Congress was giving spies a pass back in 1975, too

If you are outraged by American spies getting a free pass from their political masters (and you really should be), remember that this is an age-old tradition. Matt Stoller revisits the 1975 Congressional hearings in which radical Congresswoman Bella Abzug grilled CIA director William Colby over the CIA's records of the membership rolls of peaceful, domestic protest groups, only to have Arizona Congressman Sam Steiger suck up to the spook-in-chief, expressing concern that anti-American terrorists could destroy the CIA by sending it too many Freedom of Information Act requests.

In mid-1970s, feminist and peace movement activist Congresswoman Bella Abzug tore through the intel world, fearlessly taking on the CIA and the NSA for surveilling Americans. So I’ve been reading some of her hearings, and it turns out that the dynamics of the intelligence world (in this case the CIA) and its relationship with Congress and the public haven’t changed at all. Today, journalist Jason Leopold is nicknamed a ‘FOIA terrorist’ by a ‘certain government agency’ because he files so many requests so effectively, and sues when they deny him the things to which he is entitled.

This was going on in the 1970s, right after FOIA was amended to allow requests to the intel community. Bella Abzug was one member who helped make that happen, with hearings and legislative initiatives to force various agencies to reveal who they were surveilling.

In 1975, the CIA Director Told Congress That Enemies of America Could Destroy the CIA with Freedom of Information Act Requests [Matt Stoller/Tumblr]

(via Sean Bonner)