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FBI Rebuffed on Reporter's Files
Agents Seek Data on AIPAC Case and Classified Papers

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 19, 2006; A06

The family of the late newspaper columnist Jack Anderson yesterday rejected a request by the FBI to turn over 50 years of files to agents who want to look for evidence in the prosecution of two pro-Israel lobbyists, as well as any classified documents Anderson had collected.

Kevin P. Anderson, son of the storied Washington-based writer, said the family is outraged at what it calls government overreaching and "a dangerous departure" from First Amendment press protections, a stance joined by academic and legal experts.

"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," the family wrote in a letter sent by Washington lawyer Michael D. Sullivan to the FBI. "Instead, he would resist the government's efforts with all the energy he could muster."

Jack Anderson, who reported for and wrote the "Washington Merry-Go-Round" column for more than half a century, died in December at 83.

In targeting the journalist's files after his death, the government is widening its crackdown on leaks of sensitive information. That campaign already includes several FBI inquiries, a polygraph investigation inside the CIA and a Justice Department warning that it may seek to criminalize conversations about classified subjects by nongovernment officials such as journalists, researchers and think-tank analysts.

Kevin Anderson said FBI agents contacted the columnist's 78-year-old widow about a month after his death seeking access to his reporting materials. Agents subsequently contacted Mark Feldstein, an Anderson biographer who once worked for him and is now a George Washington University professor. Feldstein is helping to arrange the transfer of 188 cartons of material owned by the family from Brigham Young University to GWU.

Kevin Anderson, Sullivan and Feldstein said FBI agents assured them that they sought information related to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee case, adding only incidentally that if they came across classified materials they would have to seize them. But Anderson said the government agents would not specify what they were looking for, nor agree to allow anyone without a security clearance to review the files for them.

Kevin Anderson said agents were "duplicitous" about their "true objective . . . to whitewash Jack Anderson's papers and attempt to remove from history embarrassing documents."

The clash -- reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday -- escalates the controversy over the Justice Department prosecution of Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman. The two former lobbyists for AIPAC were indicted in August for receiving classified information in conversations with U.S. government officials and passing it on to journalists and Israeli Embassy officials.

Kevin Anderson said the time period U.S. prosecutors are examining came after his father was battling Parkinson's disease and was no longer reporting for the column.

FBI spokesman Bill Carter declined to comment on the AIPAC case, but said the bureau is seeking to remove all classified materials before Anderson's papers are opened to the public through a bequest to the GWU library.

"It has been determined that, among the papers, there are a number of U.S. government documents containing classified information," Carter said, such as information about sources and methods used to gather intelligence. "Under the law, no private person may possess classified documents that were illegally provided to them. There is no legal basis under which a third party could retain them as part of an estate. The documents remain the property of the U.S. government."

Experts said the case illustrates encroachment on press freedoms triggered by the AIPAC case. Defense lawyers say the indictment brought under the 1917 Espionage Act is unconstitutionally vague when applied to the oral receipt and transmission of national defense information by nongovernment civilians.

First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams noted "a disturbing logic" to government efforts first to target the receipt of information that journalists have historically discussed without any threat of sanction, and then to track down documents "which even the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover would not have taken steps to obtain from Anderson."

Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, said the executive branch's increasingly aggressive effort to control publication even after documents have been disclosed "is a profoundly dangerous step."

"It is both ironic and somehow fitting that Jack Anderson should again be at the center of a controversy like this," Aftergood added. "What the FBI couldn't do during his lifetime, they're now seeking to do after his death, and I think many Americans will find that offensive."

The episode adds an unexpected epilogue to the career of Anderson, one of the nation's most widely published investigative columnists.

In 54 years at the column, Anderson broke stories about the Keating Five congressional ethics scandal; the Iran-contra scandal; the CIA-Mafia plot to kill Fidel Castro; allegations about a possible Bulgarian connection to the shooting of Pope John Paul II; and an Iranian link to the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

Anderson made President Richard M. Nixon's "enemies list," and Nixon tried to smear him as a homosexual. The CIA was ordered to spy on him, and according to the Watergate tapes a Nixon aide ordered two associates to try to poison him. Anderson won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for reporting the U.S. government's shift away from India toward Pakistan.

2006 The Washington Post Company

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