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Washington Post former editor Ben Bradlee, who played a key role in the Watergate scandal that toppled President Richard Nixon, has died aged 93.

According to the newspaper, Benjamin C. Bradlee died at his Washington home of natural causes.

As executive editor from 1968-1991, Ben Bradlee was credited for transforming the Post into one the most respected newspapers in America.

In 2013, Bed Bradlee was given the country’s highest civilian honor – the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“For Benjamin Bradlee, journalism was more than a profession – it was a public good vital to our democracy,” President Barack Obama said in a statement released by the White House on Tuesday evening.

“A true newspaperman, he transformed the Washington Post into one of the country’s finest newspapers, and with him at the helm, a growing army of reporters published the Pentagon Papers, exposed Watergate, and told stories that needed to be told – stories that helped us understand our world and one another a little bit better.”

“Ben Bradlee was the best American newspaper editor of his time and had the greatest impact on his newspaper of any modern editor,” said Donald Graham, the former publisher of the Washington Post.

Ben Bradlee played a key role in the Watergate scandal that toppled President Richard Nixon

Ben Bradlee played a key role in the Watergate scandal that toppled President Richard Nixon

Ben Bradlee – who fought in the Navy during World War Two – became a reporter in the 1950s.

He soon became close friends with the then senator and future President John F. Kennedy.

Ben Bradlee became managing editor at the Washington Post in 1965 and was promoted to executive editor three years later.

“From the moment he took over The Post newsroom in 1965, Mr. Bradlee sought to create an important newspaper that would go far beyond the traditional model of a metropolitan daily,” the newspaper wrote in its obituary.

“He achieved that goal by combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines.”

In 1971, Ben Bradlee decided to publish the so-called Pentagon Papers – a secret study of the Vietnam War broken by The New York Times.

Ben Bradlee acted against the advice of lawyers and the entreaties of top government officials. A legal battle then began, with the Supreme Court later upholding the right of newspapers to print the leaked papers.

He played a key role in toppling President Richard Nixon in 1974.

Ben Bradlee encouraged two journalists – Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein – to pursue relentlessly the unfolding story in which some of Richard Nixon’s closest aides became involved in illegal activities, followed by a political cover-up in which the president himself was implicated.

The story of the newspaper’s coverage of the Watergate scandal was later portrayed in the film All The President’s Men, with Ben Bradlee played by Jason Robards.

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Newly released tapes show two future US presidents called Richard Nixon in support after he gave a speech on the Watergate scandal amid a staff exodus.

Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush attempted to boost Richard Nixon as he denied any knowledge of the infamous break-in at his political rivals’ offices.

The calls are among the final installment of recordings to be released from the Republican’s administration.

Richard Nixon, who quit in 1974, remains the only US president to have resigned.

His second term was engulfed by scandal after burglars tied to his re-election committee in 1972 broke into the Democratic party’s headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington DC, in an attempt to dig up dirt on his political adversaries.

The recordings are the last of a total of 3,000 hours of tape released by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Another 700 hours remain restricted by national security and privacy concerns, but the archive says they will now be reviewed in order to see what can be released.

The tapes cover the time period between 9 April and 12 July 1973, the day before the existence of Nixon’s secret recording system in his offices was made public to a Senate panel probing the Watergate scandal.

The tapes implicated him in a cover-up about the break-in.

The calls from the future presidents came on April 30, after Richard Nixon had made a public address about the growing scandal.

Earlier that day, three senior White House officials had resigned over the affair and another was sacked.

Ronald Reagan, who was governor of California at the time, told Richard Nixon the Watergate speech had been the right one to make

Ronald Reagan, who was governor of California at the time, told Richard Nixon the Watergate speech had been the right one to make

Ronald Reagan, who was governor of California at the time, told Richard Nixon the Watergate speech had been the right one to make.

“You can count on us,” he said.

“We’re still behind you out here and I wanted you to know that you’re in our prayers.”

George Bush called the same evening. The newly appointed chairman of the Republican National Committee said he had watched the speech with “great pride”.

Richard Nixon complained to George Bush about the reaction from broadcasters.

“The folks may understand,” Richard Nixon said, adding: “To hell with the commentators.”

The tapes also show Richard Nixon press secretary Ron Zeigler briefing the 37th president about the possibility of further serious revelations by the Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.

Despite the crisis engulfing him, Richard Nixon remained actively engaged in global diplomacy.

At one point – in discussions with an aide – Richard Nixon can be heard describing the Chinese as “the ablest people in the world”.

The president can also be heard holding a lengthy Oval Office conversation with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev before a June 1973 summit.

Richard Nixon expresses a close interest in ties with China – a relationship he describes as the “key to world peace”.

In the hour-long one-on-one, assisted by an interpreter, the two leaders chatted about personal topics, including their families.

“We must recognize…. while we will naturally in negotiations have some differences, it is essential that those two nations, where possible, work together,” Richard Nixon said to Leonid Brezhnev.

“If we decide to work together, we can change the world,” he said.

“That’s my attitude as we enter these talks.”

Previous releases show the president as a paranoid man who was obsessed with the Kennedy family.

Richard Nixon considered Senator Ted Kennedy such a political threat that he ordered surveillance in the hope of catching him in an affair.

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  • Pentagon papers, 1971: Daniel Ellsberg leaks study showing the government had knowledge it was unlikely to win Vietnam war
  • Watergate, 1972: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reveal extent of cover-up over burglary at Democrat National Committee HQ
  • Iran-Contra affair, 1986: Iranian cleric reveals illegal US arms sales to Iran, the proceeds of which are later used to fund Nicaraguan Contras
  • Valerie Plame, 2003: She is revealed to be an undercover CIA agent, ending her covert career
  • Abu Ghraib, 2004: Publication of pictures showing abuse of detainees at Iraq prison by US officials turns initial media reports of abuse into full-blown scandal
  • Bradley Manning, 2010: The soldier downloads thousands of classified documents from military servers and hands them over to Wikileaks

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The CIA has opened an investigation into the conduct of its former director David Petraeus, who resigned last week citing an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell.

A CIA spokesman says the inquiry by the agency’s inspector general would see if there are any lessons to be learned.

Paula Broadwell, 40, was found to have classified information, but both she and General David Petraeus deny it came from him.

David Petraeus will testify on Friday on Capitol Hill about September’s deadly attack on the US consulate in Libya.

The CIA said in a statement on Thursday: “At the CIA we are constantly reviewing our performance. If there are lessons to be learned from this case we’ll use them to improve.

“But we’re not getting ahead of ourselves; an investigation is exploratory and doesn’t presuppose any particular outcome.”

In his first interview since resigning, David Petraeus told CNN on Thursday he had not given any classified information to his former lover.

He also said he quit because of the affair, not the assault two months ago on the consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead.

The CIA has opened an investigation into the conduct of its former director David Petraeus, who resigned last week citing an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell

The CIA has opened an investigation into the conduct of its former director David Petraeus, who resigned last week citing an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell

David Petraeus will be questioned by lawmakers behind closed doors on Friday about that attack, which has been the focus of Republican claims that the Obama administration misled the American people.

Meanwhile, intelligence officials continued on Thursday to defend their handling of the investigation into David Petraeus’ affair.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and acting CIA Director Michael Morell appeared before the House intelligence committee.

Dutch Ruppersberger, the panel’s top Democrat, said after the hearing that he was satisfied with the FBI’s investigation.

He said the agency was right not to have notified political leaders sooner, because of rules set up post-Watergate to prevent meddling in criminal investigations.

But another committee member, Representative Adam Schiff, also a Democrat, said “there’s a lot of information we need … with respect to the facts about the allegations against General Petraeus”.

At a press conference in New Orleans, US Attorney General Eric Holder was also asked why the justice department did not inform the White House or lawmakers earlier about the investigation.

Eric Holder said: “As we went through the investigation and looked at the facts and tried to examine them as they developed, we felt very secure in the knowledge that a national security threat did not exist.”

The scandal was discovered when FBI officials looked into harassing emails, allegedly from Paula Broadwell, that were sent to a Florida socialite who is a family friend of the Petraeuses.

The inquiry has also ensnared the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen.

John Allen is under investigation for sending what officials describe as “flirtatious” emails to the Tampa hostess, Jill Kelley.

Adultery is illegal under military law, but General John Allen denies wrongdoing.

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Robert Redford will produce a documentary about Watergate, more than 30 years after appearing in a film about the US political scandal.

Robert Redford, 75, played journalist Bob Woodward in the 1976 movie All the President’s Men, whose uncovering of the scandal lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

The actor told the New York Times it was the “right time to take a look at this moment in history”.

The documentary will premiere in 2013.

As well as producing All The President’s Men Revisited, Robert Redford will also act as narrator.

Robert Redford will produce a documentary about Watergate

Robert Redford will produce a documentary about Watergate

The controversy that surrounded the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, prompted President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974.

Washington Post reporters Woodward and Carl Bernstein – portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the film – played a key role in uncovering the scandal, which was traced back to members of a Nixon-support group.

The 1976 film was nominated for four Oscars, winning four including one for screenwriter William Goldman.

The new documentary has been commissioned by the Discovery Channel and will explore the effect the scandal has had on US politics and the media in the four decades since.

“To be able to pull the fabricated and the real together, for the first time, is kind of a juicy opportunity for us,” Eileen O’Neill, the president of Discovery, said.

Last week, Robert Redford said he believed documentaries have replaced newspapers as the media’s main source of investigative journalism.

Robert Redford also said he thought papers were in “steep decline” and documentaries have become “a better form of truth”.