Sunday, January 19, 2014

New: The FBI's Ugly Past Reminds Us Not to Trust the Government.
...Which brings us to a major new book about the history of the FBI and its attempts not simply to keep tabs on various activist groups in the 1960s and ’70s but to pit those same groups against themselves. No one should be dreading the release of Betty Medsger’s The Burglary more than Barack Obama. It underscores what the paranoids and cranks among us have always known to be true: The national-security state is never operated for the benefit of citizens, but instead proceeds directly from the weird obsessions and pathologies of the people who run it.

The Burglary details the events and people surrounding the 1971 break-in of an FBI office in Media, Pa. The thieves, happy to link themselves to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden in The New York Times, made off with tens of thousands of documents that led to the exposure of the bureau’s foul Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO). ...

...By focusing attention on the FBI’s institutional insanity—check out the 119-page file on the agency’s failed 1964 investigation into the lyrics of “Louie, Louie” if you dare—Medsger’s The Burglary is simply the latest piece of evidence that something has long been rotten in the broadly defined intelligence community. Indeed, a major takeaway from the critically acclaimed hit move American Hustle is that the post-Hoover FBI spent more time inducing criminal activity than it did preventing it. Tim Weiner’s widely praised 2012 history of the FBI, Enemies, didn’t skimp on criticism of J. Edgar Hoover but painted his successors, especially Louis Freeh, as arguably more incompetent and misdirected. (Weiner’s praise for former director Robert Mueller, who stepped down last September, for holding firm against George W. Bush’s request for essentially unlimited domestic surveillance is less comforting in the wake of Edward Snowden.)

The Burglary makes its appearance at a time when trust in government is near a record low, with just 19 percent of Americans surveyed telling Gallup that they trust government “to do what’s right” just about always or most of time.

Who can blame us? Barack Obama pledged to create the most transparent administration ever but has broken his own vows about appointing lobbyists and mega-donors and lied about the basics of his health-care reform law. His “secret kill list,”, a highly controversial if not plainly unconstitutional measure by which he claimed the right to unilaterally dispatch individuals he concluded were threats to the U.S., shook the faith of even his most gah-gah supporters....