Why Bush's Screw-FISA Policy Is So Worrisome

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Why Bush's Screw-FISA Policy Is So Worrisome

As the debate continues about the Bush administration's domestic, to-hell-with-FISA policies, it is worth identifying some examples of how such federal police and investigatory power can be abused. I recently stumbled across a 2004 article in Washingtonian magazine ("Blame It on Jack") in which writer Mark Feldstein takes us on this stroll down memory lane:
Nixon's secret Oval Office tape recordings proved that he directed an illegal cover-up by paying hush money to the Watergate burglars and pretending that the break-in was done to protect "national security" ...

Less famous is another Nixon cover-up that began in the aftermath of the Watergate break-in. This ingenious Nixon conspiracy would have exonerated the administration of the Watergate bugging while blaming it on Nixon's longtime journalistic nemesis: columnist Jack Anderson.

... The CIA began spying on Anderson, and the FBI listened in on his phone conversations. The Nixon White House tried to plant a story that Anderson -- a Mormon teetotaler and father of nine -- was homosexual, and then talked about assassinating him.
"No one's as power-hungry, desperate or paranoid as Nixon was," you say? Don't bet on it. And bear in mind that Nixon had a lot of willing helpers. We know that Bush and Cheney, like Nixon, have a thin skin when it comes to reporters and columnists.

The Senate's Church Committee hearings in the mid-1970s offered a snapshot of how the FBI operated in an environment where oversight was sorely lacking. For example:
... for 20 years the [FBI] continued to collect information on [a pro-civil rights religious] group, hoping and hoping that it might find at some time that it was genuinely a danger, and finding that it was not.

... the Bureau at one point had a plan to select a leader who they thought ought to lead the blacks in this country, and at the same time to depose Martin Luther King, Jr. ...

... we will identify for you instances in which the [FBI] had been misused politically by higher authority ... having been asked to intercede and to spy on people for directly political reasons ...

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