March 26, 2019

Even when I was a kid, I knew the FBI had done some bad things. My parents told me.

We lived in Texas, in an area that was then bright blue, although I think that was before “blue” and “red” were even used to designate Democrats and Republicans. Mine was one of the few Republican families in our school district, and my parents were very well-informed. (Even though my dad was a cool jazz musician, the first date he ever took my mom on was to a meeting of the Young Republicans. Isn’t that just the best?) Thanks to my dad, I got to read a lot about government and politics at an early age, and my favorite book was George Orwell’s masterpiece “1984.” I still think it is genius –- and when I see where technology is going and how easy it is to control minds, it scares the hell out of me.

Anyway, I’m sure my classmates didn’t get the kind of grounding in politics that I did, as virtually all their parents were true-blue Democrats whose ancestors had been Democrats since the Civil War. I’m sure their dads didn’t tell them stories about the legendary President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was always known here in Texas simply by the initials “LBJ.” But I heard the stories. And when I grew up, I read more about him and saw that, yep, they were true. I doubt that anyone in American politics has been more ruthless than old LBJ.

The reason I bring this up is that I happened to hear Darrell Issa, in an appearance Monday on OUTNUMBERED, mention in passing that the FBI had bugged Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater’s campaign plane in 1964. The discussion rolled on, but I was frozen in place. What?? I never knew that! Isn’t that just the kind of thing that got Nixon in so much trouble?

So I asked Google, “Did the FBI bug Goldwater’s plane?” and lots of articles came up. How did I, of all people, never hear about this? It seems to be common knowledge now that not only did the FBI bug the Arizona senator’s campaign plane, but they did it on an order from LBJ himself.

It seems that even though LBJ was predicted to win in a landslide over the conservative Goldwater (which he did, unfortunately), he wanted an incredible landslide to give him a mandate from voters to implement his “Great Society” programs and go down in history as one of the greatest presidents of all time. (As it turned out, he went down in history for escalating the Vietnam War and wasting a trillion dollars. I digress.) So this was no time for LBJ to follow rules that were meant for others. It was the time to do...whatever was necessary.

As described by conservative historian Lee Edwards, “It was a political scandal of unprecedented proportions: the deliberate, systematic and illegal misuse of the FBI and CIA by the White House in a presidential campaign. The massive black-bag operations, bordering on the unconstitutional and therefore calling for impeachment, were personally approved by the President. They included planting a CIA spy in his opponent’s campaign committee, wiretaps on his opponent’s top political aides, illegal FBI checks, and the bugging of his opponent’s campaign plane.”

He calls these political “activities” an even graver offense than Watergate. And a lot of this sounds very much like what we’ve learned the FBI was doing to candidate Donald Trump in 2016. They just managed to make it look like there was a valid reason to do it: Russian “collusion.”

As Edwards tells it, this kind of surveillance was supposed to be done only on someone classified as a “domestic enemy” –- certainly not a political opponent. E. Howard Hunt, a decade after his conviction for his part in the Watergate break-in, testified to a congressional committee that LBJ had ordered him to spy on Goldwater’s campaign headquarters. The information was to go to an aide named Chester L. Cooper.

CIA Director William Colby said that Cooper received advance texts of Goldwater’s speeches through a woman, a secretary. From this “intelligence,” Cooper would prepare campaign material for LBJ. Apparently, their spying came in quite handy, as they were able to undercut Sen. Goldwater numerous times, knowing in advance the initiatives he was going to propose. LBJ speechwriter John Roche wondered at the time where they were getting the texts of those speeches. He was told, “Don’t ask.”

It became so obvious to Goldwater’s team that this was happening that they suspected the phones at their headquarters were bugged. They even started making important calls from a nearby phone booth (which I imagine was bugged as well!). Of course, they couldn’t exactly go outside to talk while traveling on their campaign plane, and that’s where the most confidential meetings took place.

In an interview in 1971, J. Edgar Hoover revealed that he had bugged Goldwater’s plane on orders from the Oval Office. Why? “You do what the President of the United States orders you to do,” he said. Hoover’s second-in-command, William C. Sullivan, also confirmed the spying operation.

LBJ got his landslide, winning 61.5 percent of the popular vote and even outdoing FDR’s record victory in 1936. Goldwater-style conservatism was reviled and considered dead-dead-dead. LBJ managed to install his massive federal programs, but his political fortunes were reversed in short order by the Vietnam War. In 1968, he was so unpopular he didn’t even run again, while Goldwater was re-elected as senator from his home state. Goldwater’s conservative ideals were vindicated when Ronald Reagan became President in 1980.

But in 1964, LBJ was on top. He almost certainly would have won without the spying –- he also took campaign commercials to a new low and was, I hear, especially popular among dead voters in certain districts –- but spying on his opponent’s campaign was one way he kept himself ahead of the game.

But wait, there’s more! I found a New York Times archival story from December 4, 1975, that details acts carried out “for political purposes” by the FBI at the behest of all six Presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Richard Nixon. They wiretapped news reporters and people whose policies conflicted with their own, conducted physical surveillance (followed people) and supplied “secret dossiers.” We learn that LBJ had the FBI bug the hotel rooms of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on three different occasions. (“This surveillance involved trespass,” each of the memoranda said.) All this was in a 16-page report compiled by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The story goes into fascinating detail about the surveillance. However, it doesn’t make the point that almost all of them were ordered by Democrat Presidents, so I will. There’s just one instance in which President Eisenhower asks J. Edgar Hoover to brief him on racial tension in 1956; Hoover responds with secret reports on various governors and members of Congress opposing integration. I get the impression that Eisenhower hadn’t asked for this, that Hoover had taken the initiative himself.

And then there’s Nixon. We know about him.

Here’s a quote from the story that sounds just like something written this week: “In connection with ‘political abuse’ of the FBI and its political activities, the committee report said, the FBI intelligence system developed to a point where no one inside or outside the bureau was willing or able to tell the difference between legitimate national security or law enforcement information and purely political intelligence.” Indeed.

So if anyone wonders if the intelligence community is capable of the kind of abuse of power that took place in 2016, wonder no more. It has a long, proud history of that. Though many of the upper-echelon people have left or were fired, there are bound to be others remaining who would have been happy to bug Goldwater’s plane in 1964.



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Comments 1-15 of 15

  • Denise Jackson

    05/14/2019 09:37 AM

    How can the FBI ever gain respect and credibility? How much FBI activity is truly beneficial to U.S. Citizens? How much of that activity is already duplicated by other agencies? If not duplicated, how much can be transfered to other agencies? We are taxed to substain an agency that works against justice - that is above the law?

  • Walter N. Willis

    04/25/2019 12:51 PM

    Good report. I knew LBJ was the most crooked (even more so than J. Edgar Hoover) sob one could imagine. Always thought LBJ was involved in the death of the investigator in the Billy Sol Estes case where ole Billy received loans for agriculture equipment that did not exist. Lots of money involved there. I look forward to reading your articles. Without you and several Fox News commentators and reporters, we would not be receiving the truth about the underhanded activities of government. I have always wondered how a person, when first elected to the Congress, has little more than the clothes on their back and a mountain of political debt, becomes quite wealthy in such a short period of time. Well, I actually haven`t wondered. I caught on to that quite early in life. Your daughter is a "chip off the old block". Keep up the good work, both of you. One more thing. I would vote for you if the opportunity arose.


    04/20/2019 02:03 PM

    Lbj and JK,Sr 1960 voter fraud was far more dangerous than any of the surveillance related issues. Hsve 1st hand addmission of those efforts by Illinois public officials who permitted the execution of this fraud. Check your linkedin acct.

  • Verlyn Steinbach

    03/27/2019 10:45 PM

    Great story. Quite an eye opener. I had read Hoover had the goods on many politicians but I had always thought he did it on his own. Every story I read about LBJ just gets me more disgusted. What a slimy B***.
    Thank you

  • Dawn Street

    03/27/2019 02:19 PM

    Great article. I am also from Texas. I heard horrible stories about LBJ from my parents. LBJ was a poor man who made his fortune by marrying it. He called his wife Lady Bird (AKA Claudia Alta) and his daughters also had the LBJ initials, Luci Baines and Lynda Bird. He was always a suspicious character on the political scene, an opportunist seeking glory and cash. When he set his sights on the U.S. Senate, we really got a true picture of his character. It was 1949 and his opponent, a popular Texas governor Coke Stevenson AKA Mr. Texas was in the way. His name, his presence and character were impressive. Johnson and Stevenson battled endlessly for the Democratic nomination and forced a runoff. Three counties in the southern portion of the state provided highly suspicious vote tallies that gave Johnson the victory in the Democratic primary—crucial in those days to a general election, since Republicans were few and far between and could never win the subsequent election—by 87 votes out of a 250,000 cast. Critics began calling him "Landslide Lyndon," knowing that he had cheated during the vote count. Ballot boxes disappeared, literally, never to be found.

    My Dad's favorite joke was about JFK and LBJ. During the Cuban Crisis, JFK was struggling with how to approach Castro. He thought about sending his Brother Bobby down and figured the silver tongued Bobby could just talk Castro out of Cuba. He considered sending his Daddy down and he could just buy Cuba from Castro. But he decided to send LBJ down and figured he could STEAL Cuba from Castro.

    Mom and Dad had switched parties before LBJ was VP. Not sure exactly when that happened but Grandpa and Grandma and Mom and Dad all switched from the Democratic Party over to Republican. They recognized LBJ for the crook he was.

    Now I'm going to check out the article you referenced about the 6 presidents who used our intelligence to spy on their opposition. That surprised me a little but I can't say that it shocked me. I am becoming rather cynical in my old age. Thank you for the articles you write.

  • Lori Culver

    03/27/2019 02:19 PM

    Fascinating! You’re research and highlights have proven what an incredible journalist you are!! Thank you for this commentary!! The entire nation should read this story!

  • Anne Turner

    03/27/2019 02:09 PM

    It doesn’t matter what the facts really represent. If Trump sudden.y said let let all the families on the border i with full citizenship, immediate welfare and health care, education in Spanish and rent free housing, the Dems would find a way to be against it. They will never accept that he is President no matter what. I fear for our country if the Libs take over. There mission is to destroy us so that we are all equally poor. That is except for the elites. In the communists countries there are two classes of people, the poor and a very few elites that run things. It is nonsense that the report should be released because the American people demand it. The libs just want to scrutinize it so the can find things to investigate further and to crtisize.

    What is happening to us? The Smollett case is an example of elite favoritism. The State of CA would not send back a violent criminal. Have we lost our collective minds?

    So, some say HR.c may run I’d all else fails. Go for it
    Hilary. It would take about 30 seconds for the President to appont a special counsel. If a Dem prevails in 2020 can you imagine the scrutiny he/she will get into every nuance of their life and the lives of those who support him/her?

  • Jessie Teddlie

    03/27/2019 08:58 AM

    I appreciate your newsletter and all you do to keep people informed! I especially appreciated the FBI article as, also being from Texas, I can say she stated it correctly! I knew LBJ was ruthless even before going to Washington and how his father-in-law bailed him out!

  • Eddie Ggraves

    03/26/2019 04:30 PM

    This is a great commentary on a topic I have wondered about since the Watergate era. I suspect there is more to discover, and I am interested in reading about them if they are made public.

  • Elizabeth Rogge

    03/26/2019 02:35 PM

    Well written! More people need to read this!!

  • Bennye St.Claire

    03/26/2019 01:12 PM

    Having lived thru the LBJ years and voted against that bully I feel compelled to tell Laura that she missed out on his right-hand man Sam Rayburn. Uncle Sam as he was known in the Senate was just as bad as LBJ if not worse. Also, Wright Patman from East Texas helped the Great LBJ along.

  • MaryjaneGRIMALDI

    03/26/2019 01:09 PM

    And so selective of who they spy on.

  • Tom Williams

    03/26/2019 01:07 PM

    Dear Laura: Thanks for reminding us of the absolute venality of past FBI activities. No wonder so many folks are scared to death of the FBI. It isn't just because they make military-style pre-dawn raids on people's homes even when the "suspect" has already cooperated and offered to turn himself in. Three things in this recent cycle are absolutely chilling: (1) The use of the FBI and intelligence agencies by political incumbents to sabotage their opponent's campaign and then spy on the duly-elected President of the United States and (2) the inexcusable resistance of the US news media to decry this blatant attack on our democracy's foundations and (3) The weaponization of the Justice System to go after anyone associated with the rival campaign. The good news that real journalists are beginning to realize that the media are, generally speaking, no longer journalists at all.

  • james randolph

    03/26/2019 11:56 AM

    Excellent post Laura! Thanks.
    POTUS TRUMP has the unique opportunity to STOP this criminal conspiracy.
    He must. These acts against Americans are illegal, and treasonous.
    I use the word TREASON deliberately.
    J. Edgar was a traitor to America, not a patriot.
    His good actions do not balance his evil actions, on Lady Justice's scale.
    When foxes eat chickens with immunity and impunity,two things need to happen:
    (1) remove the foxes as hen-house guards.
    (2) kill the foxes.
    Anything less is unacceptable.

  • steve gibbs

    03/26/2019 10:51 AM

    So Nixon had reason to be pranoid about democrat activity...