Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Big Chill

He was reviled as "lower than the regurgitated filth of vultures," by J. Edgar Hoover, noted FishBowlDC. Jack Anderson's NYTimes obit observed:

"Mr. Anderson was a flamboyant bridge between the muckrakers of the early decades of the 20th century and the battalions of investigative reporters unleashed by news organizations after Watergate. He relished being called 'the Paul Revere of journalism' for his knack for uncovering major stories first almost as much as he enjoyed being at the top of President Richard M. Nixon's enemies list."

On the same day that journalism's annual Pulitzer prizes were announced, in a post aptly titled The thought police want a dead Pulitzer Prize winner's documents, Will Bunch of Attytood described "a shocking new detail [that] emerged in the broader war against a free press -- and here the Bush administration is in danger of winning for keeps. Ironically, it involves a Pulitzer Prize winner of generations past -- the late Jack Anderson, who was one of the best in his trade back in the era when men were men and Bob Woodward was Bob Woodward."

A NYTimes article, F.B.I. Is Seeking to Search Papers of Dead Reporter, gives the details:

The F.B.I. is seeking to go through the files of the late newspaper columnist Jack Anderson to remove classified material he may have accumulated in four decades of muckraking Washington journalism.

Mr. Anderson's family has refused to allow a search of 188 boxes, the files of a well-known reporter who had long feuded with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and had exposed plans by the Central Intelligence Agency to kill Fidel Castro, the machinations of the Iran-contra affair and the misdemeanors of generations of congressmen.

Mr. Anderson's son Kevin said that to allow government agents to rifle through the papers would betray his father's principles and intimidate other journalists, and that family members were willing to go to jail to protect the collection.

"It's my father's legacy," said Kevin N. Anderson, a Salt Lake City lawyer and one of the columnist's nine children. "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."
In concluding his post on the issue, Attytood warns:
There's no way to minimize something like this, but what's really creepy is that this is no anomaly. Time and time again, we've seen excessive and unprecedented levels of secrecy from the Bush administration in a relentless -- and sadly undercovered -- war to control the past. In fact, one of Bush's earlier actions as president was to rescind the pending release of documents covering his father's presidency. More recently, the CIA and other agencies have taken the unprecedented step of reclassifying documents from the National Archives.

Now, by putting a lid on the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporting of the past, they are trying to control your future. It is incumbent on the journalists of the present to stop them -- while we can.
It is fitting to end with a quote used by Attytood (which I also saw quoted elsewhere in the past few days). It says it all.

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'
-- George Orwell, 1984.

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