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A Band Of Burglars: NPR's Best Watergate Stories

We are marking a milestone, 50 years of NPR, with a look back at stories from the archive.

On June 17, 1972, a band of five burglars broke into the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate Complex in Washington, D.C. After failing to wiretap the office's phones during their first break-in, they returned with a new microphone. However, before successfully carrying out their plan, a security guard had noted that the doors' locks were taped. The police were called, and the burglars were arrested.

The following stories from the archive convey the news as they came out in 1972, when the Watergate scandal was first unfolding, along with perspectives from civilians, professionals and those implicated.

Richard Strout: Well, I think this deepens the feeling of ... unable suspicion, unable to believe what's going on here — a credibility factor. This is a raw and flagrant example that captures the headlines, but it's only the latest of a series of them.

Rick Lewis: If the results of our little shopping center survey are accurate, they show — first of all — that many people have the Watergate [case] so far out of mind, that they can't immediately recall what it's all about. The recent revelations in the affair have failed to generate any new interest. And for those somewhat more familiar with the story, they view it as just another part of the seamy business of politics.

Rich Adams: There's no doubt in my mind that the president has, one: either been unwisely shielded by his aids, or he has unwisely dismissed Watergate as a kind of a stupid, mischievous caper — and thought that he could remain sort of wishfully silent, and it would blow away. And both of those were misjudgments, in my view.

Child: Well, like when a Republican is bugging a Democrat. And then, the Republican gets fired off his position, working for Vice President because he was bugging the Democrats.

Jan Schuler: Who is the boss of the president of the United States that would fire him?

Child: If it were vice president, probably the president fired him. If it was the president, probably the vice president fired him.

Susan Stamberg: The word 'Watergate' has expanded to the point where that single criminal act seems relatively insignificant. Yet all the revelations of the past two years were triggered by that attempted burglary. Anniversaries are a time to look backward. And so, we asked James McCord, who was one of those caught red-handed inside the Watergate, to relate those pivotal moments in American history.

Jeff Rosenberg: Earlier in the program, we heard James McCord's recollections of the Watergate break-in. Since that date two years ago, McCord, who has appealed his conviction on a burglary charge, has written a book on the matter called A Piece Of Tape. The title is a pun. It refers to [...] the White House tapes, as well as to the tape he used to jam the locks of the Watergate office building. And, as he told Stephen Banker, there's a third meaning to the phrase a piece of tape.

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