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Jack Anderson's Papers


Pat Speer
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I thought some of you would find this interesting. I sure do.

George Washington U. to Receive Jack Anderson's Papers -- but FBI Wants to See Them First

By SCOTT CARLSON

George Washington U. to receive Jack Anderson's papers -- but FBI wants to see them first

During his life and career as a muckraking journalist in Washington, Jack Anderson cultivated secret sources throughout the halls of government -- sources who passed on information that allowed Anderson to investigate and write about Watergate, CIA assassination schemes, and countless scandals. His syndicated column, Washington Merry-Go-Round, earned him the enmity of the corrupt and powerful -- so much so that during the Watergate years, associates of Nixon had discussed assassinating the columnist. They never went through with the plot. Anderson died last December at the age of 83.

His archive, some 200 boxes now being held by George Washington University's library, could be a trove of information about state secrets, dirty dealings, political maneuverings, and old-fashioned investigative journalism, open for historians and up-and-coming reporters to see.

But the government wants to see the documents before anyone else.

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation have told university officials and members of the Anderson family that they want to go through the archive, and that agents will remove any item they deem confidential or top secret.

The Andersons, who have not yet transferred ownership of the archive to George Washington University, are outraged. They plan to fight the FBI's request.

Were he alive today, Jack Anderson "would probably come out of his skin at the thought of the FBI going through his papers," said Kevin N. Anderson, the journalist's son. If papers were taken -- even if some were stamped "declassified" and returned -- that would "destroy any academic, scholarly, and historic value" of the archive, Kevin Anderson adds.

The FBI would not comment for this article.

The Andersons are the not the only ones who are incensed. Observers of academic freedom and libraries say that the FBI's request is part of a renewed emphasis on secrecy in government, which has focused on libraries and archives in particular. Recently, librarians have been concerned about scores of documents that have been reclassified at the National Archives, and librarians have long been concerned about freedom of information since the passage of the USA Patriot Act in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The FBI's interest in the Anderson archive is "deeply disturbing and deeply in conflict with the academy's interests in freedom of inquiry, research, and scholarship," said Duane E. Webster, the executive director of the Association of Research Libraries.

Tracy B. Mitrano, an adjunct assistant professor of information science at Cornell University, called the case "utterly alarming."

"Once you begin taking records out of library archives that researchers rely on for free inquiry and research purposes," she said, "it would be very difficult not to see it as a slippery slope toward government controlling research in higher education and our collective understanding of American history."

As a journalist, Jack Anderson was a legend. He reported on the Central Intelligence Agency's scheme to assassinate Fidel Castro, the Mafia's crime network, and corruption among congressmen. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for reporting on American involvement in the Indo-Pakistan War. Young reporters who worked for Anderson included Brit Hume, now an anchor with Fox News, and Howard Kurtz, now a Washington Post columnist. Anderson was a Mormon, and many of his archives sat at Brigham Young University before George Washington University acquired them.

Kevin Anderson says that the FBI approached his mother about a month after his father's death, asking about the archives.

Kevin Anderson called the FBI, but agents would tell him only that they were investigating an espionage case and that they believed his father had received documents related to it. "They were talking about retrieving the documents to get the fingerprints of people who might have handled them," Kevin Anderson said.

At the same time, FBI agents made inquiries elsewhere, as well. Two agents showed up at the door of Mark Feldstein, a journalism professor at George Washington who helped the university acquire the archive and who is writing a biography of Jack Anderson. He says the agents told him they wanted to dig through the archive, and he found the visit "intimidating." Mr. Feldstein and his students have looked through the boxes, and he says he tried to tell the agents that there wasn't anything of interest to the FBI in them.

FBI agents also contacted Lizanne Payne, the executive director of the Washington Research Library Consortium, which maintains storage space for some 14,000 archival boxes for George Washington University. Ms. Payne said the FBI asked her if she knew the location of the Anderson archives in the collection. She did not. She speculated that had she known the location of the archive, the FBI might have tried to get the Anderson papers directly from her through a court order.

The FBI eventually told Kevin Anderson that the investigation centered on Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, two former officials with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who have been charged with receiving and distributing national defense information.

"That raised my hackles a bit," Mr. Anderson said. "As I researched the Aipac prosecution and talked to some of dad's former reporters ... they said this is nuts."

Kevin Anderson doubts that his father gathered information related to the Aipac case. He points out that his father had Parkinson's disease for the last 15 years of his life and that he had done his best muckraking in the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s.

He wonders if there is anything of value to investigators in the archive. "Dad kept a lot of things in his head and, due to the sensitive nature of things, didn't write a lot of stuff down."

But even if Jack Anderson had gotten documents related to the Aipac case, Kevin Anderson points out, many have questioned the legitimacy of the case. An editorial in The Washington Post last month argued that Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman were being prosecuted under "an old and vaguely worded law" that dates back to 1917, and that the case could also be used as a "dangerous" precedent to prosecute journalists who receive and publish classified information.

Jack Anderson earned fame and respect through publishing such state secrets -- always, the journalist said, in the interest of the American people. Although his father shared information with the FBI in select situations, Kevin Anderson said, his father would not approve of the FBI combing through his archive.

"We want to stay true to his principles of First Amendment rights and journalistic freedoms," he said.

But more alarming to the Andersons is how the FBI might handle the archive if given access to it. The archive has not yet been organized and cataloged by George Washington University, so the FBI would have to pick through the entire collection to find any documents related to the Aipac case.

"They made it very clear on the front end that if they are looking through his papers and they come across documents that are stamped confidential or top secret, they would be duty bound to take those out of the collection," Mr. Anderson said.

Mr. Anderson says his family has reached an "impasse" with the FBI. The family plans to send a letter to the FBI today saying that it will not cooperate with the agency.

Although officials at George Washington University support the Andersons, the university has largely left the fight in their hands. Jack Siggins, the university librarian, says the university has been discussing the transfer of ownership of the papers for the past year. That process froze once the FBI got involved.

"The family wanted to handle this issue with the FBI themselves," he said.

He says the FBI's interest in the archive is "an example of the pressure that libraries are under to change their fundamental philosophy -- which is, to provide the information to the people in order to let the people understand what is going on in their government."

In the meantime, the FBI might have provided an opportunity for a windfall for the university. The university has hired a librarian to index the archive -- a process that will initially cost the library about $100,000, and perhaps much more in years to come. Mr. Siggins hopes that the FBI's interest in the papers will help the library raise that money.

"We think that there are a lot of people in the country who realize that the issue of government censorship and hiding what's really going on is such a hot topic that people will want to help us," he said.

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Edited by Pat Speer
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