Wed Jun 12, 2013, 10:21 PM
H2O Man (56,619 posts)
Intruder in the Dust [View all]
“The past’s never dead. It’s not even past.”
--William Faulkner; Intruder in the Dust
No matter how one feels about recent news reports on domestic “spying,” it is worthwhile to consider past events from our nation’s not-to-distant past. These issues should be of concern to everyone, from President Obama’s strongest supporters, to his most vocal critics on the Democratic Left. For this is an issue that reaches far beyond this President and his administration. Indeed, it involves forces in government and industry that are, at best, only partially under the control of Barack Obama or Congressional oversight. And it is an issue that will certainly help define America after President Obama leaves office -- and that is equally true, no matter if the next US President is a Democrat or republican.
The president most closely associated with legal and illegal spying on citizens is, of course, Richard M. Nixon. Thus, I would like to remind older forum members of some of hell that Nixon put this nation through. More, it is my hope that this may provide younger forum members with food for thought …..and while space does not allow for in-depth detail here, any interested person can “google,” go to their local library, or both, to learn more about this series of most important chapters in US history.
Again, my goal is NOT to take sides in the current debate -- not in this essay/thread -- nor is it to in any way pretend that Barack Obama is similar to Richard Nixon. For President Obama is a good and decent man, while Nixon was a severely flawed character; the only two things they had in common would be the obvious (being President) and both were highly intelligent.
I am also hoping that forum members will post related information on America’s “spying” history, including memories of the Nixon era. Also, in fairness, I should share two points of information: (1) my property was owned, at the close of the Revolutionary War, by one of two merchant brothers, who had served as “spies” for General/President Washington; and (2) in the 1990s, a “private” corporation, that employed retired county, state, and federal police, kept “intelligence” files on Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman, myself, and others advocating for Native American rights. We had one of our spies copy these files, and I was entertained and disappointed in their quality. If they had simply asked Paul and I, we would have provided more accurate information.
Anyhow. Our national mythology pretends that domestic spying was limited to J. Edgar Hoover’s obsession with Rev. King’s sex life, until Richard Nixon began a strange domestic spy program that ended with Watergate. This, of course, is bullshit. Domestic spying had been conducted at least since the end of WW2. Much of it was done by the private investigators who were hired by corporations, usually after “retiring” from a career with a police agency, or the military. Indeed, the WW2 agency that morphed into the CIA was, in fact, primarily made up of “private” intelligent agents employed by the oil industry. I’ve documented that with uncanny accuracy on this forum in the past.
In the 1960s -- even before Nixon took office -- the military was spying on civilians who were doing nothing more than exercising their constitutional rights. It was done, of course, in the name of “national security.” This was first documented, beyond debate, by Christopher Pyle; he told congressional investigators that the US Army intelligence had 1,500 “undercover agents” who kept track of any anti-war protest that had 20 or more citizens participating.
Pyle’s testimony would play a significant role in several of the congressional investigations into the abuses of power associated with Nixon. He would work as an investigator for Senator Sam Irvin’s subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. (Pyle became a professor at Mt.Holyoke College; he has authored several articles and books of interest, including on the dangers that domestic spying pose to the Constitution since the “war on terror” began.)
It was later documented that Army Intelligence was “spying” on Martin Luther King, Jr., when he was in Memphis in April, 1968. Again, this pre-dates Nixon’s presidency. Yet Nixon was no stranger to the ways of Washington, and he soon would have a plan drawn up to coordinate local, state, and federal police agencies with domestic spying programs -- all in the name of “national security,” of course. Under Nixon, the potential threats to the nation were no longer limited to the Civil Rights and Anti-war movements. Any journalist who disagreed with Nixon, and any Democrat who might oppose him in 1972, would be included on Tricky Dick’s infamous “enemies list.”
It was documented in the Senate Watergate hearings that President Nixon would become aware that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were also spying on him. One could speculate that this may have played some role in the exposure of “Watergate” -- which is incorrectly remembered as a limited criminal event, involving the break-in at the Democratic Party Headquarters. In fact, it was a large series of felonies, that took place from the west coast to the east coast. And every part of it fell under the Huston Plan.
The Senate held the famous Watergate Hearings, led by Senator Irvin. Several congressional committees would follow with investigations of illegal and unconstitutional activities conducted by intelligence agencies. These included crimes committed both domestically and in foreign lands. Perhaps the best-known was the Senate’s Church Committee. The House of Representatives followed with a committee, which is best known as the Pike Committee, (Formerly the Nedzi Committee), named for NY Rep. Otis Pike. This committee’s final report was never officially released, due to conflicts among House members. Versions were released, and journalist Daniel Schorr was called before Congress to reveal his source; Schorr refused.
President Ford would attempt to derail attention from these two committee, by having VP Nelson Rockefeller head a “presidential investigation” into intelligence agency abuses of power. While the Rockefeller Commission’s report was of some value, it should not be confused as the most important of that era’s investigations.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson to come out of that era is that domestic spying programs take on a life of their own, even if a good and sincere President is in office. Likewise, these same programs take on an even more sinister character under a thug like Nixon.
Finally, I’d like to note that about a week ago, I posted an essay on fracking here. I wrote that the gas companies have deemed environmental advocates who oppose fracking as “potential eco-terrorists.” Further, I showed that the gas industry now has use of military intelligence experts in psychological warfare, to help prepare communities in the United States for exploitation by the gas industry.
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