FBI Ends Harrassment Of Jack Anderson’s Ghost

Last April it was reported that the FBI intended to seek documents from the estate of investigative reporter, Jack Anderson. I wrote at the time that this presented some ominous threats to freedom of the press and the well being of reporters:

“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 […] 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.”

It seems that the FBI has decided to back off. James H. Clinger, an Acting Associate Attorney General, responding to questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, now says that…

“The FBI met with the Anderson family in an effort to review the files with their consent. At this time, the FBI is not seeking to reclaim any documents.”

There was no further comment from the FBI or any explanation for the change. For the time being we should just be glad that the inquisition is over. But there is still a need to be vigilant given the history of abuse of the press by this administration.