Thursday, June 02, 2005

Mark Felt and COINTELPRO

Remember CointelPro? The FBI's Counter Intelligence Program designed to illegally harass, discredit, injure and kill people who opposed US policies?

This is a nice time to remind people that the Patriot Act is not without precedent. The difference is that before, the Federal Govt, via the FBI, violated constitutional rights extra-legally, now they're doing it within the permitted baloney of the PA.

The Salt Lake Tribune says today (
MR. Watergate Deep Throat was an "imperfect hero."

Now that Felt has outed himself, the most famous mystery of the Watergate affair, which brought down Nixon's presidency, has been solved.
The larger questions, though, go beyond "Deep Throat's" identity. Was Felt a hero or a traitor? He seems to have wrestled with that question himself for years.
He was a hero, though like others, not a perfect one. The political dirty tricks of the Nixon campaign in 1972 were bad enough, but the president's attempt to cover up the wiretaps, burglaries and other misdeeds approached the tactics of a police state.
Felt was right to cry foul, even if he used cloak-and-dagger methods to protect his own identity.
Were his actions criminal? Possibly. He did reveal secrets of a criminal investigation. But there is little doubt that by doing so, he served the greater good.

One blog says "
Felt's leaks were disloyal on a personal level, but were loyal to American democracy. This is what makes him a hero."

Chuck Colson and Pat Buchanan lament that W. Mark Felt was a snitch.

"I'm still in a state of shock," Colson told "Today" show host Matt Lauer. "I never thought anybody in such a position of sensitivity in the Justice Department would breach confidence. And if the FBI can't be protected to keep confidences, then it shakes you - it shakes the citizens' confidence in government."
Rejecting the description of Felt as a national hero, Buchanan said
"there's nothing heroic about breaking faith with your people, breaking the law, sneaking around in garages, putting stuff from an investigation out to a Nixon-hating Washington Post."

He didn't mean, of course, the COINTELPRO activities mentioned below, but sneaking out to meet reporters.

Mind you, this is the same Pat Buchanan who

"opposed virtually every civil rights law and court decision of the last 30 years, published FBI smears of Martin Luther King Jr. as his own editorials in the St. Louis Globe Democrat in the mid-1960s. "We were among Hoover's conduits to the American people," he boasted (Right from the Beginning, p. 283)."
(see more at the Fair Report of Feb 26, 1996.)

So, Is W. Mark Felt a hero?
W. Mark Felt was a high ranking official during most of the time of

The Church Committee Report on INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES AND THE RIGHTS OF AMERICANS (Book II, section A. Violating and ignoring the Law) states that

"Internal inspection at the FBI has traditionally not encompassed legal or ethical questions at all. According to W. Mark Felt, the Assistant FBI Director in charge of the Inspection Division from 1964 to 1971, his job was to ensure that Bureau programs were being operated efficiently, not constitutionally: "There was no instruction to me," he stated, "nor do I believe there is any instruction in the Inspector's manuals, that inspectors should be on the alert to see that constitutional values are being protected." He could not recall any program which was terminated because it might have been violating someone's civil rights.

Thus, Felt testified that if, in the course of an inspection of a field office, he discovered a microphone surveillance on Martin Luther King, Jr., the only questions he would ask were whether it had been approved by the Director and whether the procedures had been properly followed.

When Felt was asked whether the Inspection Division conducted any investigation into the propriety of COINTELPRO, the following exchange ensued:

Mr. FELT. Not into the propriety.

Q. So in the case of COINTELPRO, as in the case of NSA interceptions, your job as Inspector was to determine whether the program was being pursued effectively as opposed to whether it was proper?

Mr. FELT. Right, with this exception, that in any of these situations, Counterintelligence Program or whatever, it very frequently happened that the inspectors, in reviewing the files, would direct that a certain investigation be discontinued, that it was not productive, or that there was some reason that it be discontinued.

But I don't recall any cases being discontinued in the Counterintelligence program.

As a result of this role definition, the Inspection Division became an active participant in some of the most questionable FBI programs For example, it was responsible for reviewing on an annual basis all memoranda relating to illegal break-ins prior to their destruction under the "DO NOT FILE" procedure."

I'm very glad that Deep Throat blabbed. It mattered to us as citizens. Immensely.

But it doesn't make him a hero.

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