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Declassified LBJ Tapes Accuse Richard Nixon of Treason 536

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-don't-have-Nixon-to-kick-around-anymore dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "After the Watergate scandal taught Richard Nixon the consequences of recording White House conversations, none of his successors has dared to do it. But Nixon wasn't the first. He got the idea from his predecessor Lyndon Johnson, who felt there was an obligation to allow historians to eventually eavesdrop on his presidency. Now David Taylor reports on BBC that the latest set of declassified tapes of President Lyndon Johnson's telephone calls show that by the time of the Presidential election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence that Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks — or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had 'blood on his hands'. It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war that he knew would derail his campaign. Nixon therefore set up a clandestine back-channel to the South Vietnamese involving Anna Chennault, a senior campaign adviser. In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris. This was exactly what Nixon feared. Chennault was dispatched to the South Vietnamese embassy with a clear message: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal. Meanwhile the FBI had bugged the ambassador's phone and transcripts of Chennault's calls were sent to the White House. Johnson was told by Defense Secretary Clark Clifford that the interference was illegal and threatened the chance for peace. The president gave Humphrey enough information to sink his opponent but by then, a few days from the election, Humphrey had been told he had closed the gap with Nixon and would win the presidency so Humphrey decided it would be too disruptive to the country to accuse the Republicans of treason, if the Democrats were going to win anyway. In the end Nixon won by less than 1% of the popular vote, escalated the war into Laos and Cambodia with the loss of an additional 22,000 American lives, and finally settled for a peace agreement in 1973 that was within grasp in 1968."
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Declassified LBJ Tapes Accuse Richard Nixon of Treason

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  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:12AM (#43232991)
    Seems to me, Humphrey actually put the good of his Country ahead of personal and party gain. This is a far cry from what we've become as a Nation.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:30AM (#43233095)

      Seems to me, Humphrey actually put the good of his Country ahead of personal and party gain.

      By not exposing treason that ultimately led to the genocide in Cambodia? I can't agree with this "national interests über alles" attitude you're espousing.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:30AM (#43233609)

        That's because you are working with hindsight knowledge of what happened after the decision by Humphrey not to expose Nixon. If you remove that knowledge from the picture then Humphrey did the right thing in that he avoided complicating the election at the last minute and throwing the country into further turmoil. If he won as he was led to believe he would, he could have then prosecuted Nixon via normal channels. After Nixon became president it became infinitely more difficult to prosecute him because he was a sitting president and had all the protections that that includes.

        • by apcullen (2504324) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @10:22AM (#43234169)
          But if this evidence had been made public, even after the election, it might have pressured Nixon to pursue peace rather than escalation in Vietnam.
        • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @12:49PM (#43236125)

          That's because you are working with hindsight knowledge of what happened after the decision by Humphrey not to expose Nixon. If you remove that knowledge from the picture then Humphrey did the right thing in that he avoided complicating the election at the last minute and throwing the country into further turmoil.

          The avoidance of short-term turmoil by avoiding accountability for gross misdeeds by the powerful is a recurring trend that encourages overreach and abuse by politicians (both candidates and officeholders), and is in no way "for the good of the country", though that's the excuse that members of the club of the super-powerful use (perhaps even to themselves) to justify not holding other members of that club accountable.

          And it hardly takes specific hindsight to recognize that not holding traitors accountable encourages treason.

    • by thue (121682) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:35AM (#43233121) Homepage

      But was it for the better? The country might be better off if the criminals are exposed, and the battles fought, instead of festering as conspiracy theories.

      • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:33AM (#43233641) Journal

        No, it was not for the better. Nixon should have been hanged, as should Bush and Cheney be hanged. Allowing our leaders to get away with war crimes only ensures future war crimes.

        • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @10:55AM (#43234655) Journal

          And you're probably okay with Obama bombing citizens under NDAA.

          In other words, unless you're going to apply your logic to both (D) and (R) equally, then it doesn't matter. Both parties are criminal enterprises.

          • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @10:58AM (#43234687) Journal

            No, I'd quite like to see Obama hanged as well.

        • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @11:02AM (#43234747) Homepage

          In the US we have a pretty good history of not hanging outgoing politicians for controversial political decisions they made while in office. This is one of the reasons that our politicians are so very willing to leave office. You will notice that there are various regimes in the world where outgoing leadership turns into political prisoners or are executed... you may also notice that the leadership in those parts tends to do rather oppressive things to cling to power: e.g. when people protested Hugo Chavez he brought out snipers.

          Western democracies have prosecuted a variety of people for war crimes, but it doesn't take a flaming Republican to notice that there were a variety of very important qualitative differences between the likes of Adolf Hitler's gang and GWBush's...

          I contend that your proposed alternative is significantly uglier than the current situation.

          • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @11:23AM (#43235003) Journal

            Really? "Let us get away with war crimes or we'll go all Chavez on you" That's the best excuse you have? Is the rule of law simply not an option?

            Changing presidents in the US is not regime change. We have the same constitution and the same body of laws. The military swears to defend the constitution against foreign and domestic enemies. And a treasonous president trying to illegally hold on to power is a domestic enemy. If we as a country were sensible to hold presidents accountable when they commit treason, we'd also have a military that is sensible enough to know that their allegiance is to the constitution and the rule of law, and not the president and the rule of man.

            Is Bush Hitler? No. But he still has more blood on his hands than any free man should. He deserves to hang for his crimes.

          • by cusco (717999) <brian.bixbyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 21, 2013 @11:35AM (#43235175)
            when people protested Hugo Chavez he brought out snipers.

            People are still repeating this trash? It was debunked the day after it was first broadcast by the Venezuelan media conglomerates (such as Univision, which backed the actual coup attempt both financially and politically). The only people shot at that protest were the counter-protesters who backed Chavez, none of them hit by rifle fire, just pistol rounds (probably from the bodyguards of the wealthy protesters). FWIW, Univision (based in Caracas) is the Fox News of Latin America.
    • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:18AM (#43233483)

      This is a far cry from what we've become as a Nation.

      That is, a nation full of people who are willing to give away all of their freedoms to the government so they can feel safe, and who accuse anyone of opposing these measures of being on the Bad Guy Team.

    • by sehryan (412731) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:21AM (#43233509)

      How is not exposing a presidential candidate's treason putting country ahead of personal and party gain? Just because he would gain politically does not automatically mean that he shouldn't do it "for the good of the country." Those things are not exclusive.

      • As far as this report indicates, Humphrey BELIEVED he put his nation's interests before his own. That said, your belief in good and evil is different from his and mine. No two parties will ever agree on what the right thing to do is in every circumstance, but I would trade what we have now for good intentions.
      • How is not exposing a presidential candidate's treason putting country ahead of personal and party gain? Just because he would gain politically does not automatically mean that he shouldn't do it "for the good of the country." Those things are not exclusive.

        Most people in this discussion seem to forget two things: First, the '68 election was one of the ugliest and bitterest of the 20th century.* Second *Humphrey believed he was winning". (And he very nearly did.)
         
        Releasing this information under those circumstances would have been seen as pouring gasoline on the fire, when there was no need to do so, leading to further division and dissension within the country at a time when it could ill afford it.

        * Consider that the campaign had already been marked by Robert Kennedy's assassination, Martin Luther King's assassination, the Tet offensive, widespread violence and protests over racial issues and the war...

    • by Paradigma11 (645246) <Paradigma11@hotmail.com> on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:58AM (#43233863)

      Seems to me, Humphrey actually put the good of his Country ahead of personal and party gain. This is a far cry from what we've become as a Nation.

      Afaik Humphrey didn't expose Nixon because polls told him he would win anyway and that there was no need to steep that low.
      And what would the use have been after having lost.
      Better to wait for the rematch and use it then.

    • by davydagger (2566757) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @11:38AM (#43235195)
      seems to be history revisionism to suit the current left-vs-right politics of today

      Johnson had no qualms with escalating the war in viet nam for all the wrong reasons. He had blood on his hands. So did Kennedy.
  • by Weezul (52464) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:12AM (#43232997)

    I'm reminded that Clinton's administration created a fairly good email archiving system. Bush's people dismantled it upon taking office because they knew they were there to commit fraud even before 9/11.

  • by mbone (558574) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:14AM (#43233003)

    Thank goodness someone in the US is picking up on this. This has been news [dailymail.co.uk] in the UK all week.

  • If this is true... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:15AM (#43233017)

    Then it is one of the worst crimes of treason ever.

    Anything that remains of Nixon's estate (should be traceable still) should be immediately frozen to be used to compensate those affected by this - the families of those who died as a result of this act of treason that continued the war for a further 5 years, and those injured as well.

    His entire period of presidency should be blackened (even further?!), his name should be dirt, any offspring should want to change their name to distance themselves from this evil man.

    • by muecksteiner (102093) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:19AM (#43233035)

      Where are mod points when you need them. "Damnatio memoriae", the ancient Romans called this sort of procedure. With all we know about him by now, it would actually be most appropriate for someone like Nixon.

      • by dywolf (2673597) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:13AM (#43233439)

        Yes. Lets forget all about:

        -Opening relations with China ("Only a Nixon could have gone to China")...which led directly to....
        -The Anit-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the ensuing state of "detente" with Russia (since it was no longer 2 against 1, with China liking us all of a sudden) that lasted until the fall of Communism
        -The New Federalism that gave back much power to the states that previously had been the Feds
        -The first presidential initative to fight/research cancer
        -Establishing the EPA and staffing it with people with the guts to stand up to his own administration
        -Enforcing/protecting desegregation before it could be killed by opposition groups and reverted
        -Prominent supporter of the NEPA, OSHA, and the Clean Air Act
        -Supported the Equal Rights Ammendment, even though it was killed in Congress
        -Created the first affirmative action program in the federal govermnment

        Even in his time he was considered a moderate, the last of the of the Rockefeller republicans. today he would be dismissed by the party as a liberal.

        Key thing to remember: all we have here is an article claiming proof. That IS NOT in itself proof of anything. It's "a friend of a friend", it's hearsay. And all historical measures of the war previous to this, there is zero indication that any of this happened, no indication that they were ever close to a settlement in that time. and this is the sort of thing that would NOT stay secret, that someone would have come forward with years ago.

        But no, you're right. We should forget he ever existed and curse his name for years to come, and ignore everything else he did, of which that is only a partial list.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Desler (1608317)

          Key thing to remember: all we have here is an article claiming proof. That IS NOT in itself proof of anything. It's "a friend of a friend", it's hearsay. And all historical measures of the war previous to this, there is zero indication that any of this happened, no indication that they were ever close to a settlement in that time. and this is the sort of thing that would NOT stay secret, that someone would have come forward with years ago.

          No, we have an article whose source of information is straight from the then President's mouth. You try to claim it's not true, but what exactly would Johnson gain by making this up and saying this on tapes that purposefully would not be declassified until long after him and Nixon would be dead? Also, secrets like this get kept secret all the time as we find out as more and more government documents get declassified. In short: you're the fucking moron.

          • No, we have an article whose source of information is straight from the then President's mouth. You try to claim it's not true, but what exactly would Johnson gain by making this up and saying this on tapes that purposefully would not be declassified until long after him and Nixon would be dead?

            Why? Potential political gain. Not only was LBJ a master politician, he was not above a bit of dirty pool - and the '68 election was one of the bitterest fights of the 20th century. Context cannot be ignored.

        • by rotenberry (3487)

          Speaking as someone who was classified 1-A in 1973 I would claim you left off one of his important actions:

          "On January 27, 1973, Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird announced the creation of an all-volunteer armed forces, negating the need for the military draft."

        • by Khyber (864651)

          "Key thing to remember: all we have here is an article claiming proof."

          Perhaps you should've watched the BBC show where THEY PLAYED THE TAPES.

          Quite funny you call people fucking morons when your own ignorance abounds. Who knows nothing, here? Looks like you, child.

        • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland @ y a hoo.com> on Thursday March 21, 2013 @11:39AM (#43235215) Homepage Journal

          This Only Nixon could go to China stuff was bullshit then, and it's still Bullshit. And it wasn't what Spock meant to boot.

          Not only that, it was done illegally by bypassing the cabinet. Even then that wasn't why he got to China. The Russian/China border clashes and China's more limited military weaponry had China looking for an ally. His belief that we should leave a billion people to stew in isolation is correct, but he wasn't the only one to believe it.

          Who else were the Chinese going to reach out to in order to give the Russians pause about attacking China?

          Nixon was against the EPA, but the nation wanted it. He grudgingly created it.

          He created a food shortage.

          He only endorsed the ERA AFTER it passed both houses.
          "no indication that they were ever close to a settlement in that time. a"
          that's just wrong.

          Some of us were alive and remember these events.
          He did nothing that wasn't available to any other president. Would a different president done it differently? enough to matter? we will never know.

        • by cusco (717999)
          someone would have come forward with years ago

          Several people have, including former representatives of the South Vietnamese government. Of course they were all dismissed by folks like you as "conspiracy theorists".

          I'm always amused by this childlike faith in the supposed honesty of politicians and military/intel people. Look up Operation Northwoods, a plan to attack American civilians and American corporations in a false flag attack designed to be blamed on Cuba and manufacture a reason to invade.
    • by Stan92057 (737634) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:04AM (#43233353)
      Its seems to me that Lyndon Johnson is just as if not more guilty. He says he had proof But didn't tell anyone so he got just as much blood on his hands if not more so.
    • by Virtucon (127420) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:07AM (#43233383)

      Oh JFC! What a ludicrous statement and you obviously have no concept of history. Let's not forget that Johnson through the trumped, made up events that led to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was used to begin offensive operations in Vietnam in the first place? You seem to think that only one party is capable of lying and committing these acts? Please what a lame and retarded viewpoint.

      The Gulf of Tonkin resolution and the Johnson administration's push and omissions and stupidity were no different than the Bush administration officials saying "There's WMDs in Iraq!"

      In 1965, President Johnson commented privately: "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there."

      Humm, so you think only GW Bush was an idiot huh?

      So, Johnson's administration escalated the war in Vietnam based on errors, omissions and Johnson's own stupidity. [wikipedia.org] and lies. [fair.org]

      In 1965, President Johnson commented privately: "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there."

      He also got a lot of people killed because of his micro-managing style. Battlefield commanders had to wait for permission from DC to take out targets of opportunity. Because of that we lost a lot of planes and a lot of operations were compromised because people's hands were tied up because

      “They can't bomb an outhouse without my say-so.” - Lyndon Johnson

      So, he produces trumped up events to commit our troops to war, then micro manages how they operate which gets more of them killed. It sounds like the one who should be brought up on Treason charges should be LBJ!

      Oh and let's not forget that it was the Kennedy Administration who ramped up involvement in Vietnam to begin with. Including looking the other way when the South Vietnamese President was ousted in a coup. [jfklibrary.org]

      So, before you start making big remarks, especially while hiding you should consult your history books a bit more or shit at least Wikipedia.

    • Anything that remains of Nixon's estate (should be traceable still) should be immediately frozen to be used to compensate those affected by this

      US law in general pretty much forbids such posthumous conviction and seizure (there are some exceptions, but they are narrow), and in the case of treason forbids it specifically ("no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted"). The Founding Fathers knew well of the abuses of such things for pol

    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:40AM (#43233693) Journal
      The worst? GWB went to war on a lie, that he knew was a lie. He did not just sabotaged peace talks, he deliberately destroyed a peace situation and went to war despite a UN opposition. This conflict killed 24000 coalition force personal, including ~ 5000 Americans. Civilian victims are estimated between 100k and 1mil.

      He destroyed US reputation, he destroyed UN credibility. He lied to his people and to congress. But because this was not about sex, it seems less important.

      Really, from afar, the focus of US public opinion is quite strange.
  • Time Machine time?? (Score:5, Informative)

    by will_die (586523) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:20AM (#43233039) Homepage
    What am I missing these items came out years ago. See http://hnn.us/articles/60446.html [hnn.us] for a better indication on what happened then this poor summary.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:28AM (#43233077)

    escalated the war into Laos and Cambodia with the loss of an additional 22,000 American lives

    .

    It's a sad symptom of the state of discourse when it's formulated like this. As if the only responsibility of a US president in a war was to not waste American lives.

    The bombing set the stage for millennialist national-communist dictatorships in both those states, and one of the worst genocides in the 20th century (and that's saying something).

    In light of what could have been avoided, maybe future presidents should take a lesson, and not always "look forward, not backward".

  • by Arthur B. (806360) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:33AM (#43233111)

    What are the odds of a sociopath like him being elected president? Quite good, because being a sociopath *helps you* win elections. In fact it gives you a tremendous advantage. Given how competitive elections are, it would be astonishing if presidents weren't sociopaths.

  • Give me a break (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lucas123 (935744) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:37AM (#43233135) Homepage
    Peace talks. LBJ escalated American involvement in the Vietnam War, from 16,000 American advisors/soldiers in 1963 to 550,000 combat troops by early 1968. And Johnson wants to blame someone else for sabotaging peace talks. Go sell the Brooklyn Bridge to someone else.
    • Re:Give me a break (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fredrated (639554) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:50AM (#43233223) Journal

      You are so right. I am old enough (sigh) to remember the Johnson-Goldwater election campaign of 1964, and in that campaign Goldwater talked escalating the war while Johnson said he would wind it down. Then that bastard turned around and essentially did everything Goldwater had threatened to do, the lying scum.
      On the other hand, this hardly makes Noxin's treason any less despicable.
      Conclusion: mostly all politicians are trash.

    • Escalating the conflict over a five year period is one thing, and sabotaging peace talks to win an election is another. Neither is a good thing certainly, but one being true does not make the other untrue.
  • Not exactly treason (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rambo Tribble (1273454) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:51AM (#43233235)
    While Nixon's actions certainly border on treason, he was dealing with South Vietnam, an ally. On the other hand, prior to the 1980 election Reagan bargained with Iran, an enemy, to keep Americans imprisoned and subvert the election. It's hard to see that as anything less than treason.
  • Think Globally.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by way2trivial (601132) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:10AM (#43233409) Homepage Journal

    22,000 american lives.

    How many lives, total.

    they all count

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      they all count

      Not toward treason, they don't. It's a reasonable basis for many negative emotions, though.

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:24AM (#43233535)
    as it's pretty much iron clad evidence. Maybe I misunderstood, but these are tapes of LBJ discussing the topic without the slightest question of whether it happened. It's all pretty well documented from what I can tell.

    Also, happy to see this story on slashdot. Yeah, it's not tech news and I know that bugs people, but Christ. The way I heard about this was the Mother-lovin' BBC. This is the biggest news since Watergate and the news media is just pretending it didn't happen. Part of me wants to say 'Oh well, that's America' but screw that. I'm sick of saying things could be worse when they could be so much better.
  • Moon landing hoax (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jfdavis668 (1414919) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:27AM (#43233571)
    If Nixon couldn't hide this, and couldn't cover up Watergate, how could he possibly fake the Moon landings?

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