By Molly Ivins
AUSTIN, Texas -- Its nice to know that the investigative reporter Jack Anderson is still under investigation, although seriously dead.
Anderson died last year, and for 19 years before his death he suffered from Parkinsons disease and was increasingly less active as a reporter. Now that hes safely deceased, the Federal Bureau of Investigation wants to go through nearly 200 boxes of his files to see if there are any classified documents in there. If its classified, they want it back -- even though Anderson was in the habit of printing anything he ever got that was of any interest.
This is apparently part of the Great Bush Reclassification Project, in which government information that has previously been declassified and offered for public consumption is now being reclassified as secret so nobody can find out about it. Those who saw government documents between declassification and reclassification are just going to have to forget what they saw. That, or some Man in Black will be sent around to zap your memory with a little thingamajig.
For some reason, the FBI thinks Jack Anderson, despite Parkinsons disease, had some papers involving two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who have been criminally charged with receiving classified information. That case is a crock in itself, and to use it to dig through Andersons archived stuff is just ludicrous.
Among Andersons targets of old was the Federal Bureau of Investigation itself -- gee, still worried he might have photos of J. Edgar Hoover in a dress after all these years?
Anderson was a hardworking investigative reporter. Among his scoops was exposing the CIAs plots to kill Fidel Castro and breaking details of the Iran-Contra affair. I always liked him because he was so un-Establishment, a Mormon with nine kids. Anderson never had time for the Washington dinner party circuit and never gave a damn about it.
Even some other journalists looked down on him -- he was never part of D.C.s cool in-group. But the proof was in the work, and although he made a few memorable mistakes, he was consistently so far ahead of the pack he made his detractors look like the lazy snobs they were.
Andersons son Kevin said family members are willing to go to jail rather than let Andersons papers be confiscated. Its my fathers legacy, he told The New York Times. The government has always, and continues to this day, to abuse the secrecy stamp. My fathers view was that the public is the employer of these government employees and has the right to know what theyre up to.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration is so hopelessly confounded by the problems of secrecy, it has now fired a CIA agent for allegedly leaking the truth concerning a gulag of black site prisons we keep in Eastern Europe (remember when only the Soviets did that?). And of course Bush claims he has the right to instantly declassify anything in order to back up a phony charge against a political opponent. How lovely.
I listened to that pompous self-righteous blowhard Bill Bennett saying the other day that several reporters who won Pulitzers this year should be in jail. I guess the responsibility of being the Virtue Czar has finally driven Bennett daffy. If he cant see that the problem is an administration that runs torture programs, gulags and illegal domestic spying programs, rather than reporters who find out about these programs and print the truth, then I say its time for a new Virtue Czar.
Jack Anderson was right: The people in government work for us. What they do is our responsibility because they do it in our name and with our money -- thats why we have a right to know about it.
The other day I heard a young man say, I have an issue with torture. Turns out he was offended by some scenes in a movie hed been to. I have an issue with torture, too. I get upset when its real and its my country doing it. I guess I wouldnt make a good Virtue Czar.
2006 Creators Syndicate Inc.