Thursday, September 21, 2006

Letter to the Times: US Gov't record ain't pretty

Letter to the NY Times:
To the Editor:

Two pieces in today's Times understate the spottiness of the US government's record regarding civil liberties and human rights.

First, in "While Nixon Campaigned, the FBI Watched John Lennon" (Editorial Observer, Sept. 21), Adam Cohen mentions the "many domestic spying abuses of the 1960s and 1970s--including the wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr." But wiretapping was the least of the spying abuses King suffered. As historian Taylor Branch has documented and as the Boston Globe mentioned in an editorial on King's birthday this year, the FBI also installed microphones in King's hotel rooms, recorded his extramarital affairs and sent copies of the tapes to the Kings, along with a note demanding he commit suicide or else his "filthy, abnormal fraudulent self [would be] bared to the nation."

And in "Chile Seeks US Files on 1976 Assassination" (news article, Sept. 21), Larry Rohter writes that the US investigation of a killing likely ordered by General Pinochet is "politically delicate" here because past Republican administrations "supported the Pinochet dictatorship as a bulwark against leftist encroachment in Latin America". It's worse than that. Documents the Clinton administration released in 1999 reveal, among other damning evidence, that when even Henry Kissinger's cherry-picked US ambassador to Chile complained of Pinochet's atrocities, the then-Secretary of State wrote back "Cut out the political science lectures."

Clearly, the United States government's record on civil liberties and human rights has been at times not merely a case of overstepping bounds, but of willful abuse.

Ben Wheeler
Brooklyn, NY
September 20, 2006