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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nixon Tapes Go On Sale In January

WASHINGTON -- FOR SALE: Richard Nixon's once-secret White House tapes.

Hear the late president order the theft of a think-tank file: "Break in and take it out!" Listen to him talk about the kind of person he wants to head the Internal Revenue Service: "I want to be sure ... that every income tax return I want to see, I see." Replay the famous "smoking gun" conversation about Watergate that led to his resignation 25 years ago.

The taped conversations - Nixon's salty language and all - go on sale in January.

"In the past there has been a lot of interest in using the tapes on the air," Susan Cooper, a spokeswoman for the National Archives, said Monday. "Researchers have been interested in having their own copies and professors have wanted them for their classes. We are just responding to a demand."

Cooper said the archives would not profit from the sale of the Nixon tapes. Prices for the cassettes will be set to cover the cost of copying and packaging them, she said.

The archives have a total of 3,700 hours of Nixon tapes. But the public will only be able to buy copies of 264 hours of so-called "abuse of government power" tapes that contain conversations about the break-in and bugging of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate on Memorial Day weekend in 1972, the subsequent cover-up and wrongdoing by the president or his staff.

Making copies of the tapes was an issue in 1992 when historian Stanley Kutler and Public Citizen, an advocacy group, sued the archives, saying the Nixon tapes weren't being released fast enough.

Lawyers for Nixon intervened in the suit, and in 1993, they got a court order banning any further release of tapes until all personal and private conversations were returned to the president.

In a compromise reached in 1996, the parties agreed that if all the tapes were not opened by January 2000, the archives could make copies of the abuse of government power sections for public release.

John Taylor, director of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation in Yorba Linda, California, said he thinks the recordings should be projected on the backdrop of the Vietnam War and released only within the context of the war and other events of the day.

"History will only have the complete story of the Vietnam-Watergate era when it has seen all the tapes in the context and in the light of the documentary record," Taylor said. "I do not believe history will fully understand Watergate ... until it come to terms with the fact that that was a wartime administration and that Richard Nixon was a wartime commander in chief."