[sixties-l] Why FBI keeps so many files closed

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Tue Jun 20 2000 - 05:28:31 CUT

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    Sunday, August 2, 1998

    Why FBI keeps so many files closed

    By Joseph Spear

    It appears there is something Bill Clinton didn't tell
    us three years ago when he ordered the automatic
    declassification of government secrets that were more
    than 25 years old.

    He exempted the FBI.

    This is a little like promulgating new zoo rules and
    exempting the elephants. According to the Commission on
    Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, there are 1.5
    billion pages of certified secrets that are at least 25
    years old. An estimated 200 million-plus of these lie
    a-moldering in the FBI's vaults, second only to the
    Pentagon, which has 998 million pages.

    When Clinton determined to crack down on secrecy in
    government, the bureau asserted that its files were too
    massive to finish the job by the year 2000; that the
    release of FBI files would violate privacy laws; and that
    the wholesale release of documents would imperil national

    The administration bought the arguments and consented to
    let the bureau proceed at its own pace.

    The existence of the agreement was itself a secret until
    it surfaced in a recent legal case, and the Washington
    Post filed a Freedom of Information request for it.

    As it happens, I have some expertise in the matter of
    secret FBI files. While working for muckraking columnist
    Jack Anderson in the early 1970s, I came into the
    possession of, oh, perhaps a thousand pages of them.

    What I discovered was that the bureau spent an inordinate
    amount of time probing the private lives of political
    figures, movie stars, athletes and assorted luminaries.

    I obtained files on -- to name but a few -- actors Jane
    Fonda, Harry Belafonte, Tony Randall and Rock Hudson;
    singer Eartha Kitt; civil-rights leaders Coretta Scott
    King, Ralph David Abernathy and Floyd McKissick; football
    players Joe Namath and Lance Rentzel; baby doctor Benjamin
    Spock; boxer Muhammad Ali; investigative reporter I.F.
    Stone; and writer James Baldwin.

    At the time, Jane Fonda was a rambunctious anti-war activist,
    and the FBI regarded her as "subversive" and an "anarchist."
    They followed her to college campuses and military bases and
    wrote down every word she said.

    When she appeared on a nationally televised talk show, FBI
    agents faithfully taped and transcribed her remarks and then
    stamped their transcript: "Top Secret. No Foreign
    Dissemination. No Dissemination Abroad. Controlled
    Dissemination. For Background Use Only."

    When Fonda was detained in 1970 on suspicion of bringing
    "drugs" into the country from Canada, the authorities
    itemized everything in her possession and copied a notebook
    which contained the addresses and telephone numbers of such
    well-known revolutionaries as Kirk Douglas, Paul Newman and
    Tony Curtis. The notebook showed up in the FBI files. The
    drugs, incidentally, turned out to be vitamins and
    prescription medicines.

    The late writer James Baldwin's file notes that on July 13,
    1969, he "arrived at Istanbul, Turkey, from Athens, Greece,
    via Air France."

    There followed the complete transcript of an interview that
    Baldwin granted to a Turkish newspaper called "Milliyet."
    It was marked "Secret -- No Foreign Dissemination."

    Eartha Kitt was of interest because she participated in
    civil-rights rallies, including Martin Luther King Jr.'s
    1963 March on Washington.

    How did the bureau know this? Because "movie actor Charlton
    Heston ... furnished a list of movie personalities who planned
    to participate in the march.' "

    Rock Hudson's file contained this national-security secret:

    "During 1965 ... a confidential informant reported that
    several years ago while he was in New York he had an 'affair'
    with movie star Rock Hudson. The informant stated that from
    personal knowledge he knew that Rock Hudson was a homosexual.
    ... On another occasion, information was received ... that it
    was common knowledge in the motion-picture industry that Rock
    Hudson was suspected of having homosexual tendencies."

    I think you can deduce from all this yet another reason the
    FBI is so intent on keeping many of its files secret. And it
    has less to do with national security than it does political

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