Great Moments in Government Accountability

by on July 8, 2008 · 7 comments

From pp. 141-143 of The FBI and American Democracy:

For inexplicable reasons, [John Malone, head of the FBI's New York Field Office in the 1960s], had not complied with the record destruction requirements of the Do Not File procedure. His failure to do so preserved a massive file (amounting to twenty-seven volumes) that documented the number and targets of break-ins conducted by New York agents, identified the agents participating, and contained the specific records of the targeted individuals or organizations that agents had photographed…

Because the Malone file confirmed that, in 1972 and 1973, New York agents had conducted break-ins during an investigation of the Weather Underground activists, a practice that fell within the five-year statute of limitations, Justice Department officials accordingly instituted a criminal inquiry that led to the indictment of John Kearney, the FBI supervisor who headed the New York break-in squad (identifiable from the Malone records). FBI agents nationwide bitterly criticized Kearney’s indictment, protesting that he had been following worders. Further investigation led to the May 1977 discovery of thirteen break-in authorization memoranda at FBI headquarters. Consequently, in April 1978, Justice Department officials dropped the Kearney incitment and indicted, instead, former Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray III, former FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt [AKA "Deep Throat"], and former FBI Assistant Director Edward Miller for having authorized illegal practices. Gray subsequently succeeded in having his trial severed from that of Felt and Miller, arguing that he had been misled and had no knowledge of the Weather Underground break-ins. Conceding the weakness of their case against Gray, Justice Department officials dropped the crimnal charges against him in December 1980. Felt and Miller were convicted. But President Ronald Reagan pardoned them on March 26, 1981, on the grounds that “they acted not with criminal intent, but in the belief that they had grants of authority reaching to the highest levels of government.”

Is it too much to hope that history repeats itself when President Obama takes office? Minus the pardon, preferably.

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