My Family Story of Love, the Mob, and Government Surveillance
While I was working one early-December afternoon, Jim Baker, a career government lawyer and surveillance-law expert, came by to help. Baker had not been involved in the initial approval of Stellarwind, in 2001, and when he’d found out about it, he wasn’t pleased.
“Take a look at this,” Baker said, handing me a piece of paper with scribbled signatures. It was a one-page memorandum, dated October 10, 1963, in which Attorney General Robert Kennedy had approved electronic surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr.—surveillance that yielded information the FBI would use to try to destroy King’s marriage and pressure him to abandon the civil-rights movement. At the time, I was astonished to learn that Kennedy had authorized the surveillance, without a warrant and without limit, and that he had done so based on a factually unsupported link between King and communism.
“This is why we have FISA,” Baker explained, jabbing his finger at the document. He saw the King surveillance as a cautionary tale about the dangers of government corner-cutting. “If they think FISA is cumbersome or too slow, we can get rid of it,” he said.