Snowden, J. Edgar Hoover and Compromising Secrets
J. Edgar Hoover ruled the FBI for forty-eight years, and his power was so great that he also had an influence over government. Many Beltway politicians, senators, congressional representatives, and even presidents feared J. Edgar Hoover. This was because Hoover, as FBI director, had the power to spy on them as well as criminals wanted by the federal government.
In 1956, Hoover established the so-called COINTELPRO (counter intelligence program). This program gave him the cover, and authorization, to spy on anyone in the U.S. whom he deemed a threat to national security. He did not need to put his investigations on public record. At the time, those who were a threat were called "Bolsheviks," after the Russian Revolution; "communists"; and "socialists." What these labels did was provide J. Edgar Hoover with the excuse to wiretap suspects, intercept their mail, and interrogate their friends and fellow workers, without warrant.
COINTELPRO also enabled him to spy on politicians, whether he was able to find damaging information on them or not. And it is the "or not" that terrified them. J. Edgar Hoover's control over the FBI, American citizens, and politicians at the local, state, and federal levels gave him enormous power. He once threatened to stop the Civil Rights Act from passing if he didn't get his way.
The most troubling aspect of these revelations, first brought to light in the early 1970s by the Church Senate Committee, was that Church, and all other members of his committee, never investigated the FBI while J. Edgar Hoover was alive. They had to wait until he died in 1972 to reveal what he had been doing.
This leads to a discussion of the IRS, the NSA, and today's potential for another J. Edgar Hoover to arise. The memory capacity of today's laptop computers is so large, and the amount of memory used by text is so small, that an ordinary laptop can hold very damaging information, gleaned by the NSA, CIA, and other agencies, on every politician in the United States. So any politician who has a female friend or taken an improper campaign contribution can have proof of this carefully recorded and stored for the future.
This is why senators and the president are speaking out about Edward Snowden, and why the Chinese and Russians gave him temporary asylum. He had four personal laptop computers with him, and the information in these can be easily downloaded by anyone with an amateur knowledge of computers, especially since Snowden may willingly provided passwords, etc. to make it easy.
This information is available not only to foreign countries, who may pass it along to their intelligence agencies, but to those in the American NSA, who may choose to use it, as J. Edgar Hoover did, to influence policy within the U.S.
Anyone who doubts that this could happen, and may likely happen, need only review how personal information is used to influence policy. Anita Hill used her personal allegations against Clarence Thomas in the Democratic Party's attempt to derail his appointment to the Supreme Court. Sarah Palin was attacked when she ran in 2004 as the Republican vice presidential candidate. The news media and Democratic Party had already picked Hillary Clinton as the first female president. So when Palin appeared to be popular, she was savaged, as were her children. And the moral outrage Americans may have felt was conveniently ignored by the media, who personally wished to see a Democrat in the White House.
No one may know what information may exist on Snowden's laptop computers, and how this may impact future policymaking. But the fear that damaging information may exist will play a powerful role in future elections, as the tenure of J. Edgar Hoover, who kept his job as FBI director only because no president would dare ask for his resignation, proves.
The fascinating aspect of all this is that Snowden may have nothing specific in the memories of those four laptops. But since politicians in the U.S. believe that he does, -- and he did have access to NSA data -- he has them worried that he does have information on them and what they may have, or may not have, said and done. For example, Hillary Clinton may now worry that Snowden has all the e-mails of what she said, and did not say, on the day of the Benghazi attack, when she was secretary of state. And whether or not she called off military help that could have prevented the attack, or neglected to do so. And whether she called people to cover up what she did and did not do. This may then come up in 2016 if she runs for the White House.
So Snowden's power, like J. Edgar Hoover's, comes not from what he can prove he knows, but what politicians have in their heads. So the threat is in the minds of the politicians who know of their improprieties and abuses of power, not from what Snowden has on his laptops. His actions set them up to blackmail themselves, which gives his disclosure a valid and comforting moral justification.
And if Snowden finds asylum in a rogue country, or his laptops are erased, those politicians will never know what information Snowden did or did not have on them. Or if he has already turned it all over to WikiLeaks, and it is now distributed worldwide to thousands of computers.
So the Democrats will have to rely on their old network of friends in the media to cover for them, as they have for many generations. It was not the mainstream media outlets, but Matt Drudge who let out the Monica Lewinsky story. But even when they relied on the friendliness of the mainstream media, back in the days before alternative news sources or cable TV, they still had to fear J. Edgar Hoover.
Excessive numbers of news sources and allegations of conspiracies and illegal behavior may become so voluminous that they morph into being virtually meaningless and have no political impact. How this all plays out in the future will be very interesting.
Church Committee (US Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations with respect to intelligence activity). (1976). The FBI, COINTELPRO, and Martin Luther King, Jr. St. Petersburg, FL: Red and Black Publishers. Imprint of original committee report.