Jerry Ford OK’d warrantless wiretaps, memo reveals

So Nixon’s “imperial presidency” didn’t die when he took that last flight to San Clemente.

Ford’s Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney, must have been delighted (and surely helped Ford
come to that decision).


Jerry Ford OKed Warrantless Wiretaps in U.S., Memo Reveals

President Gerald Ford secretly authorized the use of warrantless domestic wiretaps for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes soon after coming into office, according to a declassified document.
The Dec. 19, 1974 White House memorandum, marked Top Secret/Exclusively Eyes Only and signed by Ford, gave then-Attorney General William B. Saxbe and his successors in office authorization “to approve, without prior judicial warrants, specific electronic surveillance within the United States which may be requested by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

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One thought on “Jerry Ford OK’d warrantless wiretaps, memo reveals”

  1. Rumsfeld was also Ford’s Secretary of Defense. I suspect that after 9/11 they just dusted off the old playbook.

    Ford was _not_ interested in dirty tricks. He was (legitimately) worried about Soviet surveillance of US telecommunications networks. Ford was actually out front on many privacy issues. This, I suspect was a stopgap after initially discovering the scope of the threat.

    The biggest news of the memo is what was redacted:

    “C. That the minimum physical intrusion necessary to obtain the information sought will be used.”

    Electronic surveillance was not illegal in 1974. FISA wouldn’t be around for a few more years and existing laws didn’t even define electronic surveillance so at the time, this was not illegal but alegal perhaps. The activity authorized by the redacted text is and was illegal. Essentially, Ford empowered the AG to authorize the commission of burglary in order to gather electronic surveillance. That is and was illegal no matter how you slice it. It’s no wonder it was redacted.

    John Laprise
    Visiting Assistant Professor
    Northwestern University in Qatar

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