Washington — A federal appeals court ruled that the government may release 6,000 hours of Oval Office recordings taped secretly by Richard Nixon. The decision was a major defeat for the former President, who challenged a General Services Administration plan to release the tapes at 11 regional listening centers across the nation.
The ruling upheld a lower court decision that making the tapes public would not violate Mr. Nixon's privacy rights. The court said Nixon, who resigned Aug. 9, 1974, in the Watergate controversy, cannot claim a broad right to privacy ''with respect to his life while President.''
Nixon's lawyers said the agency should presume confidentiality of the tapes and analyze them on a tape-by-tape basis. The GSA argued it would take 2 million hours to produce the necessary transcripts - a task which at current staff levels would take 200 years.
Nixon's lawyers are expected to appeal to the Supreme Court.