Tags: Next | FBI | Director: | Privacy | the | Jackboot?

Next FBI Director: Privacy or the Jackboot?

Monday, 07 May 2001 12:00 AM

One of the names on the list of prospective nominees is Republican Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating. His name has stirred a firestorm of controversy within the conservative movement.

"I want to go on record as unalterably opposed" to Keating, declared Free Congress Foundation President Paul Weyrich, who granted NewsMax.com permission to quote him at a usually off-the-record briefing.

Speaking directly to a top White House aide at his weekly luncheon last week, Weyrich said that he had "admired” Keating as an individual, but that the governor lacked an "understanding” of the Fourth Amendment’s protections of privacy rights. Keating, in Weyrich’s view, would be "a terrible selection” who is "tilted way, way toward law enforcement” at the expense of individual rights.

On the other side of the argument, Human Events Political Editor John Gizzi told me during a chat on Radio America Network’s "Dateline: Washington” the next day (Thursday), "I look forward personally to the day when Human Events can take the picture of the young Frank Keating shaking hands with his hero and director, J. Edgar Hoover, and say the torch has finally been passed.”

On most issues, the Oklahoma chief executive’s conservative credentials are in order. Many conservatives, longing for the spit and polish of the Hoover days, take some comfort in Keating’s record as a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the last days of the legendary longtime FBI chief when that hand-shaking picture was taken. In those days, he served on the West Coast with a variety of duties, including (according to the bio on the governor’s Web site) investigating "new left terrorists.”

But Weyrich’s privacy specialist, Lisa S. Dean, tells NewsMax.com that "Keating is very much like Freeh in the sense that he is so pro-law enforcement that our constitutional rights are secondary. Conservatives like him because he is pro-life, but he’s not pro-liberties. So we oppose any mention of him in the running to replace Freeh.”

She also cites what she says is Keatings’s support for "key recovery encryption” (reading private e-mails without a proper warrant).

In one of her commentaries for Free Congress, Dean quotes Freeh as saying in Senate testimony, "We need a Fourth Amendment for the Information Age.”

That, of course, sends chills up and down the spines of those who have feared the jackboot that reared its ugly head in many ways during the Clinton years.

Where does Keating stand on the Fourth Amendment? According to Dean, he supported "expanded wiretap capability without considering the legal standard for such taps might be too low, and too many taps are allowed" already.

In a conversation with Gizzi, Keating said he was not expecting "the call” but that if the president offered him the FBI director’s job, he would "think about it long and hard.”

Acutally, he seems to be content with "pursuing a conservative agenda as governor of Oklahoma.” That agenda, he added, includes eliminating the income tax for his state.

Keating has done many things that please conservatives and is perhaps symbolic of that state’s move to the right in recent years.

As one example, he enthusiastically signed a bill doing away with the state’s auto inspection program, which the governor declared had "outlived its time.”

Contrast that with EPA Administrator and former Gov. Christie Whitman’s New Jersey. There, even as data came through proving that the state’s auto inspection system could be replaced with a simple test, the state’s EPA director said the program could not be abandoned after spending $500 million on it.

But privacy is not the only concern about Keating from the conservative standpoint. Jim Boulet, Jr., executvie director of English First, points out that "Governor Keating personally prevented a vote on making English the official language of Oklahoma,” denouncing the proposal as "mean-spirited and narrow-minded.”

Given the demonization of dissent that characterized the Clinton years, Boulet opines that conservatives "should properly be concerned” about that comment from the governor.

Much of the conservative support for Keating comes from those who yearn for the days when his hero, J. Edgar Hoover, was tracking down communists in this country, as they were worming their way into every facet of American society, including (one might say especially) the government itself. Surely, they reason, it is time to put an honest no-nonsense G-man back in charge of the FBI to regain the level of respect from which the agency has fallen in the years since Hoover died.

Of course, Hoover had his own image problems with privacy issues. But Cartha "Deke” DeLoach, a top FBI official in the Hoover era, argues in his book, "Hoover’s FBI,” that, contrary to left-wing mythology, Hoover was sensitive to privacy concerns.

He took the rap for bugging Martin Luther King Jr.’s private quarters. Sen. Robert Kennedy, D-N.Y., jumped all over the FBI boss for that until Hoover produced a letter clearly showing that the eavesdropping on King had been ordered by Kennedy himself when he was attorney general, and thus Hoover’s boss.

Whatever the ultimate verdict on Hoover, privacy-minded conservatives maintain that this is a different era, especially with more advanced and more intrusive investigative technology. That can be a blessing or it can be a curse, depending on the sensitivity of the user. Besides, they note, Keating would have to stand on his own merits, not on any long-ago association with Hoover.

Strained relations between the governor and the Bush administration have resulted from the way - as Keating’s backers see it - the Bush entourage left him dangling when he was being considered first as Bush’s running mate in 2000 and later for attorney general.

A column by Robert Novak claimed the Bush people leaked a story putting an old loan involving Keating in an unfairly unfavorable light. According to this account, Keating told the higher-ups in the Bush camp that he wouldn’t treat his worst enemy the way they had treated him.

That may be why Keating "does not expect the call.” On the other hand, it could work the other way. Bush may think he "owes him one.”

Several candidates have emerged as possibilities to take the reins at the FBI. The New York Post on Wednesday named Keating as a likely choice. Then on Sunday, the Washington Times reported that former DEA Administrator Robert C. Bonner had the inside track. These appear to be leaked trial balloons.

Others supposedly in the running are former Treasury Undersecretary Ronald K. Noble; Kathleen McChesney, agent-in-charge of the field office in Chicago; onetime Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger; former DEA Administrator John Lawn; Justice Department prosecutor Robert Mueller; federal appeals court judge Joel M. Flaum; U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White; and former Customs Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

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One of the names on the list of prospective nominees is Republican Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating. His name has stirred a firestorm of controversy within the conservative movement. I want to go on record as unalterably opposed to Keating, declared Free Congress Foundation...
Monday, 07 May 2001 12:00 AM
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