Water Man Spouts

Saturday, December 31, 2005

When The Future Happened Before

When The Future Happened Before

{1} "We faced an extraordinary situation requiring an extraordinary response, and you don't want a constitutional, legal mandate for that kind of thing. You don't want to institutionalize the excesses required to meet extraordinary threats."
--Tom Charles Huston to Senate Intelligence Committee
The most recent White House scandal involving President Bush ordering the NSA to spy on American citizens is not new. As a full-page ad in the 12-29-05 New York Times reminded us, this is the same issue that the nation confronted during the Nixon years. Reports by the Times on the FBI's investigating anti-war activists, which must be viewed as part and parcel of the same administration policy, brings the 1970 Interagency Committee on Intelligence (Ad Hoc) to mind.
In reviewing that strange time, I used several sources, including: "The Future While It Happened," by Samuel Lubell (1973); "The American Police State," by David Wise (1976); "The Camera Never Blinks," by Dan Rather (1977); "The Imperial Presidency," by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (1973); "The Puzzle Palace," by James Bamford, (1982); and "The Secret Man," by Bob Woodward, (2005).
These authors present a clear picture of the dangers posed to our democracy by an executive branch that is using "national security" as the reason to ignore the constitution. The Bush administration uses 9-11 and technological advances as the reason they had to ignore the constitution and federal law. By no small coincidence, the Nixon administration made similar claims: the threat posed by the Nazis in WW2 was nothing compared to that of the communist menace, and stealing foreign code books was faster and less expensive than having the NSA "break" them. But the illegal activities advocated in the Huston Plan were not new.
{2} "We are now confronted with a new and grave crisis in our country -- one which we know little about. Certainly hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans -- mostly under 30 -- are determined to destroy our society."
-- Tom Charles Huston in a memo to President Richard Nixon
Tom Charles Huston was a 29-year old attorney when he joined the Nixon White House in 1969. He had been an Army Intelligence Officer before joining the research staff of Patrick Buchanan, Nixon's speech writer. Soon, however, Huston was promoted to a position in the White House's internal security. He was considered the resident expert in the "counter-culture," largely because he was more familiar with "youth issues" than men like Agnew, Buchanan and Haldeman. In fact, J. Edgar Hoover considered Huston to be a "hippie."
In the summer of 1969, Huston attended informal White House meetings of the most conservative members of the Nixon administration. The group, called the "Committee of Six," were pushing to have the IRS put pressure on what were considered political enemies on the democratic left. This resulted in the IRS forming the Special Services Staff, which would coordinate its work with the FBI and CIA.
Huston would urge them to collect intelligence on "ideological, militant, subversive, radical and similar type organizations." However, the SSS soon was investigating non-violent, patriotic draft protestors, peace demonstrators, and people who organized and attended "rock festivals."
On 6-20-69, Huston sent a memo to intelligence agencies, including the CIA, DIA, FBI, and NSA, stating that there was an increased need to target "foreign Communist support for revolutionary youth activities inside this country." He asked the agencies to identify gaps in their ability to confront the revolutionary youth movement in America. The results of his study left Huston and others from the Committee of Six convinced that the administration needed greater powers in confronting the internal threats to democracy facing America.
{3} "No amount of institutional or bureaucratic reform, or legislative remedies, can protect us against an evil President. We have created powerful intelligence mechanisms, and they will be misused if a President, in seeking domestic tranquillity, abandons the blessings of liberty."
-- David Wise, co-author of "The Invisible Government"
On 6-5-70, President Nixon had the representatives of the CIA, DIA, FBI, NSA, and the secretary of HEW meet with Tom Charles Huston. Their goal was to devise a plan that would allow the intelligence agencies to spy on domestic and foreign targets. They formed the Interagency Committee on Intelligence (Ad Hoc).
The ICI considered problems involving electronic surveillances and penetration; surreptitious entry; legal restraints on communication intelligence; opening of mail; and other related issues. Huston worked closely with William Sullivan of the FBI, who by 1970 had an acrimonious relationship with FBI Director Hoover. The details of Huston's work, which focused largely upon allowing the NSA and CIA the ability to conduct domestic operations, also attempted to give the FBI the responsibility of the black bag jobs, or illegal break-ins.
Details of the Huston Plan can be found in Bamford's "The Puzzle Palace," chapter 6. The July report, known as the Huston Plan, included a warning to President Nixon: "Use of this technique is clearly illegal: it amounts to burglary. It is also highly risky and could result in great embarassment if exposed." However, Nixon would sign on to it. It was only after Hoover went to Attorney General Mitchell, who then advised Nixon of the dangers, that Nixon rescinded his approval. However, the ICI would continue to meet for the next three years.
{4} "This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration. Stated a bit more bluntly -- how can we use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies."
-- John Dean, 8-16-71
After Hoover put Huston in check, John Dean was promoted take the lead on internal security operations. Along with Haldeman and Ehrlichman, he would help come up with a way the administration could go around the constraints on the intelligence agencies. They would create their own mini-intelligence agency, which would be known as "the Plumbers," because of the focus on stopping leaks to the press.
In June of 1971, the New York Times began to print the Pentagon Papers, which had been leaked by Daniel Ellsburg. The Plumbers would break into the office of Dr. Lewis Felding, a psychiatrist treating Ellsburg. While this is the best known break-in until the Watergate burglary, it was far from the only one.( For example, Dr. Robert Akeret, who was treating Mrs. Ellsburg, had his office broken into, hinting to historians that the Plame scandal was not actually the first time an administration targeted the wife of an "enemy," despite Dean's claims in "Worse Than Watergate.")
On 6-27-71, the New York Times published the resultsof a survey by the Potomac Associates, which showed a growing number of Americans were troubled by the Nixon administration's actions in Southeast Asia. The P.A. was headed by former NSC member William Watts, who resigned from Kissinger's staff over the invasion of Cambodia.
On 7-6, John Caufield would write a memo to Dean about the Potomac Associates. This would be the start of the White House's "Enemies List." Eventually, the P.A. would be broken into three times by Plumbers.
{5} "There is little real awareness in this country of the breadth and depth of a President's public relations and propaganda apparatus. Within the White House itself if he chooses to do so -- and President Nixon did -- he has the power to mount a campaign to wipe out anyone or anything."
-- Dan Rather
Early in the Nixon administration, CBS reporter Dan Rather became aware of how the White House falsely planted a story that his network "faking an incident in Vietnam, staging, or recreating, a battle scene." Rather worked to expose the administration's lie. He would become viewed as an enemy of the White House.
On 4-9-72, Jean Rather woke Dan around 1 am to say she believed there was a burglar in their house. When he attempted to call the police, Rather found his phone lines had been cut. After letting the burglar(s) know he had a gun, Rather was able to contact the police. They found that nothing of value, such as money, was taken. Instead, only his "reporter's files" had been broken into.
Rather and his family had been scheduled to be away from home that night. He was supposed to be traveling with President Nixon, until something unexpected changed his plans. But he was, like Daniel Schorr, targeted by the Nixon intelligence operations.
On 5-22-73, Seymour Hersch reported on the NSA's spying on Israel. On 8-1, the St. Louis Dispatch also reported that the Nixon administration had ordered the NSA to spy on two countries, assumed to be Israel and Tanzania. Nixon responded furiously that both JFK and LBJ had done much the same thing. In fact, this was accurate; the difference was that their concerns were national security, as opposed to political activities.
That summer, lawyers for the Weathermen requested any files that resulted from burglary, sabotage, electronic surveillance, agents provocateurs or other "espionage techniques." The Federal District Court Judge D.J. Keith, who was hearing their case, approved the motion. US Attorney W. L. Ibershef asked him to reconsider: "The government doesn't believe this is a proper forum for a trial of government misconduct."
The case went to the US Supreme Court. It determined that the president indeed has the constitutional duty to protect the nation, but that did not include the authority to order warrentless surveillance. No decision was reached on the issue of foreign powers. The US government would drop the charges in what is known as the Keith Case.
{6} "I cannot say that our country could have no central police without becoming totalitarian, but I can say with great conviction that it cannot become totalitarian without a centralized national police ..... a national police ... will have enough on enough people, even if it does not elect to prosecute them, so that it will find no opposition to its policies."
-- Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson
In 1975, the Church Committe hearings heard from J.J. Angleton, the legendary CIA leader. They were startled to hear an infamous quote from him: "It's inconceivable that a secret intelligence arm of the government has to comply with all the orders of the government."
And in 1980, ex-president Nixon testified in the trial of Mark Felt, for ordering "black bag jobs" on the family and friends of Weathermen. On 10-29, Nixon told the court that "what would otherwise be unlawful or illegal becomes legal" when the president orders it.
As Lubell wrote, "The drive for presidential power has been a drive to commit the future .... Once the fishhook of commitment becomes lodged in a nation's throat, voter opinion will thrash about furiously, like a powerful but helpless sailfish."


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