The FBI and investigative reporters
The FBI has no business investigating the files of deceased journalists.
I haven't had any problems with the FBI lately that I know of, and I was hoping it would stay that way.Skip to next paragraph
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In 1971, President Nixon had J. Edgar Hoover launch an investigation of me that ended up as an item in the Bill of Impeachment under "Presidential Abuse of Power."
We in the press hoped that the FBI would learn from that experience and refrain from doing political chores. But now it seems that the FBI is back investigating what it has no business investigating. It has told the family of Jack Anderson, the justly celebrated investigative columnist who died last December, that it wants access to Anderson's 60 years worth of files. Why? The FBI says it wants to remove any secret papers.
It seems to be assumed that Mr. Anderson collected a lot of secret papers in a career of baring official secrets. Like the column that won Anderson a Pulitzer Prize, revealing that in contradiction to the proclaimed Nixon-Kissinger policy of neutrality in the India-Pakistan war, the United States was actually tilting towards Pakistan.
Anderson's son, Kevin, says he won't surrender the papers to the FBI, but that all his father's files will eventually be available to the public in the repository at George Washington University. The FBI seems unwilling to wait. It maintains that the mere possession of papers once marked "secret" is illegal.
In a hearing last Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, ranking Democrat Patrick J. Leahy criticized FBI Director Robert S. Mueller for wanting to search the Anderson files. He said, "There's a concern that the FBI may go into his files because of things he discovered about J. Edgar Hoover's personal life." Mr. Mueller insisted that the FBI's concern was that classified national security documents not be made public.
So there we are. I can identify with Jack Anderson, with whom I shared an honored place on the Nixon enemies list. But I have a more immediate concern. I don't want the Feds poking around in my files after I die. Not that they contain any great revelations. Everything I learned that was of possible interest, I reported.
It's just the principle of the thing.
So, with Kevin Anderson, I say to the FBI, "Why don't you go and find some terrorists and leave the files of deceased journalists alone?"
• Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.