From the Wall Street Journal
, an article by Laurence H. Silberman
, a former Justice Department official who was in charge of investigating abuses by the FBI.
Only a few weeks before the 1964 election, a powerful presidential assistant, Walter Jenkins, was arrested in a men’s room in Washington. Evidently, the president was concerned that Barry Goldwater would use that against him in the election. Another assistant, Bill Moyers, was tasked to direct Hoover to do an investigation of Goldwater’s staff to find similar evidence of homosexual activity. Mr. Moyers’ memo to the FBI was in one of the files.
When the press reported this, I received a call in my office from Mr. Moyers. Several of my assistants were with me. He was outraged; he claimed that this was another example of the Bureau salting its files with phony CIA memos. I was taken aback. I offered to conduct an investigation, which if his contention was correct, would lead me to publicly exonerate him. There was a pause on the line and then he said, “I was very young. How will I explain this to my children?” And then he rang off. I thought to myself that a number of the Watergate figures, some of whom the department was prosecuting, were very young, too.
Other presidents, according to those files, misused the bureau, although never Truman and Eisenhower. But Johnson clearly was the most demanding. This discovery was particularly painful for me. Although I was a life-long Republican, I had not only voted for LBJ, I had signed an ad supporting him, which got me ejected from the Hawaii Young Republicans.
In 1968 the FBI, at the president’s direction, actually surveilled Spiro Agnew, the Republican vice-presidential candidate. To be sure, as subsequent events revealed, Agnew might well have been under surveillance when, as governor of Maryland, he was taking bribes; but in 1968 it was for the purpose of determining whether he was in contact with South Vietnamese leaders. It was not for law-enforcement purposes. Incidentally, the FBI never determined that he was in contact with the South Vietnamese.