were hidden away at Brookings. "Goddammit, get in and get me those files," he fumed at one point. "Blow the safe and get them."
The next day, Nixon revisited the topic. "We're up against an enemy, a conspiracy, that are using any means," he told Haldeman and national security adviser Henry Kissinger. "We are going to use any means," Nixon declared, slamming his fist on the desk with each word. "Is that clear? Did they get the Brookings Institute raided last night? Get it done! I want it done! I want the Brookings safe cleared out."
In another incident recorded on the tapes, just two weeks after the fateful break-in at the Watergate, Nixon told his aides to vandalize the Republican National Committee's headquarters, to make it appear as if Democrats were playing dirty too. "It may be that what [the Democrats] want is to get in and sort of get at files in retaliation against us," Nixon mused. "[I]t should be... really torn up," he instructed. "They'll charge it's been done by Republicans, won't they? So, what the hell!" (Despite Nixon's enthusiasm for the Brookings and RNC break-ins, apparently neither operation was carried out.)
Next: "Big Brother" in the White House