Watergate reporters' notes ready for public review

AUSTIN, Texas - While the identity of "Deep Throat" is still a well-guarded secret, the first installment of notes and quotes scribbled by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein while covering the Watergate scandal are now available to the public.

"We told the story from our perspective as well as we could. Other people should have a look at the stuff," Bernstein said Thursday at the University of Texas' Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, which purchased the materials for $5 million in 2003.

Under a deal with the reporters, the Ransom Center is responsible for cataloguing and preparing the documents for public release. They will be made public for the first time Friday.

Self-described "pack rats" who kept dozens of boxes of materials, Woodward and Bernstein said they were meticulous about saving notes from their reporting for The Washington Post that exposed a conspiracy to disrupt the 1972 presidential election. Their reporting won the Pulitzer Prize.

"After a day or two, you could see it was going to be a really important story," Bernstein said.

Taking a brief tour of an exhibit of hastily-jotted notes, diagrams drawn on notebook paper and transcripts of interviews and photographs of some of the prominent players in the story, the reporters said the public should be given a chance to scrutinize their work three decades later.

Woodward and Bernstein, then 29 and 28, respectively, were the first reporters to establish the connection between Nixon aides and the June 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters in Washington's Watergate complex.

Nixon, who faced almost-certain impeachment by the House and conviction in the Senate for his role in the scandal, resigned in August 1974. Forty government officials and members of Nixon's re-election committee were indicted and convicted on felony charges.

Ultimately, the materials at the Ransom Center will include more than 250 pocket-sized notebooks, memos, story drafts, clippings, movie manuscripts, photographs and memorabilia.

Any documents that could reveal the fabled "Deep Throat" will be kept secure at an undisclosed location in Washington until the source's death.

While the identities of several dozen sources remain confidential, nearly 100 - all now deceased - are disclosed in the first installment of notes.

The first release from 75 boxes of materials show that senior Republicans and some of Nixon's closest aides shared with the reporters their suspicions about the president's role in the cover-up and their concerns over his mental state.

Senator Barry Goldwater, referred to as the "conscience" of the Republican Party at the time, told the reporters he thought Nixon was "off his head."

Other major sources identified in the first release of documents were the president's two principal Watergate lawyers, J. Fred Buzhardt and James D. St. Clair.

In 42 pages of typed notes of eight interviews, Buzhardt described how Nixon was evasive even with his lawyers.

"He is one (of) the most transparent (men) I know; the worst liars .... he would pull my leg and I could tell," Buzhardt told the reporters.

"A detailed examination of who Richard Nixon really was," Woodward said. "That's what Watergate was about."


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