H.R. Haldeman, White House chief of staff under President Nixon and convicted Watergate conspirator, yesterday lost his bid in U.S. District Court to collect $30 million in damages from the federal government for seizing and withholding some of his personal records from his days at the White House.
The records--50 tape cassettes and six journals--were seized along with other White House records in 1973 during the Watergate investigation. Haldeman did not get his records back until 1980.
Haldeman claimed that the government was wrong to seize his personal records and that it should not have kept them for seven years.
He said this time lapse caused him to lose considerable profits from his book, "The Ends of Power." He said he intended to use the personal records in writing the book.
Judge John Garrett Penn said in his opinion that Haldeman "could have photocopied his diary." He also ruled that the government was justified in keeping the records as long as it did.
For part of the time that Haldeman's records were in the government's custody, they were located at the National Archives where they were being reviewed "for security classified material." The judge ruled that this review was "in the public interest," which outweighed the harm done to Haldeman.
Frank H. Strickler, Haldeman's attorney, said yesterday he could not comment on the opinion because he had not seen it.