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|Do Not Read If You Want To Trust Your Government. Posted on 06/10/2002.
Over the weekend, the SF Chronicle published a commendable work of investigative journalism, "The Campus Files: Reagan, Hoover, and the UC Red Scare." Based on documents recently made public through the Freedom of Information Act, the series of stories details how the FBI targeted UC Berkeley as a hotbed of communism, unlawfully exceeded it's jurisdiction in the quelling of student protests and the firing of Chancellor Clark Kerr, and how gubernatorial candidate Ronald Reagan cosied up to the G-Men, happily playing the rat in return for help in defeating incumbent Pat Brown.
What's most frustrating about "The Campus Files" is that, well, it's history. No justice will come of these findings. One hopes that we can at least utilize this history so as not to repeat it, but recent actions by folks such as AG John Ashcroft suggest otherwise.
One of the ripest ironies of the piece is that Hoover's attacks on UC Berkeley went into high gear following the use of this question on a 1959 scholastic aptitude test:
"What are the dangers to a democracy of a national police organization, like the FBI, which operates secretly and is unresponsive to public criticism?"
Supposedly, Hoover flipped out after learning of this question. Though it couldn't be because what it suggests is untrue. Over the next 10 years, Hoover orchestrated a covert campaign to remove Kerr and "clean up" UC Berkeley.
Kudos to the Chron for using the Web to extend the reporting: many of the censored and uncensored documents are available. The first time I remember seeing such supporting material placed online was for Gary Webb's notorious "Dark Alliance" article, where he connects the dots between the CIA, the Contras, and crack cocaine (click "Library"). (And shame on the Merc for removing this, and huzzah to the Internet Archive for keeping it. This is *exactly* the kind of thing we need the archive for.)
Another interesting element of the meta-story is the lengthy battle the FBI put up in not releasing these documents. For 17 years they stalled the reporter, who had to use the courts to get at the information. What's most upsetting is that the FBI had *no grounds* for not releasing the documents. There was no sensitive or security-harming information contained therein. Obviously, the FBI just didn't want it known that they were (are?) goons who manipulate the system in order to get their way. Of minor interest to the techie crowd: the judge that forced the FBI to stop stalling and give up the goods is Marilyn Hall Patel, whose ruling about Napster served as the initial blow in its demise.
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and now the US govt is detaining US citizens indefinitely without access to legal counsel, no expectation of ever getting a trial, and with minimal rights.
How long before everything untold now is opened up with FOI, if ever?
Posted by Eric Scheid @ 06/11/2002 11:33 PM PST [link to this comment]
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