President Bush has assured Americans that their government isn't spying on them, but history explains why many remain uneasy about this week's news that their phone records have been turned over to federal agents.
The government has a long track record of abusing personal information that's gathered in the name of national security. From the Red Scare in the 1920s to illegal wiretaps during the Nixon era, Americans have struggled to find the right balance between individual rights and collective security...
In some cases, intelligence-gatherers try to use the information they collect against their enemies. In one of the most notorious examples, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover launched a campaign to discredit King that included an attempt to get him to commit suicide.
After gathering evidence of King's extramarital affairs, the agency sent a compilation of incriminating audiotapes to King's wife and sent him a note suggesting that he take his own life.
"King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. ... You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation," the note said.
Bush's defenders say the current controversy bears no resemblance to past abuses and is being blown out of proportion.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
A little reminder from Knight Ridder: