Mark Bowden (author of Black Hawk Down and The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden) disclosed this fact during a 12/12/2012 speech at the Pritzker Military Library (go to about 33:00 in event audio for relevant anecdote).
Bowden interviewed President Obama in the Oval Office for writing his book on the killing of bin Laden. Unfortunately, Bowden’s tape recorder malfunctioned so the interview appeared to be at least partially lost. While leaving the Oval Office, Bowden lamented the malfunction and was told by Ben Rhodes (probably a reference to the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication) not to worry because “We record everything in here.” Subsequently, Rhodes provided Bowden a full transcript of his interview with the President.
The only negative I see in Bowden’s account is that the White House is recording these conversations without disclosure to all the participants. So consider yourself warned, when you speak with President Obama, you are speaking to all American citizens, both present and future.
Give that the risks of security and records preservation have been addressed, the resumption of presidential taping in the Oval Office and White House has three principle benefits, beyond day to day operational efficiencies.
The President and members of the White House staff and executive branch are accountable to current and future American citizens for their conduct in office; see the example of Nixon’s resignation.
Further, those that speak with the Presient are accountable to current and future American citizens for their counsel; hear the Southern Governors speaking to the President regarding the outbreak of civil disorder during the civil rights movement.
In retrospect, audio records inform the documentation of history. The cold black-and-white of bullet points are enlivened by the tone and natural language of the verbal discussion. The significance of individuals are displayed by their participation in policy discussions and their being the subject of discussions; hear the LBJ tapes for this theme.
Presidency in Reality
Audio recordings bring issues in a raw perceptual form. What was actually said and discussed is the antidote to unsubstantiated conspiracies about presidential motivations. Further, the nuts and bolts of daily problem solving debunk the media echoed myth behind the cult of the presidency, and the President as the Great Legislator, in the Rousseau sense.
Personally, I hope in future to find through these recordings that President Obama is thoughtful and informed, which would be a valuable contrast to the ignorant fool that he presents himself to be in public.
Overall, President Obama recording Oval Office conversations is a value to this country and he deserves credit for that. It is unlikely that such tapes will be used during his second term to clarify reported scandals that are subject to congressional oversight. However, in the fullness of time, such recordings can correct history about whether President Obama or his detractors were misleading the American people about what President Obama knew and when did he know it.
Extra Point: The Miller Center at the University of Virginia offers a presidential recordings program.