Notes Scoured for Watergate Key

Hope to fill in gaps with cutting-edge forensics
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2009 8:47 AM CST
In this 1973 file photo, Rose Mary Woods, President Richard Nixon's secretary, demonstrates the "Rose Mary Stretch" which could have resulted in the erasure of part of the Watergate tapes.   (AP Photo/File)
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(Newser) – Forensic scientists think their latest tools could solve one of the enduring mysteries of American politics: what was said in the 18 1/2 minutes missing from the Watergate tapes? The answer may lie in the yellow notepad on which Nixon's chief of staff, HR Haldeman, took notes on his meeting with Nixon on June 20, 1972—the day the tape was erased.

A newly assembled forensic team will use advanced tools like electrostatic detection analysis to seek evidence that Haldeman destroyed some of his notes or even to detect the faint imprint of the missing words. One Nixon historian excited about the project hazarded a guess that "Nixon asked Haldeman if anyone in the White House had advance knowledge of the Watergate break-in" during the erased minutes. He could find out whether he's right in early 2010, when forensic test results are expected.