The Federal Bureau of Investigation will no longer be pursuing the documents of late investigative journalist Jack Anderson that are housed at GW.
Gelman Library stores the documents that have been under FBI inquiry since last spring, a few months after Anderson passed away in December 2005. FBI officials contacted the Anderson family, and associate professor of Media and Public Affairs and Anderson’s biographer Mark Feldstein, with demands to seize the entire collection and filter through the classified documents.
After a Senate Judiciary hearing, in response to committee questions, acting Associate Attorney General James H. Clinger wrote a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) on Nov. 30 announcing an end to the FBI demands. According to Feldstein, the agents said the documents may contain classified government information. The documents the FBI requested were in connection to a case involving two Israelis accused of espionage.
Clinger wrote, “The FBI met with the Anderson family in an effort to review the files with their consent. At this time, the FBI is not seeking to reclaim any documents.”
Clinger did not specify in the document a reason why the demands were lifted.
“I only know what they told me,” Feldstein said.
Classified documents that the search was focused on included papers on the Middle East and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The FBI’s pursuit of the documents has garnered national media attention.
“They didn’t say (why they dropped demands) but I imagine it’s due to the embarrassing adverse publicity and critical Senate hearings,” Feldstein said. “The costs did not outweigh the benefits of continuing with their demands.”
Gelman Librarian Jack Siggins said that GW had possession of the 187 boxes of documents for about a year. In May, 2005, two FBI agents visited Feldstein’s home asking for the documents, which he and the University refused to give up. A deed of gift, legalizing the transfer to GW, was about to be signed last spring before the FBI investigation halted the process.
“The FBI first contacted the family, who adamantly said ‘no,’ and then the University honored the request of the family as well,” Feldstein said.
Now that the FBI has rescinded its demands, the family and GW have resurrected the deed of gift and currently working on the final wording. The collection must also first be appraised, which will most likely happen sometime this month. At the moment, fundraising is needed to support the processing of documents and the eventual creation of electronic records.
Along with the halted legal process, Feldstein’s biography, “Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture” to be published this year, suffered from restricted access to the archives.
Originally, the archives were to be given to Brigham Young University. However, the Anderson family wanted the collection closer to the family home in Bethesda, Md. and the location of Jack Anderson’s work. Feldstein acted as an intermediary between the family and library, according to Siggins, and secured GW as the beneficiary after negotiations with Brigham Young.
“The collection will be housed at GW. It really is a treasure trove of Washington political history,” Feldstein said.
Siggins said, “Anderson wanted people to gain an open understanding of government operations. He worked to expose undemocratic, or even unlawful, government actions against citizens that it tried to hide. Anderson wanted these things revealed.”