NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · WASHINGTON, D.C. · Confidentiality/Privilege · April 20, 2006
F.B.I. seeks to search private files of late journalist
April 20, 2006 · The family of the late Jack Anderson, the long-time Washington investigative reporter and syndicated columnist, is fighting an unprecedented request by the FBI to search 188 boxes containing Anderson’s files, notes and papers.
“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 said in a letter to the FBI written by media lawyer Michael Sullivan. “Instead, he would resist the government’s efforts with all the energy he could muster. To honor both his memory and wishes, the family feels duty bound to do no less.”
The FBI seeks to look through the files for information relating to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee case in which two former lobbyists have been charged with violating the Espionage Act for receiving classified documents. However, the FBI said that if it found any other classified documents unrelated to AIPAC, it would remove them as well.
“I’ve been doing this for more than 25 years and by a wide margin, this is the most bone-chilling attempt to exercise governmental authority that I have ever witnessed or heard about,” said media lawyer Lee Levine, a law partner of Sullivan’s.
Anderson’s family is concerned that the removal of all classified information would “destroy the historic, political and cultural value” of his papers, according to the family’s letter. In addition, a review of the files could uncover Anderson’s sources and expose them to criminal prosecution.
“I think journalists cannot speak out about this too loudly or often enough,” Levine said.
Anderson’s family and co-workers were not aware of any significant contacts Anderson had with AIPAC and do not remember him ever writing about the group. They are worried the FBI is using AIPAC as an excuse to go through Anderson’s records.
Fortunately for Anderson’s files, his family is putting up a rigorous defense. As for what it means for other journalists, “It means they better make sure they instill their children with the same resolve they had when they were alive, as Jack Anderson did,” Levine said.
(Media Counsel: Michael Sullivan, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, Washington, D.C.) — CM