Virtues That Ain’t Worth Jack
It’s nice to know that the investigative reporter Jack Anderson is still under investigation, although seriously dead.
Anderson died last year, and for 19 years before his death he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and had become less active as a reporter. Now that he’s safely deceased, the Federal Bureau of Investigation wants to go through nearly 200 boxes of his files to see if there are any classified documents in there. If it’s classified, they want it back—though Anderson was in the habit of printing anything he ever got that was of any interest.
This is apparently part of the Great Bush Reclassification Project, in which government information that has previously been declassified and offered for public consumption is now being reclassified as secret so nobody can find out about it. Those who saw government documents between declassification and reclassification are just going to have to forget what they saw. That, or some Man in Black will be sent around to zap your memory with a little thingamajig.
For some reason, the FBI thinks Anderson, despite the Parkinson’s, had some papers involving two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who have been criminally charged with receiving classified information. That case is a crock, and to use it to dig through Anderson’s archived stuff is just ludicrous.
Among Anderson’s targets of old was the Federal Bureau of Investigation itself—gee, still worried he might have photos of J. Edgar Hoover in a dress after all these years?
Anderson was a hardworking investigative reporter. Among his scoops were exposing the CIA’s plots to kill Fidel Castro and breaking details of the Iran-Contra affair. I always liked him because he was so un-Establishment, a Mormon with nine kids. Anderson never had time for the Washington dinner party circuit and never gave a damn about it.
Even some other journalists looked down on him—he was never part of D.C.’s “cool” in-group. But the proof was in the work, and although he made a few memorable mistakes, he was consistently so far ahead of the pack he made his detractors look like the lazy snobs they were.
Anderson’s son Kevin said family members are willing to go to jail rather than let Anderson’s papers be confiscated. “It’s my father’s legacy,” he told The New York Times. “The government has always, and continues to this day, to abuse the secrecy stamp. My father’s view was that the public is the employer of these government employees and has the right to know what they’re up to.”
Meanwhile, the Bush administration is so hopelessly confounded by the problems of secrecy, it has now fired a CIA agent for allegedly leaking the truth concerning a gulag of “black site” prisons we keep in Eastern Europe (remember when only the Soviets did that?). And of course Bush claims he has the right to instantly declassify anything to back up a phony charge against a political opponent. How lovely.
I listened to that pompous, self-righteous blowhard Bill Bennett saying the other day that several reporters who won Pulitzers this year should be in jail. I guess the responsibility of being the Virtue Czar has finally driven Bennett daffy. If he can’t see that the problem is an administration that runs torture programs, gulags, and illegal domestic spying programs, rather than reporters who find out about these programs and print the truth, then I say it’s time for a new Virtue Czar.
Jack Anderson was right: The people in government work for us. What they do is our responsibility because they do it in our name and with our money—that’s why we have a right to know about it.
The other day I heard a young man say, “I have an issue with torture.” Turns out he was offended by some scenes
in a movie he’d been to. I have an issue with torture, too. I get upset when it’s real and it’s my country doing it. I guess
I wouldn’t make a good Virtue Czar.
Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated columnist. Her most recent book with Lou Dubose is Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America (Random House).