National Archives Releases Watergate Court Records

The National Archives and Records Administration recently released records that have been sealed under court order since the 1970s Watergate criminal trial of seven men involved in the Watergate burglary, U.S. v. Liddy, et al. The release includes 36 folders of documents totaling approximately 950 pages in accordance with a court order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

On May 1, 2009, Professor Luke Nichter of Texas A&M University-Central Texas petitioned Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the District Court for the District of Columbia to release records sealed in the case of U.S. v. Liddy, the Watergate break-in case. The sealed proceedings include evidentiary discussions held outside the jury’s hearing, pretrial discussions between defendants’ lawyers and the Court, and post-trial sentencing information.

On November 2, 2012, the District Court for the District of Columbia ordered most of

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these records to be unsealed, given the passage of time, completion of the criminal proceedings, and non-invasive nature of the content. Consistent with the recommendation of the Department of Justice, the court ordered that the following categories of records remain sealed, pending further review by the court:

  • Personal documents regarding living individuals;
  • Documents regarding the content of illegally obtained wiretaps; and
  • Grand Jury information.

The National Archives released the U.S. v. Liddy records, with the three categories of contested materials removed and marked “Court Sealed.” If/when the Court later unseals additional materials, the National Archives will make them available.