It didn’t take long for the just-released classified documents, the so-called Family Jewels" papers on questionable CIA practices to make a strong argument for shielding reporters from an overzealous government.
Number two on a list of CIA operations between 1959 and 1973 that had raised questions within the agency about whether they violated its charter was a March 1963 project, code named Mockingbird, in which the phones of "two newsmen" were tapped because they were suspected of disclosing classified information obtained from a variety of governmental and congressional sources."
Number one was the use of a mafia figure to help assassinate Castro, a plot famously uncovered by investigative reporter Jack Anderson. (The CIA tried using enhancement techniques on Anderson’s TV show to try and identify the serial numbers on CIA documents in his posession).
According to the CIA documents, the agency tapped the offices and home phones of "two Washington-based reporters who had been publishing news articles based on, and frequently quoting, classified materials of this Agency and others, including Top Secret and Special Intelligence."
According to the CIA documents, the taps were done in coordination with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Joseph Carroll
The taps were said to be "particularly productive" in identifying contacts of the reporters, which included 12 other journalists, 12 Senators, 11 congressional staffers, six House members, five golden ri…oops sorry, a White House staffer, members of Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s staff, and an assistant attorney general.
The CIA also found that there was so much leaking that the newsmen "actually received more classified and official data than they could use, and passed some of the stories to other newsmen."
Here’s hoping the CIA doesn’t do that sort of charter-violating repressive regime kind of thing anymore, but I wouldn’t take that to the bank.
By John Eggerton