The 1970s
On June 17, 1972, five men employed by the Committee to Re-elect the President (later known as CREEP) were arrested while breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel to plant listening devices in the phones and steal campaign strategy documents. Two former White House aides working for CREEP, G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt, were also arrested. Liddy was a former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent, and Hunt was the Central Intelligence Agency agent responsible for planning the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. The seven Watergate burglars were indicted on September 15, 1972. In November 1972, President Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern in a landslide.

In February 1973, the U.S. Senate established the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities to investigate the Watergate break-in and rumors of other campaign irregularities. Over the next few months, the conspiracy to cover-up White House involvement in the break-in began to unravel. The acting Director of the FBI resigned after admitting he destroyed evidence on the advice of White House aides. White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, White House Domestic Affairs Assistant John Ehrlichman, and presidential counsel John Dean, resigned on April 30, 1973. Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and two others were later convicted of obstructing the investigation of the break-in. During a televised speech, President Nixon denied any knowledge of the cover-up. However, John Dean testified before the Senate committee that Nixon authorized "hush money" to the burglars. White House aide Alexander Butterfield also testified that Nixon taped every conversation in the Oval Office.

President Richard M. NixonThis revelation touched a battle of wills between the Senate Committee and the President over releasing the tapes. In October 1973, Nixon ordered the Attorney General to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox because Cox refused to accept Nixon's offer to release a "synopsis" of the tapes. The Attorney General and his assistant refused to follow the order and resigned. The House of Representatives began to consider impeaching the President on October 23. Nixon turned over the tapes, but two proved to be missing and one had a 18 1/2 minute gap in it. In January 1974, Nixon refused to surrender over 500 tapes and documents subpoenaed by the Senate. On July 24, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Nixon must turn over the tapes, which he did eight hours later. By the end of July, the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against President Nixon, charging him with obstructing justice, repeatedly violating his oath of office, and unconstitutionally defying Senate subpoenas. On August 5, Nixon revealed the "smoking gun" that tied him to the Watergate cover-up. He released transcripts of a conversation with Haldemon that showed President Nixon ordered the FBI to stop investigating the break-in six days after it occurred. President Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974. President Ford pardoned Nixon a month later.

In addition to breaking and entering and obstruction of justice, the investigation of the Watergate break-in revealed an impressive list of offenses. Illegal campaign contributions to CREEP financed "dirty tricks" to discredit key Democratic leaders. It was also revealed President Nixon had taken illegal tax deductions and used $10 million in government funds to improve his houses in Florida and California. The illegal, secret war against Cambodia was also revealed.
TimelineJanuary 1970
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 was signed requiring the Federal government in all major actions to examine the environmental consequences of any major Federal action--such as the construction of a building--to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and to conduct a decision-making process that incorporates public input. An EIS must include the proposed action's purpose, need, alternative, effects on the environment, consequences, and organizations involved in the action.

TimelineDecember 1970
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed on December 2, 1970. The EPA consolidated a number of environmental activities from many federal agencies into one agency. For the first time, one agency was responsible for setting standards for and enforcing pollution control.

Computed axial tomography, commonly known as CAT scanning, was introduced. During a CAT scan, a large coil of x-ray tubes rotates around the patient's body, taking x-rays from all angles. A computer integrates all of these x-rays into a single, three-dimensional image on a television screen. The data can be saved on the computer.

A British engineer, Godfrey Hounsfield, and an American physicist, Allan Cormack, developed the CAT scan in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Both men received the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1979.
TimelineJanuary 1973
The peace treaty ending the Vietnam War is signed. South Vietnam collapses in 1975 after U.S. troops are withdrawn.
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TimelineMarch 1974
The Atomic Energy Commission establishes the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) to identify former Manhattan Project [see September 1942] and AEC [see July 1946] sites that are privately owned but need remedial action.

TimelineOctober 1974
The Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 abolished the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and created the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). ERDA took over the AEC's research, development, waste management, and cleanup programs. The NRC became responsible for regulating the commercial nuclear industry. ERDA later became the U.S. Department of Energy [see October 1977].

TimelineOctober 1976
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is passed to protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal.
   -read full articlePresident Carter

TimelineApril 1977
President Carter bans the recycling of used nuclear fuel from commercial reactors.
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TimelineAugust 1977
The Voyager 2 spacecraft was launched on August 20, 1977. Its primary mission was to explore the outer planets of our solar system. Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Jupiter in July 1979, to Saturn in August 1981, to Uranus in January 1986, and to Neptune in August 1989. Voyager 2 then headed out of our solar system. Because of the remote possibility that it might be recovered by an extraterrestrial civilization, Voyager 2 (as well as Voyager 1) carried a twelve-inch copper phonograph record containing greetings in 54 languages, 117 pictures of Earth and humans, and a 90-minute selection of world music. The spacecraft's electricity is generated by the decay of plutonium pellets.

TimelineOctober 1977
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) replaces the Energy Research and Development Administration and consolidates Federal energy programs and activities.
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TimelineApril 1978
The United States canceled the development of the neutron bomb. A special type of hydrogen bomb, the neutron bomb would produce high levels of neutron radiation with a minimal blast, destroying life but leaving buildings intact.

The United States, with the backing of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), developed the neutron bomb because the Soviet Union had many more conventional (non-nuclear) forces in Europe than did NATO or the United States. If the Soviet Union invaded western Europe, the neutron bomb could kill the invaders while leaving the land and buildings relatively undamaged. The European public opposed the deployment of the neutron bomb in Europe.

TimelineNovember 1978
The Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 directs DOE to stabilize and control uranium mill tailings at inactive milling sites and vicinity properties. DOE forms the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Program as a result.
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Three Mile Island
TimelineMarch 1979
Three Mile Island Nuclear Powerplant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania suffers a partial core meltdown. Minimal radioactive material is released.
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TimelineJune 1979
The United States and Soviet Union sign the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) II, which limits each side's arsenals and restricts weapons development and modernization.
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Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi
TimelineNovember 1979
Under Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, American hostages are taken in Iran.
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TimelineDecember 1979
The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Embroiled in civil war, the communist government of Afghanistan was possibly in danger of falling to rebels. The Soviets may have invaded to head off this defeat and secure part of their own border from the turmoil between Iran and Iraq. In protest of the Soviet invasion, the United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, refused to sell the Soviet Union grain, and halted ratification of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty II [see June 1979].

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