Sunday, March 28, 2004

Kerrying the files away

The Los Angeles Times has reported that burglars entered the home of private Marin county researcher Gerald Nicosia and stole a cache of released FBI files on John Kerry. The files detail surveillance conducted during the anti-war period.

Other newspapers carrying this report lopped off some important paragraphs:

Nicosia said he left home Thursday and returned to find several doors inside his house ajar. He said he did not realize until Friday morning that there had been a theft.

"The police told me that burglars very easily could have come in through a sliding door without signs of a forced entry," he said.

He added that he had no idea why the thieves didn't take all 14 of the boxes. "My guess is that they were surprised during the act and didn't have time to take everything. Maybe the dog next door barked," Nicosia said.

He said that while the boxes had been tightly packed when released by the FBI, he saw signs that ones not previously opened had been riffled.

Lovenguth said police were investigating the case as a burglary. "Our investigating is ongoing," he said. "We're waiting for the victim to tell us exactly what was missing so we know what we're looking for."

"Whoever did this wanted to know something about John Kerry," Nicosia said.

Nicosia strikes me as too trusting. Why leap to the conclusion that whoever did this wanted to know something about John Kerry?

Anyone who wanted the knowledge could just as easily have filed an FOIA request with the FBI. Granted, the FBI charges a fee for copying declassified files, and those fees do add up. But opponents of John Kerry surely have sufficient funds to acquire the information without running the risk of arrest. Indeed, does anyone really believe that the RNC has not already studied their own copies of these very same files?

Note that the burglars had rifled through previously unopened boxes -- boxes they did not take. This detail indicates that they were looking for something in particular.

My very preliminary hypothesis: Thieves took the files not to learn something about Kerry -- but to prevent information from coming out. It is possible that whoever declassified the files wielded the black redaction pen rather too lightly, and let slip a fact or two that certain powerful interests would prefer to keep under wraps. Slip-ups of that nature have happened before. The slip-up could have been discovered when someone at the RNC scanned their copies of the same files.

And what might be the nature of this postulated "slip-up"? As long as we are speculating -- and clearly labeling speculation as such -- I would note that George Bush the elder was chairman of the Republican National Committee during the 1972-73 period. He may have expressed an interest in Kerry's activities at that time. Perhaps his name appears on one of the stolen pages.

On a not-unrelated note, I would also remind readers that the CIA and the Pentagon both carried out illegal domestic spying operations against dissidents in this era. And not just spying: There were also "dirty tricks" designed to discredit opponents of the the war.

If my surmise is correct, replacement copies of the stolen files will show heavier use of the black marker.

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