by Unknown | 2/01/2009 12:03:00 AM
[Author's note: this piece originally contained a description of former National Archives employee Frederick J. Graboske's involvement with the Nixon tapes that was inaccurate and which painted Mr. Graboske in an unfair light. The author wishes to apologize to Mr. Graboske for the error, which has now been corrected.]

This very interesting New York Times article on a controversy involving two historians of the Nixon tapes (h/t Ralph Luker) omits perhaps the most tantalizing question about the whole affair: who tipped off the NYT?

Ordinarily, the likeliest suspect would be the individual bringing the charges. In this case, that would be one Peter Klingman, the historian who's accusing the eminent Stanley Kutler of maliciously editing his authoritative transcript of the tapes. Yet from the article we have this:

The conflict has flared again because an article detailing the charges against Mr. Kutler has been submitted to the American Historical Review, the profession’s premier journal. ...

Peter Klingman, the historian who submitted the article, has been trying to call attention to Mr. Kutler’s editing in recent months. He has not yet heard from the American Historical Review on whether it will publish his essay, and because of pre-publication rules he would not comment.

Wait -- the source of the "controversy" is an unpublished article submission that Klingman's contractually obligated not to talk about to the press? Then how the heck did the press find out about it?

The story gets even murkier once you know a bit about the AHR review process. An article is submitted to the Editor and is read (or skimmed) by him, the Assistant Editor, various editorial assistants, and the twelve members of the Board of Editors. Depending on how promising the piece is, it's then sent to a variety of outside reviewers -- generally historians in related fields. However, this whole process is kept very secret, in order to protect the identity of the author and the integrity of the review process. The outside reviewers, for instance, aren't even told the name of the author, so there'd be no way for them to know that Klingman had written the piece. All reviewers, inside and outside, are also contractually obligated to destroy (literally, via shredding) the draft article after they're through reading it.

So Klingman can't talk about the piece, but neither can anyone at the AHR. Of course, with so many people in the reviewing loop, there's bound to be loose lips somewhere along the line. It's not surprising that many people in the profession might know about the Klingman piece through illicit word-of-mouth from either Klingman or someone affiliated with the AHR. But academic whisperings are one thing; blabbing about a contractually-secret article to the NYT is quite another. The AHR is edited here at IU, and I know many of the editorial assistants personally -- but if I asked them over drinks to confirm or deny that Klingman had a piece under review, they wouldn't tell me. So why would they tell the NYT?

The answer is that they wouldn't. It would be madness for anyone at the AHR to comment on an article under review, even as a deep background source. Doing so would severely damage the journal's credibility and would place the individual at risk of being fired or even prosecuted. Similarly, there's no earthly reason that Kutler would call up the NYT to complain about an article that hasn't been, and may never be, published in the AHR. He'd be unlikely to do so even if the article were actually published; in fact, he'd have every incentive to keep the dispute "in the family," so to speak.

Here's what I think is really going on: the whole thing is a publicity stunt by Klingman and one or two of his friends. The proposed article isn't the sort of thing the AHR would publish anyway -- they run cutting-edge scholarship, not attack pieces on respected historians, something Klingman has to know if he's ever picked up a copy of the journal. I think Klingman submitted something unpublishable to the AHR, and then had one of his friends -- possibly Joan Hoff, who's quoted at length in the article -- turn a sham "pending publication" into a scandal. Klingman's real object wasn't to publish his piece in the AHR, it was to snow the NYT into thinking there was enough "there" there to run a story on the ginned-up controversy -- which the paper obligingly did.

In fact, the NYT story often seems like a straight-up hit piece on Kutler. For one thing, reporter Patricia Cohen doesn't seem to have made an attempt to contact the editor of the AHR before going to press about an article presumably under review there. (How do we know the AHR's actually received the piece, or that such an article even exists?) In the same vein, Cohen's story contains a disingenuous interview of former Nixon tapes supervising archivist Frederick J. Graboske, who's quoted as saying, "I did work with Stanley. I’m sorry that it has come to this." The article doesn't mention that some of the "work" Graboske did with Kutler was on the other side of a courtroom, when Kutler was suing the government for access to the tapes. Are we supposed to be surprised that Graboske is hostile to Kutler today?

The real fault, however, lies with Klingman and Hoff, who chose to attack Kutler's character in the press rather than submitting their case to serious adjudication by their fellow historians. I know nothing about the merits of their case against Kutler, but I can't help but think that his interlocutors wouldn't be resorting to character assassination if they had sufficient evidence to prove their claims. In any case, their behavior in this affair has been unprofessional to say the least. I wouldn't be surprised if they're preparing to mount a full-scale whinefest when Klingman's phantom piece is inevitably rejected by the AHR, even though that journal only accepts five percent of submissions anyway. Losing gracefully doesn't seem to be their strong suit.




Anonymous Anonymous on 2/01/2009 2:20 AM:

At a minimum, Jeremy, I think we have to grant that there appear to be some problems with Kutler's transcription of the Nixon Tapes. Whether those problems amount to what Klingman apparently alleges, we really don't know, because we haven't seen the evidence. There are, however, multiple potential sources of a leak to the Times, including Kutler, who does enjoy being a center of controversy.


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/01/2009 7:56 AM:

Apart from the the clandestine "leak" element of this story, it seems to be an internal petty squabble among academics. I wonder what Mr.Klingman's personal politics are and how that affects this whole kerfuffle? Apparently the goal is to discredit Mr. Kutler and tarnish Mr.Dean in order to accomplish what on behalf of whom?


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/01/2009 8:28 AM:

Very interesting to see this story hit the press, it has been developing for some time.

Dr. Luker correctly focuses on the core of the story, which is the quality of the transcripts. I know several of the people mentioned in the article (Kutler, Hoff, Graboske, and through e-mail, Dean). However, I'm not particularly focused on how the NYT got the story.

I know John Taylor (with whom, after previously coming across as adversaries in our dueling letters in CHE in 1996, I actually have developed a virtual friendship through his blog at The New Nixon and the Episonixonian). I think he and I understand each other much better than we once did, what has happened over the last year is one of the success stories in blogging.

Specifically as to Fred Graboske, my former supervisor, you have it backwards. You assume incorrectly that because he was the Supervisory Archivist with NARA's Nixon Presidential Materials Project that he was noticed for deposition in Kutler's case by the plaintiff (NARA). Not so. Graboske testified -- courageously and under very, very difficult circumstances because his story did not fit what the George H. W. Bush Department of Justice was stating in its court pleadings -- because he was called by the *defendants* (Public Citizen/Kutler). Graboske and I are friends and we were in very close contact during the period when Kutler filed his lawsuit in 1992. There is absolutely *no* reason to assume that he was hostile to Kutler. NARA cannot speak for itself in court, DOJ speaks for it. That did not stop Graboske or me or other witnesses from testifying truthfully, even when what we said helped Kutler more so than DOJ.

Graboske, a Vietnam veteran, always has been a tell it like it is, truth-teller type of guy. (His nickname by his fellow soldiers in Vietnam involved an expletive so I won't repeat it here!) Fred was admired greatly by most of his subordinates, who remained loyal to him, then and now. Some have said he was the best supervisor they ever had. He's a stand-up guy, someone I admire greatly.

Sy Hersh noted in his article on the Kutler case, "Graboske emerged from the deposition clearly marked as the ringleader by the Archives and by Nixon's lawyers, who attended all the Public Citizen depositions, and often asked many more questions than the government attorneys. At times, Graboske's three days of testimony turned ugly, with Stan Mortenson, the attorney for Nixon, in effect putting Graboske on trial by repeatedly asking questions implying that he was biased against Nixon. Graboske volunteered during his deposition that he had previously met with Stanley Kutler and the Public Citizen attorneys, as well as with me [Hersh]. . . At no time did the government attorneys in attendance move to limit Mortenson's questioning, although they ostensibly were representing the Archives and its employees."

Hersh added that after the testimony, an Archives' lawyer refused to permit Graboske to be interviewed by him, stating that all questions about the litigation should be directed to NARA's General Counsel. Hersh noted that "Graboske's pro-bono attorney, Patrick J. Carome, a partner at Wilmer, Curler & Pickering, in Washington, accused Mortenson and the Archives of 'attempting to intimidate this man who tried to see that the right thing was done to the Nixon tapes.' Graboske was especially upset, Carome said in an interview, at the failure of the government attorneys 'to take aggressive steps to protect a government civil servant at a deposition at which they were supposed to be representing the government.'"


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/01/2009 9:03 AM:

Jeremy, I'm not taking a position on the overall scholarship of Kutler, Hoff, and any other writers who have studied Nixon. I can only go by what they have written, I'm not comfortable speculating as to why any particular person has done what he did. That reluctance to speculate probably goes back to the way my colleagues and I once faced fire from Nixon's lawyers, who tried to make all sorts of mud stick to government witnesses while litigating the Kutler case. I understand why lawyers -- especially those representing a former President in high stakes litigation -- try to impeach witnesses but it's not my natural way of doing business.

I'm resigned to the fact that academics and federal historians and archivists look at some issues somewhat differently. I can say that I understand this particular quote from Graboske in the NYT piece: "In the history profession, you never change the original evidence." Respect for evidence lies at the heart of the archival ethos so I can see why he said that. I won't comment on anything else he said in the NYT piece, however.

As to your having it backwards regarding federal witnesses such as Graboske, here is what John Taylor, Nixon's last chief of staff and director of the Nixon Foundation, wrote in the American Spectator in 1998:

"The explosive release of the last Watergate tapes, with its grossly distorted coverage, was the high-water mark, the Pickett's Charge, in a campaign to lay on Nixon all the iniquities of a troubled era. The scandal-only complexion of the release was a product of the time bomb planted by the Democratic Watergate Congress of 1975-76, which directed the National Archives to release all tapes about Watergate before anything else. This requirement turned archivists into junior prosecutors, listening to the tapes over and over for conversations that seemed to fit the bill. Until six years ago an informal understanding existed between President Nixon and NARA that the "abuse of power" tapes would be defined as the 63 hours used by the
Watergate special prosecutor in 1973-74. But then we were told that the Hardy Boys at NARA had kept a little list--201 additional fun-filled hours of their own greatest hits.

At the same time they were listening to tapes, by order of the Supreme Court the archivists were also supposed to be returning to President Nixon all tape segments containing strictly personal conversations. The Court's directive seemed unambiguous to us, but the archivists were loath to alter the holy of holies, the original tapes, so they returned copies they had made and promised that the material on the originals, including the president's conversations with members of his family, would never be played publicly. (Yeah, right.) Meanwhile NARA allies of the dean-for-life of the Nixon-haters, Professor Stanley Kutler of the University of Wisconsin, secretly dished him the news of the 201 hours, and he enlisted Ralph Nader's law firm in Washington, Public Citizen, to sue the then-archivist, Don Wilson, for failing to release them. Angered by the archivists' bait-and-switch on the abuse-of-power issue and their refusal to return what he and the courts regarded as his property, the former president countersued, demanding an immediate return of the personal tapes before any more tapes were released."

Taylor's tone and take dismayed me at the time. It also dismayed a number of people at the National Archives.

A very different John Taylor now blogs at The New Nixon and The Episconixon and we have become virtual friends. Indeed, I'll be posting a comment on the NYT story later at

That's where I learned about the NYT piece, moments before a family member told me about it. I'm glad to see that Dr. Luker mentioned it and John's other blog (which I read but don't post on because I don't have a Google account) and your essay at Cliopatria on Hnn.


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/01/2009 9:05 AM:

This post totally misses the point. If you listen to the actual conversations, which I have, and compare them with the transcripts, you'll see they don't match. It's not even close. Kutler took a conversation that happened in the afternoon of March 16, 1973, and grafted it to the top of a conversation from the morning of March 16, 1973. That can hardly been an inadvertent mistake. That alone is worthy of some kind of sanction against Kutler.

Match the contents of the tapes with the transcripts in Abuse of Power, and you'll notice the difference. It's not even close.

The overall effect is to change the history of this period in American history.

This isn't the first Kutler has been put on notice about problems with his transcripts. The Tampa Tribune published an article about in 1998, and Kutler's response was that it couldn't have happened.

The responses by Kutler and Dean fit into the classic pattern described in All The President's Men. They're nondenial denials. Kutler says he doesn't work that way. Dean attacks the people questioning Kutler's handling of the transcripts. Neither addresses the evidence.

Dean has never had a good answer to questions about his conduct during this period. He sued Len Colody and Bob Gettlin, the authors of Silent Coup, and was forced to settle in 1998. During his testimony in that case, he had to disavow his own memoirs, Blind Ambition, because of the inconsistencies between the contents of the book and his testimony before the Senate and in federal court in the case against John Mitchell. His responses in the Times story fit into that pattern.

Instead of worrying about Peter Klingman's personal politics or who tipped off the Times, pay attention to the details and the evidence. If you do, you'll find all of the answers you'll need and will conclude that the only people who need to explain anything are Stanley Kutler and John Dean.


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/01/2009 10:28 AM:

I, too, would wave readers off of focusing on whatever Dr. Klingman's personal politics may be. This is something about which I feel particuarly strongly because political framing has a tendency to hurt the National Archives, which holds the originals of these tapes. NARA's mission requires it to act objectively and in a nonpartisan fashion. However, some reporters and even some scholars seem to have trouble understanding that ethos.

Nixon's lawyers implied that Graboske was biased against Nixon. For testifying in a way which supported Graboske (in fact, some of his testimony derived from conversations with me, as I remained at the Nixon Project after he had left), I, too, was tagged in some quarters as a liberal ally of Dr. Kutler. In reality, I had voted straight Republican in Presidential elections throughout my career with the National Archives, which lasted from 1976 to 1990. I've been an Independent since 1989.

Sometimes people really do take positions based on professional principles. Members of the public seem to struggle with this. To this day, I've found myself the subject of mudslinging for arguing issues based on laws, regulations, and principles. I've caught it from both sides. After reading what I posted on one listserv about efforts to open Nixon's tapes in postings submitted around July 4, a subscriber sent me a caustic e-mail suggesting that perhaps I didn't celebrate the Fourth. (The "hate America, unpatriotic" charge.)

On the Washington Post's comment boards, on the other hand, some liberal posters have called me corrupt, a supporter of cover-ups and someone who would fit in with the old Soviet Union simply for pointing out under stories about the Bush White House email and records that the Presidential Records Act contains no sanctions for non-compliance. I post there under a pseudonym and fellow posters have no way of knowing that I helped Graboske (who viewed himself as a whistleblower) with my testimony in the Kutler litigation. Nor do they know that I once had relatives behind the Iron Curtain and that I particularly dislike totalitarian methods. The slams from other posters don't stop me from pointing out that at NARA and throughout the government, its all about the law and controlling statutes. How you feel personally about particular politicians is irrelevant in federal archival decisions on what to open and what to restrict. Those who argue issues politically sometimes actually hurt NARA, which has a mission unique among subordinate executive agencies. They unnecessarily provide ammunition to those, such as Richard Nixon, who once argued that he wouldn't get a fair shake because most historians are on the left.

Based on my experiences with facing fire from Nixon's lawyers and others, here's hoping Dr. Klingman's politics do *not* become an issue here.


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/01/2009 10:58 AM:

See my comments at Nixon director John Taylor's blog (his essay was mentioned by Dr. Luker at HNN). I address what appears to be an internal contradiction in one of Dr. Kutler's quotes. Perhaps he meant it somewhat differently than it came across. I know and like Stanley so there is no need for anyone to slam me for pointing out the contradiction. See
And my apologies to John Taylor for messing up the name of his second blog here, twice. It is The Episconixonian.


Blogger Ahistoricality on 2/01/2009 11:45 AM:

Over at John Traylor's blog, he concludes "Perhaps someone hoped a well-timed Times article would be a Saturday afternoon massacre deterring the "American Historical Review" from saying yes."

I'd be more inclined to see it the other way: by casting the author as challenging existing orthodoxy, with truth and right on his side, it puts pressure on the AHR; if they reject the article, it's evidence that the "soulless minions of orthodoxy" are preventing the truth from being known.

I don't know enough about the personalities involved, but it seems like a Galileo Gambit to me.

I'm not convinced, though, that the author is under such a blanket of confidentiality that he couldn't talk about it. I'm sure that he's not supposed to talk about the review process, or send the scholarship anywhere else, but a 'gag order' that prevented a scholar from talking about their work at all while it was under review would be pretty extreme (especially considering how long review can take!). But I've never submitted anything to AHR, so I haven't seen their rules.


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/01/2009 12:11 PM:

Ahistoricality, there is no way to assess the motives of the source(s) for the NYT article since we don't know where Ms. Cohen got the story. I generally regard these as treacherous waters although it has been interesting for me to see the splits that developed among Nixon scholars. Graboske and I, of course, knew what was on the tapes starting in the late 1970s, when we first worked with them as NARA emplloyees.

I have no way of telling whether these issues will result in lawsuits among people who have commented one way or another on these matters. I hope they do not but that thinking just reflects my basic nature.


Blogger Ahistoricality on 2/01/2009 12:40 PM:


While you take the archival and documentary issues most seriously, Jeremy and I are trying to figure out how the AHR (and AHA, by extension) are being manipulated in this situation.

There are ways to make educated guesses about tactics and sources, and that's what we're trying to do. You're welcome to stay out of that conversation, of course.


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/01/2009 2:36 PM:

Ahistoricality, your response at 12:40 suggests that you are more conservative than I in some areas and perhaps more liberal in others. I don't take a narrow, conservative, stovepiped approach to blogging, where people divide issues and posters into tightly controlled areas of interest.

That we may look at and frame some things differently is suggested by the fact that I would written your response this way:

"Maarja, I appreciate the information you have provided about archival and documentary issues here. While they are not my primary focus, I recognize that they lie at the heart of public access to materials and as such are important not just to those who have worked as archivists, but to historians everywhere. You provided needed context about Fred Graboske, information of which Jeremy appeared unaware.

Jeremy and I are trying to figure out whether or not the AHR (and AHA, by extension) have been manipulated in this situation. In my view, there are ways to make educated guesses about tactics and sources, and that's what we're trying to do. I understand, given your experiences with Nixon's lawyers and apparent distaste for the type of mud slinging often found in the political world, why you are wary of an approach which centers on speculation about peoples' motives. Your views on this and any other issue are welcome here, as are those of anyone else who wishes to comment. However, Jeremy has particular expertise in this area (the AHR angle) and that is what interests me the most here. But that's just me."

Instead, you post from a premise that some parties "are being manipulated." Where is there any evidence that the NYT story represents manipulation of AHA or AHR? That there may be problems with some of the transcripts is something which people may focus on without AHA or AHR ever being on their radar screens. You have no evidence that whoever talked to the NYT knew about the AHR submission, they may just have known that scholars such as Klingman had asked questions about the published transcripts.


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/01/2009 3:04 PM:

This is for Ahistoricality at 12:40. Whether you focus on the AHR and AHA angle is up to you, people are free to look at this whatever way they wish. However, you should be aware of the fact that the Tampa Tribune published an article on July 10, 1998 which stated in part:

"But an examination of the tapes and the transcripts in Kutler's book show the University of Wisconsin historian compressed taped conversations, took conversations that happened at night and put them at the beginning of those from the morning and cut out comments that may bolster other versions of the Watergate scandal that differ from those written by Kutler.

This, some historians and archivists say, compromises the book and its legitimacy as a historical source."

The article from 1998 notes that "A comparison of the tapes and the book's transcripts shows that Kutler merged two separate conversations between Nixon and White House counsel John Dean from March 16, 1973. In doing so, he left out passages in which Nixon and Dean outlined a public statement they hoped could be used to put the scandal to rest.

'I never did that,' Kutler said when told two conversations had been combined. Built-in checks by a transcriber, himself and a research assistant would have caught such an error, he said.

A comparison of the tape and the book shows that the merged conversation appears in reverse order beginning on page 231 in 'Abuse of Power.' The first part of the transcript, identified as a morning meeting between Nixon and Dean, actually comes from an evening telephone call not mentioned in the book."

The author of the Tampa Tribune article wrote in 1998 that "Hoff and Kutler are rivals of sorts as presidential historians and each has been critical of the other's work."

That's something that I stay out of, as I know and like both Hoff and Kutler from my days at NARA. However, since you seem interested in speculating on whether or not AHR and AHA are being manipulated (as lawyers would say, for me, the fact's not in evidence), consider also what the Tampa Tribune covered in 1998. Its story had no relation to AHA, of course, yet it looked at some of the same issues as the NYT piece. I have no way of knowing whether Ms. Cohen read the 1998 article or not.

At any rate, I hope this provides additional context on some of the the issues. I've been collecting clippings on Nixon-related issues since I first was hired by NARA in 1976.


Blogger Unknown on 2/01/2009 3:19 PM:

Maarja, I apologize for the long lag time in fixing my error regarding Mr. Graboske. I've been away from my computer and didn't return until now. I'll fix it directly and issue an apology to Mr. Graboske at the top of the post, since it was a pretty serious error on my part.

I also want to reiterate that I am in no way taking a position on Kutler's transcriptions of the tapes. I know nothing about the Nixon tapes, and I have no idea what the transcriptions are like. I'm prepared to accept the assertions of people like Graboske, Maarja, and Ralph Luker (the last two in this thread) that there are problems with the transcriptions. My goal in this piece is not to defend Kutler in any way.

However, I will stand by the core of my post, which concerned the NYT being aware of a confidential article supposedly under review by the AHR. This has nothing to do with an attack on Klingman's personal politics and everything to do with a fairly serious breach of confidentiality regarding an AHR submission. Maarja, you write at 2:36 that "You have no evidence that whoever talked to the NYT knew about the AHR submission." However, the passage of the article I quote above clearly shows that NYT reporter Patricia Cohen was aware of both the submission and the contents of the article, and whoever told her was engaged in a significant breach of confidentiality. That individual also made the AHR look pretty bad, because the whole point of their confidentiality arrangement is to prevent, as John Taylor puts it in his blog post, the peer review process from being carried out in the New York Times.

You may view this as a side issue, but to me it's an important side issue. The AHR has a particular cachet as the primary organ of the historical profession; discredit it, and you discredit the profession as a whole. I'm willing to admit the possibility that someone at the AHR called up Patricia Cohen and told her about the article, but I fail to see what possible motive any of them could have had. It appears to me that the most likely explanation is that Klingman and his friends have chosen to go after Kutler with a nuclear bomb, smashing the historical profession as collateral in their quest to discredit the work of one man. Regardless of the merits of their case, that's something I see as pretty significant.

Finally, Ahistoricality, I don't think Klingman could be using the NYT as a way of bringing pressure to bear on the AHR to publish his article. I highly doubt the AHR would be susceptible to such pressure, and in fact they might very well react the opposite way, discarding the draft upon reading of Klingman's breach of confidentiality. I think it's more likely that Klingman wants the AHR to reject his article so he can get another story in the NYT about how the historical profession doesn't respect his work. That would be in keeping with his modus operandi thus far, at any rate.


Blogger Ahistoricality on 2/01/2009 4:01 PM:

Ms. Krusten,

You know a great deal about archival issues, but you're clearly not a publishing, working historian.

You also don't know much about internet ettiquette: the kind of tone scolding and rephrasing that you're doing is deeply offensive outside of a tutorial relationship. Nothing I wrote was unclear, uncivil or politically revealing; nothing you wrote in response was productive, helpful or friendly.


We're basically saying the same thing: by creating interest in the question of publication, the author wins either way. If they accept it, he gets AHA imprimatur; if they reject it, he gets to play the martyr and either way he gets a hell of a lot more attention than even the AHR can give him.

You know, I'd like to see the AHA taking a much more aggressive media stance generally. They did a bit during the conference, but it's a far cry from the physics and chemistry and medical conferences, from which a steady stream of press announcements keep them in the news for day after day. And they have done a bit for accessibility with the history cooperative, but it's a far cry from what Nature and Science and JAMA do, touting their work on the AP wires to make a buzz for the publication.

I know we're different, but the level of interest in history in this country is such that we ought to be able to get some ink for something other than a he-said-she-said political fight.


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/01/2009 4:32 PM:

Ahistoricality, it is, as a they say, a free country. I have every right to post here about Kutler, the tapes, and archival issues just as you have every right to tell me "You're welcome to stay out of that conversation, of course," if you feel that serves your interests best. But you seem to be assuming that Jeremy, you and the people posting here define the blog. I don't take so controlled view of it. I always assume that someone else may stumble across this Google-searchable record, perhaps years from now, and find value in what I or someone else said. That you do not does not bother me at all, as a result.

Jeremy, I appreciate your apology to Fred Graboske. If he sees your posting, I'm sure he'll laugh at my defense of him and say, as he has said to me in the past, "Maarja, you're ever the idealist."

I totally understand why you are concerned about a possible leak *from* AHR, which I'm guessing was not the source of the NYT piece. What I don't understand is why only Dr. Klingman or AHR could be the source. That assumes there has been no discussion of this issue anywhere. I don't Dr. Klingman, have never met or spoken to him, never written any email messages to him, or received any from him. I don't know what his circle is, or if he has one. But what about the following hypothetical scenario:

(1) The Tampa Tribune raises questions in 1998 about some of the the published transcripts in Kutler's books.

(2) Researchers, including apparently Dr. Klingman, look into some of the issues between 1998 and 2009. They may act in a stovepiped fashion or they may discuss the issues with each other. (The NYT provided no clear evidence either way.) There is no ban on people talking about their research, natch.

(3) Dr. Klingman submits an article for publication in the AHR. Do we know whether or not he submitted it elsewhere prior to that? No, the NYT provides no clues on that. What if others had seen the article and passed on publishing it? Wouldn't the people involved in that process know about the contents? Isn't there a way that someone might be aware of Dr. Klingman's conclusions and of the fact that he submitted the article, without ever having seen the article?

I don't assume that Dr. Klingman's research occurred in a hermetically sealed environment, one in which no one knew of what he had looked at or of his findings. I know you're not saying that someone has to decide on where his findings will be published and then take a vow of silence up front. It doesn't work that way.

Have you ruled out the possibility that someone used what they call "the mosaic" approach as regards the NYT piece? What if someone knew Dr. Klingman had done this research and also knew he had submitted an article to AHR? (Presumably, he could reveal that much to a third party).

I *do* understand why AHR should not be the source of a leak. As a federal employee, I'm all too aware of what it is proper to divulge and what it is not. I totally respect that.

Thanks again the considering what I wrote about Fred Graboske and for posting the good correction.


Blogger Unknown on 2/01/2009 4:34 PM:

Ahist, I'm absolutely in agreement with you.

I will defend Maarja on the grounds that she's been involved with the processing of these tapes for thirty years, including an appearance in court to defend her handling of them. I don't like being lectured either, but I do think she has the standing, at least, to lecture us on this issue.


Blogger Unknown on 2/01/2009 4:44 PM:

Maarja, your hypothetical scenario would be possible, except that the article clearly tells us that that Klingman's submission of the article, not his or others' previous comments on the matter, is the reason for the controversy. That's beyond just having someone mention that an article exists. Someone plugged this AHR submission to Patricia Cohen as a prime reason she should write her article.

As I see it, that someone could be either: 1) Kutler or one of his allies; 2) Klingman or one of his allies; 3) someone at the AHR who read the piece. Unless Kutler's completely bonkers, he'd have no reason to call up the NYT and make a public issue out of something that makes him look bad. I suppose someone at the AHR could have leaked it, but it would be career suicide for them if they did -- and since many of them are my friends, I'd like to think they're a bit smarter than that.

That leaves Klingman and his allies. Klingman himself told Cohen that he wouldn't comment on the piece, and I'm willing to take him at his word. But since he and his supporters are the only people who'd have a reason to alert the NYT about this, I'm guessing he got one of his friends to do it. It's a guess, as I said, but an educated one, seeing as how Klingman's side is the only one of the three groups that doesn't come out looking bad in the article: Kutler and the AHR both look pretty unfortunate in the final analysis.

By the way, I want to reiterate that I appreciate your comments, and that I was hoping for your perspective when I wrote this post.


Blogger Ahistoricality on 2/01/2009 4:45 PM:


Since Maarja is now on record saying that she considers this post an opportunity to spam the issue regardless of what we want to talk about, I'm done.

Her speculation, combined with the hypocritical dismissive approach to our points, is intolerable. Her interest in the archival issues is fine, it's great to have someone close to the issue, but hijacking the thread and then scolding us for trying to have a serious discussion? No, thanks.


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/01/2009 4:55 PM:

Thanks for the kind words, Jeremy. However, I'll be very cautious about posting here in the future. If I do, I will try to use a less declaratory approach and a much softer or even a hesitant tone.

I just want to add that I understand why a seeming attempt to influence AHA and AHR would cause consternation. My problem lies in not knowing anything about the person who tipped the NYT off to the submission. No one has convinced me that the AHA was his or her primary focus. Sometimes interests align for people in ways I and others don't know about. You are tremendously busy with your real work so I won't take up any more of your time here. Apologies for taking up as much time as I did, I know your time is very precious to you.

Take care,



Blogger Unknown on 2/01/2009 5:41 PM:

Perhaps both of you might want to consider taking a step back. Maarja, I'm not certain why you'd feel the need to moderate your comments based on what a commenter said to you. Ahistoricality's views are not the ones that define the site; AndrewMC's are. Ahist, I'm not certain what Maarja's said to make you so angry (I can't see anything amiss in her comments in this thread), but perhaps you should consider that you're running off one of the very few commenters this site has, and one whom I consider a friend, as I do you. I'm no longer editor here, but perhaps that still counts for something.


Blogger Ahistoricality on 2/01/2009 9:05 PM:


You're right: I have no intention of running anyone off. I am trying to take myself out of the discussion at this point.


Jeremy's right: I don't speak for anyone but myself here. Everyone else is entirely free to engage you at any length they feel fit on any subject they and you wish.

It is, as you note, a free country, more or less.

I'm very sorry I got involved in this discussion in the first place, and sorry that I lost my temper in the process.


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/02/2009 5:36 AM:

Thanks, Jeremy and Ahistoricality, I very much appreciate the comments and assurances.

Although unable to discuss my work, which is almost wholly internal to the federal government, I actually have been working as an historian for 19 years and counting.

However, if you or any of your readers are interested in how the U.S. Office of Personnel Management defines job standards for the GS-170 historian position at the GS-14 grade level, and have the time to read two pages from the standards, take a look at pages 16-17 (the section for GS-14) at
That's as much as I can say on this subject, for better or worse.

What I lack, having 35 years federal service and never having been employed in the academy, are insights into certain matters that arise for academic historians. That is why I found both of your observations on the AHR process so interesting and why I asked so many questions, including so many what ifs!

Thanks to you both for a good closeout of our discussion on this thread. Again, much appreciate, as is both of your patience.


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/02/2009 6:24 PM:

My apologies for not thinking to Google Klingman and Kutler yesterday. My Google search today reveals an article about the Watergate tapes and Dr. Kutler by Dr. Klingman at the site. As far as the contents of published tape transcripts are concerned, Dr. Klingman's web posted article covers much of the same ground as the NYT piece from yesterday. See

There also is an essay there by Dr. Joan Hoff.

I do not see a date on the page at However, I checked the Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive and found the same article by Dr. Klingman picked up there for 2002:


Just thought I'd let you and your readers know of its existence, simply by way of FYI.


Blogger AndrewMc on 2/03/2009 1:33 PM:

This has been one of the more interesting conversations I've seen on a blog in a while.

Please remember that it is better to attack the substance of the post, and not the poster.


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/05/2009 8:01 PM:

Rick Shenkman at HNN has done some sleuthing. He has heard from a number of the people mentioned in the NYT Kutle/Klingman story. Rick has pieced together an account of what apparently happened and how the NYT became aware of the story. See his account, "The Watergate Transcript Controversy: The Story Behind the Story," at
It includes a number of links, including one to this blog essay from Sunday.

Dr. Kutler had an essay posted at HNN yesterday. Stanley Katz has discussed the issue at CHE a couple of days ago, see

Best regards to all,



Anonymous Anonymous on 2/05/2009 10:43 PM:

As one whose wife is involved in medical and science research, I find this debate fascinating. Had such a leak occurred at any major scientific journal all hell would have broken lose. As one whose writing has on occasion been subject to an embargo or involved in policy issues subject to an embargo, I take those agreements quite seriously. In short, I am in total agreement with Jeremy and AH on this one.

To me this is serious business, for it casts mud on a serious professional journal, its process and the profession of history.

One curious question for all of you: if I were at all unjustly fingered in such a controversy I would be crying bloody hell, for my professional reputation would be on the line. So has the party Jeremy deduces as having the most to gain from this shown any anger or denial over what has happened?

I, for one, am extremely angered by this serious breach of professional ethics and hope that there will be an attempt to ferret out the guilty party.

AH, curiously your scenario could be read "upside down," in that until this is resolved Klingman will always be the main suspect.

As for pressuring a major professional journal, I have enough respect for those involved that I find it hard to believe they would either be pressured or leak.

Again, were this an article in Nature or JAMA all hell would have broken out. It says something about how people regard history these days that this is not getting much traction outside the historical community. To me that is the more fascinating issue.


Blogger Unknown on 2/05/2009 11:08 PM:

Ralph, see here -- apparently both Klingman and the AHR are blameless. However, the mysterious "Mr. Y" has a lot to answer for.