CIA Director General Michael Hayden, making us feel better about domestic surveillance
News that the Central Intelligence Agency violated its own charter for 25 years by conducting illegal wiretapping, domestic surveillance, assassination plots, and human experimentation should come as no surprise to most Americans.
CIA Director Michael Hayden put a positive spin on the dislosures, arguing that the documents "provide a glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency."
Reading the documents, such as the so-called Family Jewels Memorandum of 3 January 1975, provides a chilling glimpse of the inner workings of the CIA. Yet it is important to remember that this material represents only what the CIA felt it had to disclose in response to Seymour Hersh's 1974 story in the New York Times of the CIA's illegal domestic operations.
My suspicion is that Hersh uncovered only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and that the CIA has many, many more skeletons in its Langley closets. Moreover, anyone who believes that the CIA is somehow "reformed" and no longer participating in such activities as the plotting of assassinations or domestic surveillance of innocent Americans is a blithering fool.
I am sure that, in some dusty filing cabinet or perhaps on a few megabytes of hard drive space, my name and picture take up a bit of space in the FBI and CIA files. I say this not because I am special, but because I am not particularly unique: I have attended protests, written critically about the government, and have friends who are political activists.
I remember paticipating in one protest in the late 1980s against the opening of the Detroit municipal incinerator, an environmental timebomb in the middle of a megalopolis. Men in suits with cameras took pictures of protesters and the license plates of vehicles in which they drove to the protest, and what was most interesting (and scary) was the fact that these nameless faces actually smirked when I asked them what they were doing.
Were they FBI? CIA? Michigan State Police? Who knows, but I highly doubt that they were Detroit cops, since I knew a ton of them being the son of a Detroit homicide detective. They were... different, they did not belong, and they were creating a database of images and surveillance for some government entity.
But, heck - that was twenty years ago, right? The world is a different place, we've learned from our mistakes, and gosh - it's okay to trust the government this time.