Authors: Tim Weiner
“No more such techniques”:
Hoover notation, Sullivan to DeLoach, July 19, 1966. FBI/FOIA.
Breaking and entering clearly violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unwarranted searches and seizures. So did mail opening, as the Supreme Court had ruled in an 1878 case,
Ex Parte Jackson:
The constitutional guaranty of the right of the people to be secure in their papers against unreasonable searches and seizures extends to their papers, thus closed against inspection, wherever they may be.… No law of Congress can place in the hands of officials connected with the postal service any authority to invade the secrecy of letters and such sealed packages in the mail; and all regulations adopted as to mail matter of this kind must be in subordination to the great principle embodied in the fourth amendment of the Constitution.
“Such a technique involves trespass …,” Sullivan memo with Hoover’s notation, July 19, 1966, all reprinted in Church Committee files and in Theoharis,
From the Secret Files of J. Edgar Hoover
, pp. 129–130; 147–152. LBJ and RFK may not have fully grasped the legal and technical differences between a wiretap on a telephone line, which could be legally authorized, and a bug, a hidden microphone whose installation usually required breaking and entering without a warrant.
“In our time in the Bureau”:
Miller oral history, FBI/FBIOH.
“Someone got to the old man”:
Church Committee staff summary of Louis Tordella interview, June 16, 1975. The CIA’s James Angleton accurately assessed the effect that the changing political climate had on Hoover. “The Congress was delving into matters pertaining to FBI activities,” he said. “Mr. Hoover looked to the President to give him support in terms of conducting those operations. And when that support was lacking, Mr. Hoover had no recourse.” Angleton testimony, Church Committee hearings, Sept. 24, 1975.
“Hoover put us out of business”:
Cregar classified testimony, Aug. 20, 1975, Church Committee staff files.
Hoover had threatened to pull the plug on the FBI’s surveillances once before: “I want consideration given to terminating
technicals—H.” That note came thundering down from the director on July 21, 1958. “Terminating all technicals” would have meant an end to electronic surveillance—the use of bugs and the break-ins required to install them—and the destruction of hundreds of American intelligence operations. The root of Hoover’s wrath was a CIA leak to Congress about a Soviet defector. Hoover’s anger faded, but his threat to pull the FBI’s bugs from every secret hiding place in America remained.
For the next decade, from 1966 to 1976:
A grand total of eleven espionage cases were brought against Americans in that decade, and nine of them were investigated by military intelligence and tried by military courts. The primary cause of this decline in FBI counterespionage and counterintelligence was the ceaseless demand by presidents Johnson and Nixon to focus on the political warfare against the American Left. LBJ told Deke DeLoach “that much of the protest concerning his Vietnam policy, particularly the hearings in the Senate,” could be traced to the Soviets and their allies. The statistics and the underlying causes are analyzed in
Espionage Against the United States by American Citizens, 1947–2001
, Defense Personnel Security Research Center, July 2002.
“That guy traveled”:
Edmund Birch oral history, FBI/FBIOH.
“King was told by Levison”:
Hoover to LBJ, July 25, 1967, LBJ telephone tapes, LBJL.
“disrupt, misdirect, discredit”:
FBI headquarters to field offices, Aug. 25, 1967, FBI/FOIA.
The intelligence coordination among Attorney General Clark, Deputy Attorney General Christopher, the military, the CIA, and the FBI was detailed first in hearings before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights on April 9 and 10, 1974, and later in the Church Committee’s reports. The major programs undertaken by the FBI, the CIA, and the military were code-named Shamrock and Minaret.
“I don’t want anybody to know”:
LBJ to Hoover, Feb. 14, 1968, LBJ telephone tapes, LBJL. The full context of these heated discussions is in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, Volume 7, November 1–12, 1968: South Vietnamese Abstention from the Expanded Peace Conference; the Anna Chennault Affair.
“The Negro youth and moderates”:
FBI headquarters to field offices, April 3, 1968, FBI/FOIA. Hoover’s “dead revolutionaries” warning came the day before the assassination of Martin Luther King.
“I have been appalled”:
FBI headquarters to field offices, July 23, 1968, FBI/FOIA.
“He became a kind of Messiah”:
Hoover memorandum for the record to Tolson, DeLoach, Sullivan, and Bishop, June 19, 1969, FBI/FOIA.
“We’ve lost Thieu”:
LBJ telephone tapes, Nov. 1, Nov. 4, Nov. 8, Nov. 12, and Nov. 13, 1968. LBJ determined—after the election—that he could not prove the charge. The FBI, at LBJ’s command, eventually traced five telephone calls placed from the campaign plane of Republican vice presidential candidate Spiro Agnew in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One was a telltale: a conversation between Nixon’s clandestine emissary, Anna Chennault, at a Nixon command center in Washington, and an Agnew aide named Kent Crane, a former CIA officer. The tapes and conversations on the Chennault intrigue are recorded in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, Volume 7, November 1–12, 1968: South Vietnamese Abstention from the Expanded Peace Conference; the Anna Chennault Affair.
“If it hadn’t been for Edgar Hoover”:
RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon
, pp. 357–358. The telephone call to Hoover during the Nixon meeting is recorded in LBJ’s daily diary.
“The risk of war”:
Nixon’s sworn deposition in
Halperin v. Kissinger
, Jan. 15, 1976.
“I will warn you now”:
RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon
, pp. 357–358.
“my closest personal friend”:
Nixon White House tapes, May 3, 1972.
“he’d come in alone”:
Nixon White House tapes, Feb. 16, 1973.
“Almost unbelievable conversation”:
H. R. Haldeman,
The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the Nixon White House
(New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1994), p. 192.
“florid and fat-faced”:
Witness to Power: The Nixon Years
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982), pp. 156–157.
“conducted, without a search warrant”:
Nixon response to interrogatories, Church Committee, March 9, 1976.
“That was Mr. Hoover’s common practice”:
Grand jury testimony of Richard Nixon, June 24, 1975, Watergate Special Prosecution Force Records, online at
“This is the way civilizations”:
Nixon statement on campus disorders, March 22, 1969.
“Attorneys General seldom directed”:
U.S. v. Felt
, Oct. 29, 1980.
“his friend and White House confidant”:
Witness to Power
, pp. 156–159.
“What is this”:
The outrage of Nixon and Kissinger at the leaks, and their handling of the wiretaps, is best summarized in Walter Isaacson,
Kissinger: A Biography
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992, 2005), pp. 212–227.
, p. 387.
“Hoover informed me”:
Halperin v. Kissinger
“Here he was in this room”:
Rodman oral history, FAOH.
“a leak which was directly responsible”:
Halperin v. Kissinger
“Dr. Kissinger said”:
Hoover memorandum of conversation with Kissinger, May 9, 1969, FBI, July 9, 1969, 5:05
“express your appreciation”:
“Talking Points for Meeting with J. Edgar Hoover, Wednesday, June 4, 1969,” Library of Congress, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 88.
“Here’s your machine”:
Dyson oral history, FBI/FBIOH.
“the potential to be far more damaging”:
Sullivan to DeLoach, Sept. 8, 1969, FBI/FOIA.
“attacks against the police”:
Brennan to Sullivan, Feb. 3, 1969, FBI/FOIA.
“to form commando-type units”:
Brennan to Sullivan, Jan. 26, 1970, FBI/FOIA.
“They were a bunch of renegades”:
Perez oral history, FBI/FBIOH.
“Hoover had no idea”:
Jones oral history, FBI/FBIOH.
ULL DOWN THE TEMPLE
“the greatest mistake I ever made”:
Mark Felt and John O’Connor,
A G-Man’s Life: The FBI, Being “Deep Throat
and the Struggle for Honor in Washington
(New York: Public Affairs, 2006), p. 121.
“moving ahead of the winds”:
Sullivan to Helms, Oct. 24, 1968, FRUS 1964–1968, Volume 33.
“I do not think”:
Huston testimony, Church Committee, Sept. 23, 1975.
“President Nixon was insatiable”:
DeLoach oral history, FBI/FBIOH.
“gave us all hell”:
Nolan oral history, FBI/FBIOH.
“The President chewed our butts”:
Staff summary of Bennett testimony, Church Committee, June 5, 1975.