Nixon's Enemies List

President Nixon kept an "enemies list" of those who criticized him. He had these enemies targeted for tax audits or trailed by private detectives, and hired the "plumbers" to stop leaks.


Narrator: A sense of being under siege pervaded the White House, fueled by the leaks, the constant anti-war demonstrations and intensifying criticism in the press. In this atmosphere of "us versus them," Colson's office began an ever-expanding list of Nixon's critics, the "enemies list."

Its object was to "screw our political enemies." Reporters and politicians, educators and entertainers were barred from the White House. Some were targeted for tax audits, others were trailed by private detectives.

Charles Colson, Special Counsel to the President: And it was very shortly thereafter that Nixon authorized the "plumbers" and the creation of a special group to stop leaks and they began to take extra-legal steps and put into motion the mechanism which ultimately resulted in the downfall of the Administration.

Narrator: In a White House memo regarding the "neutralization" of Daniel Ellsberg, the plumbers discussed how they might "destroy his public image and credibility." In search of damaging information about Ellsberg's private life, they arranged a break-in at the office of his psychiatrist.

Egil Krogh, Jr., White House Aide: They apparently broke a window on the way in and, realizing that it could no longer be viewed as a covert operation, changed courses and decided to make it look as if it had been entered by a burglar looking for drugs or some other substances. Basically, they smashed up the office, took pictures of the damage. I was shocked at these pictures, went to see John Ehrlichman and he was, if anything, more shocked than I was and said, "Shut it down as of now."

Narrator: The plumbers were eventually disbanded, but some of the agents were reassigned to work behind the scenes for the newly-formed Committee to Re-Elect the President. 


My American Experience

My American Experience photos

Share Your Story

Who is your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Reagan? Clinton? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH