Did The FBI Murder Jack Anderson?

In one of this year’s most under-reported stories, there lies one of this decade’s most ominous threats. Veteran journalist, Jack Anderson, who died last December, is undoubtedly resting uncomfortably while the FBI is seeking access to his files. The FBI contends that certain documents in Anderson’s files are secret and that their release would jeopardize national security.

Anderson was a heralded investigative reporter who broke many stories that surely disturbed some powerful people and institutions. Among them the Keating Five savings and loan affair, and the Iran-Contra scandal. It’s fair to assume that he would have aggressively defended his rights under the first amendment. Anderson’s family and their representatives are declining to cooperate with the FBI’s demands. In a letter to the FBI, the family’s attorneys wrote:

“After much discussion and due deliberation, the family has concluded that were Mr. Anderson alive today, he would not cooperate with the government on this matter. Instead, he would resist the government’s efforts with all the energy he could muster…To honor both his memory and his wishes, the family feels duty bound to do no less.”

Reporters are granted a privilege in the first amendment to the Constitution to conduct their business free of government intervention or intimidation. That includes compiling information and testimony from confidential sources. Without such protection, many knowledgeable, inside sources would decline to talk to reporters at all.

There is a frightening dilution of freedom of the press if that protection ends at the cemetery gates. News sources, whistleblowers, and others with information, the disclosure of which is in the public’s interest, would be far less likely to come forward if they know that their identity could be revealed in the event of the reporter’s death. In many cases this could effectively turn the spigot off with regard to government fraud or misconduct.

There is a far worse scenario that could play out when a source has already spoken to reporter who asserts his rights under the first amendment to keep the source anonymous. The government cannot presently force the reporter to reveal his sources without the intervention of the courts. But if the reporter were to die, under the principle being advanced here by the FBI, the government could retrieve the data they want from the reporter’s estate. Consequently, it would be in the government’s interest for the reporter to die.

Imagine the implications of that, if you dare.


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