Jack Anderson was one the nation’s foremost muckrakers. Before Watergate made investigative journalism sexy, most Beltway reporters were more interested in access to power and cocktail parties. Throughout the fifties and sixties there were really only two hard-hitting journalists in the Capital: Drew Pearson and his protege, Jack Anderson.
Anderson was born in Long Beach, California, to a Mormon family of Swedish-Danish descent. He grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. He served two years as a missionary. His writing career began at his local newspaper, The Murray Eagle. He joined The Salt Lake Tribune in 1940, where his muckraking exploits included infiltrating polygamous Mormon fundamentalist sects. He served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II in China, where he reportedly fought the Japanese alongside Chinese guerrillas and worked on the Shanghai edition of Stars and Stripes.
After a stint as a war correspondent during 1945, he was hired by Drew Pearson for the staff of his column, the “Merry-Go-Round,” which Anderson took over after Pearson’s death in 1969. In its heyday, Anderson’s column was the most influential and widely read in the U.S.; published in nearly a thousand newspapers, he reached an audience of 40 million.
Anderson may have been responsible for the election of John F. Kennedy. Nixon certainly thought so. Right before the 1960 election, Anderson broke a story about Howard Hughes giving a ‘loan’ to Nixon’s brother. In a very close election, the issue may have been decisive. During Nixon’s Presidency, Anderson broke so many stories that Nixon eventually contemplated having him assassinated.
The Nixon White House decided to strike back. White House aide Jeb Magruder told colleague G. Gordon Liddy that Nixon “would sure like to get rid of that guy.” Along with fellow White House “plumber” E. Howard Hunt, Liddy met with a CIA operative to discuss options—drugging Anderson with LSD, poisoning his aspirin bottle, staging a fatal mugging.
Anderson had a long list of scoops:
Anderson won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his investigation on secret American policy decision-making between the United States and Pakistan during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.
Jack Anderson was a key and often controversial figure in reporting on J. Edgar Hoover’s apparent ties to the Mafia, Watergate, the John F. Kennedy assassination, the search for fugitive ex-Nazi Germany officials in South America and the Savings and Loan scandal. He discovered a CIA plot to assassinate Fidel Castro, and has also been credited for breaking the Iran-Contra affair, though he has said the scoop was “spiked” because he had become too close to President Ronald Reagan.
Anderson passed away on December 17, 2005. His papers had recently been transferred brom Brigham Young University to George Washington University. Now the FBI is saying they need to take a look at them.
The F.B.I. is seeking to go through the files of the late newspaper columnist Jack Anderson to remove classified material he may have accumulated in four decades of muckraking Washington journalism.
Mr. Anderson’s family has refused to allow a search of 188 boxes, the files of a well-known reporter who had long feuded with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and had exposed plans by the Central Intelligence Agency to kill Fidel Castro, the machinations of the Iran-contra affair and the misdemeanors of generations of congressmen.
The FBI claims it need to look through the 188 boxes to aid their case against two lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. But that is a lot of hooey.
Both [son] Kevin Anderson and Mr. Feldstein, the [GWU] journalism professor, said they did not think the columnist ever wrote about Aipac.
Mr. Anderson said he thought the Aipac case was a pretext for a broader search, a conclusion shared by others, including Thomas S. Blanton, who oversees the National Security Archive, a collection of historic documents at George Washington.
“Recovery of leaked C.I.A. and White House documents that Jack Anderson got back in the 70’s has been on the F.B.I.’s wanted list for decades,” Mr. Blanton said.
The FBI’s explanation is pathetic:
“It’s been determined that among the papers there are a number of classified U.S. government documents,” said Bill Carter, an F.B.I. spokesman. “Under the law, no private person may possess classified documents that were illegally provided to them. These documents remain the property of the government.”
Back in the 1970’s the Bush/Ford administration contemplated killing Jack Anderson. Now, veterans of those administrations are attempting to seize his records before some of their decades old crimes are exposed. Nice.