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Hullabaloo


Friday, May 26, 2006

 
Fool Me Once

by digby


There is a lively debate going on in the blogosphere about whether the FBI should be allowed to raid a congressman's office. I will let others make the legal and philosophical arguments. I would just offer this from the Church Committee files:


The historical backround of political abuse of the FBI involves at least three dimensions. The first is the Bureau's subsurvience to the Presidency, its willingness to carry our White House requests without question. When L. Patrick Gray as Acting FBI Director destroyed documents and gave FBI reports to Presidential aides whom the FBI should have been investigating after the Watergate break-in, he just carried to the extreme an established practice of service to the White House. The other side of the practice was the Bureau's volunteering political intelligence to its superiors, not in response to any specific request. And the third historical dimension was the FBI''s concerted effort to promote its public image and discredit its critics.

[...]

The committee staff found in these "O" and C" files ("Official and Confidential") such special memoranda on ... all the members of the Senate Subcommittee chaired by Senator Long which threatened to investigate the FBI in the mid-1960's. Some of these "name check" reports and special memoranda contained derogatory information about his wife. The reports on members of the Long Committee were compiled in a briefing book, with tabs on each senator.

[...]

In 1965, the FBI declined a request of the Justice Department Criminal division to "wire" a witness in the investigation of former Johnson senate aide Bobby Baker. Although the FBI refused on grounds that there was not adequate security, the Criminal Division had the Bureau of Narcotics in the Treasury department "wire" the witness as a legitimate alternative. When the Baker trial began in 1967 this became known. Presidential aide Marvin Watson told the FBI that President Johnson was quite exercized, and the FBI was ordered to conduct a discrete "run-down" on the head of the Criminal Division in 1965 and four persons in Treasury and the Narcotic Bureaus, including specifically any associations with former Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

[...]

At the request of President Johnson made directly to FBI executive Cartha Deloach, the FBI passed purely political intelligence about United States Senators to the White house which was obtained as a by-product of otherwise legitimate national security electronic surveillance of foreign intelligence targets. The practice also continued at the request of Mr. H.R. Haldeman.


That is just a tiny bit of the Church Committee summary of the historical political abuses perpetrated by the FBI through the mid-70's. It was bipartisan, which is why I chose to highlight the incident with Johnson.

I am quite sure that Congressman Jefferson is nobody I want to defend (for his politics and much as his criminality.) But the FBI and the executive branch have a long sordid history of using their power for political ends. (Even Hoover never believed they could raid a congressman's office, however.)

Recently, the FBI's conservative culture has led to some in the bureau covertly helping Republicans as we saw during the Clinton years. Convicted spy Robert Hanssen had a relationship with Robert Novak that seemed to be based upon his political loathing of Janet Reno, although as with so many of these cases, it's hard to tell what motivates individuals. But history shows that the FBI can be used by any party for nefarious purposes which is bad enough and requires constant vigilance and oversight. When it is used for partisan reasons directly against the congress you have a problem of an even greater dimension.

The reason to be against this is political and constitutional, not legal. It's entirely possible that the warrant they got was proper and that their cause is just. And I have no doubt that Hastert had a hissy fit and got Bush to seal the documents to cover his own ample ass. But the bigger issue is something that someone wrote in an email a couple of days ago: This Republican Justice Department, led by a lifetime Bush loyalist and good friend to Karl Rove now has every Democratic strategy memo that ever came across Congressman Jefferson's desk. Trust 'em?



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