A meltdown in personal integrity


This note on integrity deserves a wide readership. It’s written by the first person to go to jail for crimes committed on behalf of the White House in the Nixon Administration.  An excerpt:

In November 1973, I pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy in depriving Dr. Fielding of his civil rights, specifically his constitutional right to be free from an unwarranted search. I no longer believed that national security could justify my conduct. At my sentencing, I explained that national security is “subject to a wide range of definitions, a factor that makes all the more essential a painstaking approach to the definition of national security in any given instance.”

Judge Gerhard Gesell gave me the first prison sentence of any member of the president’s staff: two to six years, of which I served four and a half months.

I finally realized that what had gone wrong in the Nixon White House was a meltdown in personal integrity. Without it, we failed to understand the constitutional limits on presidential power and comply with statutory law.

That was over three decades ago.  Is anybody paying attention?

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