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Enjoying The Ride — Backwards?

Sean Gonsalves

OK, I admit it. I was excited when I first heard the CIA was going to show us the "family jewels." You could say I have an intelligence fetish; an affinity for analysis.

But now that I've seen the "jewels" it all seems rather anti-climatic, about as satisfying as Geraldo's exploration of Al Capone's vault.

A few lowlights from the file:

The CIA planned to poison the late Republic of Congo premier Patrice Lumumba (page 464) and offered $150,000 for a mob hit on Castro.

The "jewels" confirm that the government had their own LSD hippies on the payroll, conducting "drug experiments" on unwitting victims (page 213).

The Agency kidnapped and illegally detained Russian defector Yuriy Nosenko (page 522).

The one interesting tidbit buried in the Nosenko notes is that the CIA actually worried about the illegal detention of one person.

Today, we've got the CIA running secret prisons where more than one "enemy combatant" is being held and tortu - I mean, interrogated.

A few other family gems: domestic eavesdropping has been around since G Dub was in diapers and - oh my god! - the CIA had a particular interest in the private lives of Americans identified with the Left - real evil people, like John Lennon (page 552) who clearly posed a clear and present danger to "the national interest."

Not only have these sordid tales been open secrets for a long time, the Fourth Estate was reporting on most of this stuff 30 years ago. Seymour Hersh first broke the story on the CIA's domestic spying on the front page of the New York Times in December 1974.

And, anyone familiar with the Church and Pike investigations Congress did back in the mid-1970s will see the "family jewels" for what they are: a response to a 15-year-old Freedom of Information Act request that provides more corroboration than revelation.

You gotta hand it to the PR department on the Backward Bush Train, though. Release documents that corroborate or embellish the "dirty secrets" we already know, while scoring propaganda points demonstrating the health of an "open society." The declassification of open secrets. Brilliant!

I wonder what the national archives will reveal 30 years from now about Bush's "war on terror" - if we make it that far.

What we already know - cooked intelligence, torture, indefinite detentions in secret prisons, unprecedented domestic snooping powers - makes the Cold War-era seem quaint.

Of course, looking at the "jewels" in today's light, it's clear we're not only repeating 1960s history, we're heading even further backward.

Next stop: 1954, as Bush's Supreme Court appointees have essentially overturned the landmark desegregation Brown v. Board of Education case.

As Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his dissenting opinion, the majority opinion "reverses course and reaches the wrong conclusion. In doing so, it distorts precedent, it misapplies the relevant constitutional principles, it announces legal rules that will obstruct efforts by state and local governments to deal effectively with the growing resegregation of public schools, it threatens to substitute for present calm a disruptive round of race-related litigation."

Next stop: the Robber Baron era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If you look to you're Right you'll see the Supremes decided to give manufacturers greater leeway to set minimum prices, which flip antitrust laws on their head, hurting both consumers and small merchants.

As a black man I'm starting to get real nervous. I mean, at the rate we're going, we'll be back to the Civil War days in no time. And then maybe we'll start hearing "conservatives" once again extolling the virtues of chattel slavery.

Can any of my fellow-travelers tell me where I can catch the train heading back to the future?

Sean Gonsalves is an assistant news editor for the Cape Cod Times and a syndicated columnist. He can be reached at

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