After being sworn in as president, Richard Nixon told the assembled crowd that “government will listen. ... Those who have been left out, we will try to bring in.” But that same day, he obliterated those pledges of greater citizen control of government by signing National Security Decision Memorandum 2, a document that made sweeping changes to the national security power structure. Nixon’s signature erased the influence that the departments of State and Defense, as well as the CIA, had over Vietnam and the course of the Cold War. The new structure put Nixon at the center, surrounded by loyal aides and a new national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, who coordinated policy through the National Security Council under Nixon’s command. Using years of research and revelations from newly released documents, USA Today reporter Ray Locker upends much of the conventional wisdom about the Nixon administration and its impact and shows how the creation of this secret, unprecedented, extra-constitutional government undermined U.S. policy and values. In doing so, Nixon sowed the seeds of his own destruction by creating a climate of secrecy, paranoia, and reprisal that still affects Washington today.
Ray Locker is the Washington enterprise editor for USA Today, where he supervises investigative reporting in the Washington bureau, as well as the White House, military and money in politics reporters. His work as a reporter and editor has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes. He covered the final years of George Wallace’s political career at the Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama; spent 13 years as a reporter, columnist, and editor at the Tampa Tribune; worked for the Los Angeles Times; and ran the Associated Press bureau in Sacramento, where he coordinated coverage of California government and politics. Locker is married to Margaret Talev, a White House correspondent for Bloomberg News. They have two daughters and live in Rockville, Maryland.