Ultimately, however, the LBJ Library didn't wait that long. After a little more than two decades, on July 22, 1994, the envelope was opened and the archivists began the process of declassifying the contents, some of which remain classified to this day.
Yet, Rostow's delay in releasing "The 'X' Envelope" had other political consequences. Since the full scope of Nixon's political intelligence operations were not understood in 1973-74, Washington's conventional wisdom adopted the mistaken lesson that "the cover-up is worse than the crime." What wasn't understood was how deep Nixon's villainy may have gone.
Another consequence is that Republicans still can disparage the significance of Watergate, sometimes referring to it as Nixon did, as "a third-rate burglary." Not understanding the scope of criminality behind Nixon's clandestine operations, GOP officials even rate Watergate as less important than the current flap over Benghazi because supposedly "no one died in Watergate."
However, if the full continuum of Watergate were recognized -- that it partly stemmed from a cover-up of Nixon's Vietnam War "treason" in 1968 -- the notion that "no one died" would sound like a sick joke.
Because Nixon extended the Vietnam War for four-plus years and expanded it into Cambodia, millions of people perished, the vast majority inhabitants of Indochina, but also more than 20,000 additional Americans. It is well past time that this more complete history is recognized.