Much electronic ink has been spilled in the global media over the past month (all of it intercepted apriori by the NSA of course), in the aftermath of the Snowden whistleblowing revelations, comparing Obama to Dubya. However, as it turns out, that may not be the proper comparison. A far better one may have been between the current president and one Richard M. Nixon.
Nixon and his most senior aides spent hours discussing plans to use Federal law enforcement agencies and intelligence services to conduct domestic spying operations against Americans.
In 1970, Nixon personally approved the most radical of these plans. It was called ”the Huston plan,” after its author, Tom Charles Huston, a White House aide. J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, blocked its full implementation five days later. Mr. Dean, who in 1973 decided to cooperate with Federal investigators in the Watergate case, took a copy of the Huston plan with him when he left the White House.
In the new transcripts, Nixon and his aides worry aloud about the plan becoming public. One fragmentary transcript shows the White House wondering if elements of the plan survived after Hoover died in May 1972 and was succeeded by an Acting F.B.I. Director loyal to the Nixon White House, L. Patrick Gray.
In the Oval Office on May 16, 1973, Mr. Buzhardt told Nixon about his discussions with the deputy director of the National Security Agency, Louis W. Tordella, about the Huston plan. The N.S.A. conducts international electronic eavesdropping, but like the C.I.A., it is not supposed to spy on Americans at home.
”Anything the N.S.A. did is totally defensible,” Nixon said, referring to the Huston plan.
Mr. Buzhardt replied: ”They move into a broader category with respect to domestic affairs” — an illegal realm.
”What do you mean?” Nixon asked. ”Electronic surveillance?”
Mr. Buzhardt replied, ”Yes, sir, targeting U.S. citizens’ conversations.”
Nixon appeared unsure that the Huston plan had been turned off. ”D.I.A. says that — thinks it was terminated?” he asked, referring to the Defense Intelligence Agency, a Pentagon service that was part of the Huston plan.
”They think it was terminated,” Mr. Buzhardt said. ”Now, we’re going to check this thoroughly with N.S.A.” because ”they were the most aggressive group.” Referring to Mr. Tordella’s notes on the Huston plan, Mr. Buzhardt added: ”They never quite got a handle on it until Pat Gray was appointed” in 1972.
In that same conversation, Nixon anticipated a story saying ”the President authorized a super-duper activity in 1970” involving ”burglary, etc., and wiretapping.” Defiantly, he said Americans would understand the plan was to control riots by people protesting the Vietnam War.
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So, which is it, Barack H. Nixon or Richard M. Obama?