Woods’ “inadvertent” erasure of a key Watergate tape is like amateur hour compared to today’s Secret Service’s malfeasance
Most of you are old enough to remember Rose Mary Woods, President Richard Nixon’s personal secretary. But you wouldn’t have remembered Rose Mary Woods but for one incident.
Woods worked for Nixon from his early days in Congress through the end of his political career. Fiercely loyal to her boss, Woods claimed responsibility, in a 1974 grand jury testimony, for inadvertently erasing up to five minutes of the 18 1⁄2 minute gap on a June 20, 1972 audio tape. The gap in the tape was one of many alleged cover-up attempts by Nixon and his team during the Watergate investigation. Her demonstration of how this might have occurred, in which she stretched to simultaneously press controls several feet apart (what the press dubbed the “Rose Mary Stretch”), was met with skepticism from those who believed the erasures to be deliberate.
In light of the most recent White House erasures, the Secret Service’s deletion of text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, shortly after the Department of Homeland Security inspector general requested them as part of an investigation into the agency’s response to the assault on the U.S. Capitol, Rose Mary Woods’ explanation of the erasure seems, well, kind of quaint; sweet almost. Compare that one “stretch” and, “whoops, they’re gone” with the rhetorical machinations of the Secret Service this week.
- “The texts were deleted because of a long-planned device-replacement program.”
- “The texts were already deleted in January before the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General (USSS reports to DHS) asked for them,” forgetting to point out that Congress had requested the data in January.
- “The insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages request is false,” despite the fact that every Federal agency has a requirement to backup government records, one way or another.
According to Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post reporter, Carol Leonnig, who wrote the book, “Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service,” “…in this instance the Secret Service was nearly incompetent and/or sloppy as heck.”
Or, is this a Secret Service, an agency that had been, it is widely believed, “politicized” by Donald Trump, that deliberately deleted these messages? In other words, participated in a coverup!
The investigation continues, not only by the January 6 committee but also by The National Archives, the agency responsible for maintaining federal government records.
But the timeline, as compiled by MSNBC, is damning:
Some dates need repeating,
- Between December 17 and January 24, migration is “tested” and “guidance refined.”
- On January 16, Congress tells DHS to ensure records relating to the riot are preserved.
- On January 25, further record preservation instructions are issued.
- The migration process doesn’t begin until January 27.
- Yet records from January 5 and 6, 2021, not ordinary days, but arguably the most important days in the history of the Secret Service (with all due deference to November 22, 1963) were seemingly deleted, if the above timeline is correct, before the migration began!
As a statement from the January 6 committee reads in part,
“Four House committees had already sought these records from DHS before the records were apparently lost. Additionally, the procedure for preserving content prior to this purge appears to have been contrary to federal records retention requirements and may represent a possible violation of the Federal Records Act.”
“…may represent a possible violation of the Federal Records Act,” suggests that there is more to come. Who knew what about these deletions and when did they know it will, I’m sure, ultimately be known.
John Dean once famously said, “We have a cancer within…the presidency.” If there is something worse than cancer, this is it.