Forty years ago - in the aftermath of a very public American reckoning with the nation’s Intelligence Community that featured the Watergate scandal, the Church and Pike Committees, and the Rockefeller Commission - President Jimmy Carter signed Executive Order 12036 on January 24th, 1978, placing additional restrictions on the Central Intelligence Agency’s ability to operate in the United States.
Ahead of Watergate, J. Edgar Hoover gave Richard Nixon’s campaign political intelligence warning of an emerging Democratic conspiracy
A month and a half before the White House Plumbers unit was established, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover contributed the paranoia that would lead to the Watergate affair when he passed political intelligence to a senior member of the Richard Nixon White House and Nixon reelection campaign. According to Hoover’s intelligence, a conspiracy was emerging between several key Democrats, the media, and a former senior FBI official. Hoover’s source for this deep state conspiracy? A rumor from a friend, two of Hoover’s critics speaking to each other, and a misrepresentation of the facts.
Evidence compiled from Federal Bureau of Investigation files, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s notes, and statements from Deep Throat, along with Congressional testimony and the files of Senate investigators, all implicate journalist Jack Anderson as having helped set up Watergate - or at least having foreknowledge of it and benefiting from it.
Some of the most interesting FOIA stories come about because someone took the time to dig into tidbits that just flew under the radar for other people. Building a habit of thinking through what documents exist around a particular subject or story you’re interested in can lead to all sorts of revelations, and that’s particularly true with this week’s inspirational FOIA examples.
One of the dilemmas of reading declassified documents is that readers are constantly faced with the question of whether or not to take the exemptions at face value - after all, CIA redacts beer brands and cafeteria names while claiming to “protect sources and methods.” Doing so erodes faith in the Agency’s choices to redact certain pieces of information, creating a situation where one of two possibilities are likely: that the CIA chose to improperly redact information to protect itself from embarrassment regarding improper activities, or that some of those activities are still seen as at least potentially valid.