June 22, 2007

Bobby Kennedy Approved CIA Tap On Journalists

The CIA has released its so-called family jewels -- memoranda and archival evidence of its transgressions in the years prior to Watergate. The intelligence agency violated the law, sometimes with the approval of high-ranking government officials, on several notable occasions. For instance, the agency concluded that it had broken kidnapping laws by detaining a Soviet defector inside the US for over two years without charges, as well as wiretapping journalists.

One instance of the latter had cooperation from the Kennedy administration -- specifically, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy:

In 1963, the CIA wiretapped two columnists -- Robert Allen and Paul Scott -- following a column in a newspaper in which they disclosed certain national security information. CIA records indicate that the wiretapping was approved by McCone after "discussions" with then Attorney General Robert Kennedy and then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. The wiretaps, which continued from March 12 to June 15, 1963, were described as "very productive" -- among those overheard calling Allen and Scott were twelve Senators, six Congressmen, and so forth. Apparently, the tap did not disclose the source of the security information published in the Allen-Scott column.

I find the conclusion reached by the CIA curious. If they could not find the leak from the wiretaps, then why did they believe them to be "very productive"? It sounds like the CIA was on a fishing expedition for inside political information -- and that Kennedy and McNamara may have been interested in what the wiretaps discovered.

Interestingly, this is the only one of the 14 separate rogue programs at the CIA that mentions any approval outside the CIA itself, with the exception of mail-reading programs at JFK Airport, apparently approved by AG John Mitchell in Nixon's term. It's not the worst of the abuses, though. The CIA conducted burglaries inside the US when it suspected various people of potentially disloyal activities. They also did their own study on the effects of drug use -- on unsuspecting subjects. They also had a "faint connection" to the people who assassinated Dominican Republic leader Rafel Trujillo.

Besides the dirty 14, the memo also admits that the CIA actively spied on Americans in anti-war groups during the 60s and 70s. They did so many times at the invitation of the FBI, accoring to the document. They collected data for files on 9900 US citizens, two-thirds referred to them by the FBI. That's a clear violation of the CIA's rules and the FBI's jurisdiction under the law both then and now, and it makes the reports of interagency envy at the time a little more suspect -- and potentially self-serving -- than before.

It's a fascinating, and chilling, look into an agency that has rarely had to answer for its violations of the law. Be sure to check the entire archive at your leisure, and think about the fact that the CIA conducted these operations in administrations of both parties, with either their explicit endorsement or willful ignorance.

UPDATE: Rafael Trujillo, not Donald -- not sure how I mixed that up. Thanks to several CQ readers for the correction.


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Comments (10)

Posted by Steven Donegal | June 22, 2007 12:45 PM

And conservatives wonder why liberals reject the Bush/Cheney/Gonzalez/Yoo view of executive authority. Or why packing the Justice Dept. with political operatives may be a problem. Or why unlimited national security wiretaps just might be used for pther purposes.

Posted by jr565 | June 22, 2007 1:05 PM

man, I don't remember seeing any of this stuff in that Bobby movie that just came out where Hollywood waxed nostalgically about how great Bobby Kennedy was. Maybe in the directors cut?

Posted by docjim505 | June 22, 2007 1:42 PM

Much different times back then. A majority of the American people, especially in the early '60s, were certain that war with the Soviets was just around the corner. This was not a bad assumption in the same decade as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss were not the distant memories then that they are today. Consider the popular fiction of the day: James Bond and Matt Helm were superhero secret agents fighting the dirty reds. It was also an era of innocence: most Americans genuinely believed that the president, be it Ike or JFK, were honest men who would NEVER lie to them or misuse the power of their office. Hence, I think that most people not only assumed that the CIA did this kind of thing, they WANTED the CIA to do this kind of thing.

Vietnam and Watergate removed our rose-colored glasses. Unfortunately, some Americans have gone too far the other way and want an emasculated CIA that does little more than google searches about people who may present a threat to the United States.

Posted by rjm319 | June 22, 2007 1:57 PM

That's RAFAEL Trujillo.

Posted by Mister_Dobolina_Mister_Bob_Dobolina | June 22, 2007 3:44 PM

man, I don't remember seeing any of this stuff in that Bobby movie that just came out...

Or his involvement in the attempts on Castro. Like you, I'm opposed to this kind of thing when Surrendoocrats do it.

Posted by MegaTroopX | June 22, 2007 4:20 PM

Considering how today's fourth estate 5th column behaves today, is it really any wonder?

Posted by jr565 | June 22, 2007 4:25 PM

man, I don't remember seeing any of this stuff in that Bobby movie that just came out...

Or his involvement in the attempts on Castro. Like you, I'm opposed to this kind of thing when Surrendoocrats do it.

Posted by: Mister_Dobolina_Mister_Bob_Dobolina at June 22, 2007 3:44 PM

Or for that matter the Wiretapping of MLK's bedroom, or for that matter RFK's involevement with Mccarthy in weeding out the communists in the state dept. Why does the left revere him so much again?

Posted by KendraWilder | June 23, 2007 12:15 AM

Totally off topic, this issue reminds me that John F. Kennedy, Jr., successfully was able to get his brother, Robert Kennedy, appointed as Attorney General.

If Hillary Clinton becomes President, what's to stop her from nominating her husband, Bill, as Attorney General, or some other Cabinet appointment not-in-line-for-the-Presidency?

Could this be why Bill has suddenly chosen to become politically active again, austensibly for the purpose of campaigning for Hillary, but in fact to get back in the groove in the Inside The Beltway sense?

Horrible to even consider, but perhaps not unrealistic.

Posted by Maverick Muse | June 23, 2007 8:09 AM

--If Hillary Clinton becomes President, what's to stop her from nominating her husband, Bill, as Attorney General--

Regardless of D.C. political will or vacuum, Bill Clinton was disbarred by the Supreme Court.

Look at Ted Kennedy and see his clan, always exempting themselves above the law, extorting behind the scenes, ever placating the masses with pleasurable propaganda. The Kennedy/media alignment has been brilliant. But those of us raised to adore JKF have sinced grown to find that for all his "truism" he was a two-faced scoundrel, and that Camelot was never JFK's legacy. Thank you, JFK, for promoting crooked intelligence, domestic wire-tapping and international conspiracies and wars.
Thank you, JFK, for plunging us in Vietnam
Thank you, JFK, for the miserable Cuban Bay of Pigs disaster.

Rather than increasing taxes to profit their pets, he Kenneys need adhere to their own mission statement:
'Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

Posted by jmcnulty | June 23, 2007 1:08 PM

His name was RAPHAEL Trujillo, not Donald. If you have been to Santo Domingo, which may have changed in the last 20 years, you will see that everything impressive, or once impressive, was built by Trujillo. Everything is now run down and looks like a derelict movie set. Obviously, it was built grandiose to impress, but not to last. Typical of a corrupt "caudillo" like Trujillo, who was famous for spotting a young, beatiful girl at a reception and ordering her parents that she be brought to the Presidential palace to become his mistress. If they refused, tax trouble would be the least of their worries. He wasn't called "El jefe" (the "boss") for nothing. I knew his son. His mother was "Miss Dominican Republic" in the "Miss Universe" pageant and oordered to report to the Presidential palace as a young girl. Her family sent her away to Europe to school, but Trujillo made her his mistress when she had to return home for summer vatation. The son was about 12 and in military school in Staunton, Virginia, when Trujillo was assassinated. His mother, by then, had been pensioned off by Trujillo. You could see his father in the son. He was very domineering and used to getting his way, although in business, instead of government. He was pleasant, but you did not want to cross him. He was like Tony Soprano, friendly, but with violence just below the surface. When Trujillo was ambushed, he leaped out of the car like a Mafia don and shot it out with the assassins, spewing profanity at the killers. "I will show you how a man dies," he supposed said. The CIA cooperated in his death because of fear that Castro was a model of the "new" for Latin America, and Trujillo was a model of the "old" -- a corrupt dictator who leaves nothing behing except moldering monuments to himself.