A Memorable Leak Case

In the course of an urgent search for the sources who were providing classified information to journalist Jack Anderson in 1971, the Nixon Administration discovered a surprising culprit.

A Navy yeoman in the National Security Council named Charles Radford was not only the “almost certain source” of the Jack Anderson leaks, but he was also in the habit of routinely copying classified documents in the briefcases of Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, and other senior Administration officials, and forwarding the documents to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In effect, the Joint Chiefs were spying on the Nixon White House.

“The P[resident] was quite shocked, naturally, by the whole situation,” according to the diary of Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman.

The whole episode, which has been previously described in various memoirs and historical studies, was recalled in a recent edition of Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), which also published some newly transcribed Presidential discussions of the case (pdf).

Admiral Welander, yeoman Radford’s boss, said that the yeoman should be put in jail for his actions, Haldeman wrote.

Admiral Moorer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said that Admiral Welander should be put in jail.

Kissinger said, “I think Moorer should be in jail.”

In the end, nobody went to jail.

“Our best interests are served by not, you know, raising holy hell,” concluded President Nixon.

See the relevant excerpts on the Radford-Joint Chiefs spying case (documents 164-166) here. The full text of the source volume of FRUS is here.

A controversial proposal by Sen. Jon Kyl to criminalize leaks of classified information contained in certain reports to Congress may be considered by the Senate today or tomorrow.

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