1971 July 24

Nixon Plumbers Created, Illegal Actions Follow


Members of President Richard Nixon’s White House staff on this day created what they called the “Plumbers” unit. Led by Charles Colson and Egil Krogh, the unit was so-named because its purpose was to stop leaks to the news media. Six weeks after the group was created, the Plumbers, on September 9, 1971, burglarized the offices of Dr. Lewis J. Fielding, a psychiatrist treating Daniel Ellsberg, who had leaked the famous Pentagon Papers to the news media. See The New York Times story based on the Papers on June 13, 1971, and the landmark Supreme Court decision on freedom of the press on June 30, 1971.

The creation of the White House Plumbers unit set the Nixon administration on the road to the famous Watergate burglary, on June 17, 1972. The burglary touched off a national scandal that gripped the nation for 15 months, from the day of the original Watergate burglary to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The burglary also led to investigations that uncovered other abuses of power by President Nixon and several members of his administration. These included the famous “enemies” list of critics of the administration who were targeted for retaliation (August 16, 1971). Nixon was impeached by the House of Representatives on July 27, 1974, and he resigned in disgrace on August 9, 1974. President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon on September 8, 1974, for any crimes he may have committed while president.

The Vietnam War created a number of civil liberties crises. They include (1) the lack of a Congressional Declaration of War as required by the Constitution (June 3, 1970); (2) threats to freedom of the press in the Pentagon Papers case (June 30, 1971); (3) spying on the anti-war movement by the CIA (August 15, 1967); (4) threats to freedom of expression, for example high school student protests (February 24, 1969); censorship of television programs (February 25, 1968); and directly and indirectly some of the events that led to the Watergate Scandal (May 9, 1969; January 27, 1972).

Learn more about Nixon, the Plumbers, and Watergate: Stanley Kutler, The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon (1990)

Learn more about Watergate: Fred Emery, Watergate: The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon (1994)

Watch a video on the Plumbers and Nixon’s “enemies” listhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghScgI7VDqc

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