Friday, January 05, 2007


Jack Anderson's Ghost 1, FBI 0

Sometimes the good guys win even after they're dead and gone. The FBI had tried to trick the widow of fearsome investigative reporter Jack Anderson into letting them steal his files and notes that he'd accumulated over a long career -- something that the late Anderson would have opposed tooth and nail. Fortunately, after a long legal battle, the FBI has given up its attempt to silence Anderson posthumously:

The son of the late Jack Anderson said Wednesday that the longtime investigative reporter's family is pleased with the FBI's abandonment of its efforts to recover government documents leaked to his father. "This takes the pressure off, and now we can proceed with the plan of archiving them and making them available for scholarly research," said Kevin N. Anderson, a lawyer in Salt Lake City. He said the family plans to donate the remainder of the available documents to George Washington University, which already has ownership of an archive of about 200 boxes of Jack Anderson's works. The documents, which some officials said might have contained classified information, were among the late columnist's confidential papers. They touched off a dispute last spring between the FBI and the journalist's family. At the heart of the disagreement were concerns about government investigations of reporters and whether such inquiries might violate constitutional protections of the press. "I appreciate that the presses rolled on this and as my father would have said, 'When the media shines the light on the government's wrongdoing, the cockroaches go scurrying for cover,"' Kevin Anderson said.
Indeed they do.
George Washington University journalism professor Mark Feldstein, who is writing a Jack Anderson biography, said Wednesday that he and family members told the FBI there was no classified material in the hundreds of boxes holding Anderson's files. "It was dusty old stuff that I couldn't imagine would be relevant to a criminal probe," Feldstein said.
But it is relevant to showing what a jackass J. Edgar Hoover was, among other things. But I digress.
University of Utah law professor Tim Chambless, who is writing a biography of Anderson, said "the FBI's imposition has had a chilling effect." He believes the agency gave up on its quest because of the coming change in House and Senate leadership and the promise that new leadership intends to have extended oversight of the FBI. Chambless said his work has been derailed by the investigation, causing him to place documents he had in an undisclosed location for safekeeping. "I'm happy we can close this chapter and move ahead with what I promised Jack I would do," Chambless said. "It's a victory, not just for academics, but for journalists and for political scientists and for anyone who is interested in government." Feldstein added: "We've been holding our breath, wondering if they were going to come after us further. I'm relieved to hear they have backed away from what I think was a pretty egregious overreach, to be going after papers of a dead reporter for classified documents from decades ago."
Oversight stops overreach. And the Democratic Congress, before its members have even had the chance to warm up their chairs, has already been a force for good.

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