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[FYI] (Fwd) FC: The Privacy Snatchers

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Date sent:      	Sat, 16 Oct 1999 13:24:31 -0400
To:             	politech@vorlon.mit.edu
From:           	Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
Subject:        	FC: The Privacy Snatchers
Send reply to:  	declan@well.com

One response to my column this week:

>Since when were limits on police power "antisocial"? Ensuring the
>function of a democracy is a highly social act.  The Justice
>Department accusation
> reminds me of "communist!" in the '50's.

It's useful to consider precedent. Forthwith, this history.



                    The Privacy Snatchers
                    By Declan McCullagh

                    History reveals that time and again, the FBI, the
                    military and other law enforcement organizations
                    have ignored the law and spied on Americans
                    illegally, without court authorization. Government
                    agencies have subjected hundreds of thousands of
                    law-abiding Americans to unjust surveillance,
                    illegal wiretaps and warrantless searches. Eleanor
                    Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., feminists, gay
                    rights leaders and Catholic priests were spied on.
                    The FBI used secret files and hidden microphones
                    to blackmail the Kennedy brothers, sway the
                    Supreme Court and influence presidential

                    In these cases, police violated the law by
                    eavesdropping without a judge's approval, which
                    the Constitution requires. Now the FBI wants to
                    require Americans to use only computers and
                    telephones with a secret backdoor. Such easy
                    access is the fantasy of every unethical policeman
                    and corrupt bureaucrat. Of course, they pledge
                    never to use it without court authorization. Can
                    we trust them? 

                    Martin Luther King 

                    The FBI's campaign to destroy Dr. Martin Luther
                    King began in December 1963, soon after the famous
                    civil rights March on Washington. It started with
                    an extensive -- and illegal -- electronic
                    surveillance of King that probed into every corner
                    of his personal life. 

                    Two weeks after the march, the same week King
                    appeared on the cover of Time magazine as "Man of
                    the Year," FBI agents inserted a microphone in
                    King's bedroom. ("They had to dig deep in the
                    garbage to come up with that one," FBI director J.
                    Edgar Hoover said of the Time cover story.) Hoover
                    wiretapped King's phone and fed the information to
                    the Defense Department and to friendly

                    When King travelled to Europe to receive the
                    Nobel Peace Prize, Hoover tried to derail meetings
                    between King and foreign officials, including the
                    Pope. Hoover even sent King an anonymous letter,
                    using information gathered through illegal
                    surveillance, to encourage the depressed civil
                    rights leader to commit suicide. 

                    "The actions taken against Dr. King are
                    indefensible. They represent a sad episode in the
                    dark history of covert actions directed against
                    law-abiding citizens by a law enforcement agency,"
                    a Senate committee concluded in 1976. 

                    Hoover's legacy? The FBI headquarters proudly
                    bears his name today. 

                    Mail Monitoring 

                    Opening mail may be an imprecise form of
                    surveillance, but that didn't stop the FBI and CIA
                    from surreptitiously reading hundreds of thousands
                    of letters from 1940 to 1973. Government employees
                    (who took special classes to learn this skill)
                    would stealthily open the envelope and photograph
                    whatever was inside. 

                    The CIA did it randomly. One agent testified
                    before Congress, "You never know what you would
                    hit." Included in the agency's dragnet were three
                    U.S. senators, a congressman, a presidential
                    candidate and many business and civil rights

                    Under federal law, opening mail not addressed to
                    you results in fines of up to $2,000 and five
                    years in jail. But not one agent appears to have
                    been prosecuted. 

                    Eleanor Roosevelt 

                    Even the personal life of the First Lady of the
                    United States is fair game to the eavesdrop

                    In March 1943 Eleanor Roosevelt checked into
                    Chicago's Blackstone Hotel on her way to Seattle.
                    In addition to bugging her rooms, the Army
                    Counter-Intelligence Corps followed her whenever
                    she left the hotel. 

                    Her crime: endorsing left-wing organizations such
                    as the YMCA and the American League for Peace and

                    FBI director J. Edgar Hoover hated Mrs.
                    Roosevelt. He ordered the FBI to investigate Edith
                    Helm, Mrs. Roosevelt's longtime social secretary,
                    and another of her aides, Malvina Thompson. ("This
                    type of investigation seems to me to smack too
                    much of the Gestapo methods," Eleanor Roosevelt
                    said at the time.) 

                    Hoover later visited the comedian W.C. Fields, who
                    also despised Mrs. Roosevelt, and obtained from
                    him three miniature paintings of the First Lady.
                    "Viewed upside down they depicted, in grossly
                    exaggerated anatomical detail, a woman's sex
                    organs," writes Curt Gentry in his biography of
                    Hoover. They became a highlight of the FBI
                    director's private tour of his basement recreation

                    Socialist Stalking 

                    In 1986 a federal judge awarded $264,000 in
                    damages to the Socialist Workers Party to
                    compensate for 36 years of government
                    harassment. The FBI used wiretaps, bugs and
                    surreptitious entries to monitor and disrupt the
                    group from 1941 to 1976. 

                    The FBI made at least 204 surreptitious entries of
                    SWP offices and photographed at least 9,864
                    documents. Agents also broke into the homes of
                    party members. 

                    A 1966 FBI memo admitted: "We do not obtain
                    authorization for 'black bag' jobs from outside
                    the Bureau. Such a technique involves trespass and
                    is clearly illegal; therefore, it would be
                    impossible to obtain any legal sanction for it.
                    Despite this, 'black bag' jobs have been used
                    because they represent an invaluable technique in
                    combatting subversive activities aimed directly at
                    undermining and destroying our nation." 

                    The court ruled, however, that the SWP was not
                    "subversive" but was instead a peaceful,
                    law-abiding organization -- that has the same
                    right to be nutty as any other group of Americans.

                    Meddling With The Press 

                    It was an early spring day in 1969 when President
                    Nixon ordered illegal wiretaps of 13 government
                    officials and four journalists. His stated goal:
                    to learn who was leaking sensitive information and
                    embarassing the White House. 

                    The taps never did uncover the source, and Nixon
                    complained that they produced "just gobs of
                    material: gossip and bull." But the material
                    collected about the personal lives of the targets
                    was priceless: social contacts, marital problems,
                    drinking habits, employment situations and even
                    sex lives. The agents collected political
                    information, too, especially about Nixon's
                    Democratic opponents. Even a Supreme Court
                    justice, who spoke to one of the wiretap victims
                    about a manuscript, was drawn into the net. 

                    About 20 months later, just weeks before Hoover
                    was due to testify before a House committee, the
                    FBI ended the wiretaps. When Time magazine learned
                    of the story two years later and asked the White
                    House to comment, a spokesman denied that any
                    wiretaps were asked for or received. A month later
                    the new FBI director told the same story to the
                    Senate Judiciary Committee. 

                    In another case in 1969, John Ehrlichman ordered a
                    wiretap of newspaper columnist Joseph Kraft. A
                    security consultant for the Republican National
                    Committee installed the tap of Kraft's home. When
                    Kraft travelled overseas, the FBI asked local
                    authorities to wiretap his hotel room. 

                    Supreme Court Snooping 

                    The reach of law enforcement agents did not even
                    end at the august doors of the U.S. Supreme Court.
                    Not only did FBI director J. Edgar Hoover
                    influence which justices would be appointed, he
                    wiretapped them and spied on them once they were
                    in office. 

                    The FBI admitted in 1988, in response to a
                    Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, that Justice
                    William O. Douglas had been the target of numerous
                    wiretaps. (When Justice Douglas in June 1970 was
                    discussing the impeachment of another justice,
                    Hoover sent H.R. Haldeman a detailed report on the
                    intercepted conversation.) Agents also listened in
                    on the conversations of justices Earl Warren, Abe
                    Fortas and Potter Stewart. 

                    "For years William O. Douglas had been writing, in
                    great secrecy he believed, the final volume of his
                    memoirs, dealing with his Court years," writes
                    Curt Gentry in his Hoover biography. "He was so
                    obsessed with preventing leaks that he made only
                    one copy of the manuscript. Sometime between
                    October 4 and November 12, 1968, the final draft
                    of his section on Lyndon Baines Johnson was stolen
                    from his office in the Supreme Court." After
                    finding he was unable to recreate the lost
                    chapter, Douglas never forgave Hoover. 

                    The FBI's high court informants were well-placed.
                    They included the chief of the Supreme Court
                    police, Captain Philip H. Crook. The court's
                    clerk, Harold B. Willey, too, helped FBI agents
                    "know what action individual judges, or the court
                    as a whole, was taking," a bureau memorandum says.

                    Civil Rights Spying 

                    The FBI's investigation of the NAACP began in 1941
                    and continued for at least 25 years. It focused on
                    chapters in cities across the nation, but the
                    FBI's New York field office was particularly
                    enthusiastic, sending to headquarters a 137-page
                    report in 1957 and dossiers on all the NAACP board
                    members and national officers in 1966. 

                    Then there was the Army's nationwide domestic
                    surveillance program conducted in the late 1960s.
                    Its targets? "The civil rights movement" and the
                    "anti-Vietnam/anti-draft movements." The spooks
                    compiled dossiers on more than 100,000 Americans,
                    including Joan Baez, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Rev.
                    William Sloane Coffin, Congressman Abner Mikva and
                    Senator Adlai Stevenson III. 

                    Free speech rights were also trampled. In 1967, a
                    memo to all FBI field offices ordered agents to
                    counter what the government viewed as a "Black
                    Nationalist" threat. "Consideration should be
                    given to techniques to preclude" leaders of
                    unapproved groups "from spreading their philosophy
                    publicly through various mass communication
                    media," the memo said. 

                    IRS Prying 

                    When Gregory Millman published an article in the
                    September 1991 issue of Corporate Finance that
                    displeased the Internal Revenue Service, the
                    agency struck back. 

                    Millman's article said the IRS had failed to
                    collect billions in taxes owed by large
                    corporations like General Motors. Who had leaked
                    this information to a reporter? 

                    "Almost immediately, without informing Millman,
                    the IRS obtained from the telephone company a list
                    of all the numbers the reporter had dialed from
                    his phone. But then the IRS cast a much wider net,
                    requesting telephone companies all over the
                    country to provide it with the toll record of all
                    the telephone calls made by those persons whom
                    Millman had called," writes David Burnham in
                    "Above the Law." 


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