About Nixon's Secret White House Tapes

About Nixon's Secret White House Tapes

Between February 16, 1971 and July 18, 1973 Richard Nixon secretly recorded roughly 3,700 hours of conversations and meetings in five different locations. With the exception of the manually-operated equipment in the Cabinet Room, Nixon's recording system was sound-activated and recorded a wide range of conversations of varying audio and substantive quality.

General guidelines for using the Nixon tapes

  • The Nixon recordings have been released by the National Archives/Nixon Library in five different chronological releases.  The Nixon Library is currently releasing the fifth and final chronological release in batches.
  • Nixon recordings are numbered by location of the original recording. The locations are broken into five groups:
    • White House Telephone Recordings:  Tape #s 1 - 46
    • Cabinet Room Recordings:  Tape #s 47 - 129
    • Camp David Recordings:  Tape #s 130 - 244
    • Executive Office Building Recordings:  Tape #s 245 - 449
    • Oval Office Recordings: Tape #s 450 – 949
  • Because the release schedule was chronological, each chronological release could have tapes representing each of the above groups.
  • Within each group, the recordings are generally organized chronologically by the original White House Tape number. Recordings from the same day will often occur in more than one of the above groups. For example, a researcher looking for material from a particular date may find it necessary to listen to recordings from multiple groups (e.g. the first day Nixon recorded (April 16, 1971) is captured on Tape # 47, a Cabinet Room recording, and Tape # 450, an Oval Office recording).
  • Each individual tape (e.g. Tape #1 or Tape # 130) is potentially six hours in length.  Each of those tapes almost always contains more than one conversation. Some tapes can contain upwards of 100 individual conversations.
  • In order to facilitate access, archivists at the National Archives identified and numbered the conversations on a given tape. A conversation number is made up of the tape number followed by a number indicating a specific conversation on that tape (e.g. conversation number 50-3 would be the third conversation on tape 50.) To access conversation number 50-3, a researcher would download tape 50 and move through the recording until he or she reached the third conversation on the tape.
  • In the first three chronological releases, the National archives released the typically six hour long tape in three parts (a, b, and c). In the above example of tape 50, depending on the length of the conversations on the tape, conversation 50-3 could be on Part a, Part b, or Part c. Users will often be required to search through the three parts of a given tape to find the particular conversation in which they are interested.
  • Chronological releases four and five have been released as individual conversations.  Instead of downloading three parts of a six hour tape, researchers can simply download the individual conversation (i.e. instead of downloading tape 50a, 50b, and 50c to look for conversation 50-3, a researcher working with chronological releases four and five need simply will download conversation # 50-3).

Browsing or searching the Nixon tapes

  • All available recordings for all six presidents who secretly recorded conversations are available on the Research the Tapes home page. The collection of recordings across all six presidents includes more than 30,000 unique recordings. 
  • Using the "Filter" tool, you can limit your search or browsing to one or more presidents.
  • The Nixon tapes will display in chronological order. Recordings from the five recording locations are intermixed in the listing to preserve a chronological context for the recordings.
  • Each recording has a set of metadata associated with it to allow for searching. The metadata for Nixon includes: date, participants, description, and original recording number. Only researchers familiar with the recordings will likely know the original recording number.