News Nixon, Reagan and the Rehnquist File

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Gokul43201

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Nixon, Reagan Ordered Spying on Rehnquist Witnesses
And finally, newly-released FBI documents reveal both the Nixon and Reagan administrations ordered the monitoring of witnesses set to provide critical testimony about former Chief Justice William Rehnquist. In 1971, the Nixon White House ordered the FBI to run background checks on witnesses in Renquist’s initial Senate confirmation hearing. When Renquist was nominated to chief justice fifteen years later, the Reagan administration told the FBI to check on the witnesses and find out what they planned to say. The FBI obtained the names from then-assistant attorney general John Bolton.
http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/01/04/155257 [Broken]
http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1167818524831
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6722187

So Nixon and Reagan used the FBI for political purposes. Is that legal?
 
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Rach3

That's the beauty of presidential justice; by the time the crimes are declassified, everyone involved is long dead!
 

FredGarvin

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For background checks and investigations inside our boarders, who should do the investigating? I believe every background check done on me has been done by the FBI.
 

Astronuc

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So Nixon and Reagan used the FBI for political purposes. Is that legal?
NO! It was known that Nixon was using FBI surveillance and had tried (or was successful) in using IRS to go after his 'enemies'. Basically Nixon (and J. Edgar Hoover) used the FBI to illegal domestic surveillance. I don't remember that being an issue with Reagan, but I am not surprised - same kind of mentality.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nixon's_Enemies_List

http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/2010/water.htm

It would seem that successive republican administrations have actively worked to further undermine the Constitution and American democracy.
 

BobG

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For background checks and investigations inside our boarders, who should do the investigating? I believe every background check done on me has been done by the FBI.
I'm not sure it's always been the same, but I think the Defense Security Service normally does background checks for security clearances. The exception would be for confidential clearances, which some agencies (including the FBI) do on their own.

Rehnquist was being nominated to be Supreme Court Justice, not to work with classified material, so having folks in the FBI do the investigation wouldn't be unreasonable.
 

Gokul43201

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Rehnquist was being nominated to be Supreme Court Justice, not to work with classified material, so having folks in the FBI do the investigation wouldn't be unreasonable.
Does it not depend on the purpose of the investigation?

Can the President, for instance, use the FBI to dig up slime on his Presidential challenger?
 

loseyourname

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It's not really the purpose of the FBI, but let's be real here. Part of the advantage of being an incumbent in any race is that you're able to improperly use whatever resources you have at your disposal. A state senator that raised money for a mayor in a key city in his district can make sure that city services do nothing to help, and everything to annoy, his challenger, including police harassment, if he wants. Just tell them to tow his campaign vehicles for every single possible infraction. It's perfectly lawful. How are you going to stop something like that? It's just the way politics works, stupid as it is.
 

BobG

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Does it not depend on the purpose of the investigation?

Can the President, for instance, use the FBI to dig up slime on his Presidential challenger?
Yes, it does depend on the purpose and the extent of the investigation. It would make sense to screen a potential nominee even if the primary motivation is to avoid having embarrassing information coming up during the confirmation hearings. The end result is that the background of the potential nominee is known and any criminal background is taken into consideration when deciding whether to go ahead and nominate the person.

It probably wouldn't be a bad idea for anyone running for public office, although that would get expensive. Voters would have a better idea of the kind of person they're voting for. Generally, candidates would prefer the voters know as little about them as possible except what they personally release as part of their campaigns. Most candidates from both parties usually even refuse to participate in surveys such as Project Vote Smart, which only wants info on the politicians' positions on public issues they are likely to have influence on; not private background info.

In Rehnquist's case, interviewing someone that might be a witness at the confirmation hearing would just be a thorough background check of Rehnquist - better to hear bad news from someone likely to testify against him early before committing to the nomination. Doing background checks of the witnesses is going beyond and does look like misuse of the FBI to eliminate troubling witnesses.
 

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