U.S. spying on citizens is nothing new

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I find it a little amusing to watch the reaction to recent revelations that our government is spying on us. You might suppose this cloak-and-dagger stuff, this official paranoia, is something new. It is not.

J. Edgar Hoover, longtime head of the FBI, kept files on tens of thousands -- citizens, celebrities, visiting foreigners, diplomats, anyone he thought might someday be of interest. His agents wiretapped, broke into homes, photographed and recorded anyone he chose and that knowledge was not fully shared with the public until recently. The famous Watergate burglars, whose bungled "black bag job" led to the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, got their dubious skills from federal agencies, the FBI and CIA. Maybe they saw the break-in as just another day's work.

Hoover's policy was that, as long as the pilfered information was not used in court, there would never be any reason for the snooping to be challenged. Some speculate that his power was greater than any president's because of the secrets he knew. Did he ever abuse that power? Who would know?

My point is that activities like this were in the culture of national leadership before Barack Obama was born. The much-vaunted Manhattan Project that developed the A-bomb was done behind the back of Congress, funded with money FDR somehow smuggled out of the federal budget. Congress did not know the project was going on. But the Russians did! They had a spy inside from the get-go. If that doesn't justify a little skullduggery, what would?

HOWARD GLASS
Grove City


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