“Our Nixon,” Penny Lane’s acclaimed documentary that premiered at International Film Festival Rotterdam in January and went on to play at SXSW and New Directors/New Films, opens in select theaters this Friday, August 30th. The film is comprised of archival interviews
and rediscovered Super 8 home movie footage filmed by Nixon’s closest
aides between 1969 and 1973, including chief of staff H.R. Haldeman,
domestic affairs adviser John Ehrlichman and special assistant Dwight
Chapin. The film pairs its home movies with archival interviews in which
Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Chapin reflect on the president, their time in
the White House and Watergate.
Below, watch an exclusive scene from the documentary, with a foreword by producer Brian L. Frye about the clip.
In 2010, Bradley Manning leaked hundreds of thousands of classified military documents to Wikileaks. And in May 2013, Edward Snowden leaked classified NSA documents exposing secret surveillance programs. Supporters of Manning and Snowden have compared them to Daniel Ellsberg, who has become the archetypal whistleblower.
On June 13, 1971, the New York Times published excepts from the “Pentagon Papers,” a group of classified documents leaked by Ellsberg, showing that President Johnson and his predecessors had lied to Congress and the public about the purpose and prosecution of the Vietnam War. President Nixon was livid, even though the documents did not implicate his own conduct, because he believed that they harmed public confidence in the government. In order to investigate Ellsberg, the Nixon administration illegally tapped his phone and attempted to steal his psychiatric records. Ellsberg eventually admitted leaking the Pentagon Papers and expected to go to prison, but the charges against him were dismissed because of the government’s misconduct.
Today, many people consider Ellsberg a hero and rely on his example to justify leaking confidential documents. But to what extent does his legacy depend on the fact that the charges against him were dismissed? If the government had not broken the law and Ellsberg had been convicted, would subsequent leakers feel as justified or have as many supporters?