President Lyndon B. Johnson had an "enemies list" of his own, FBI records reveal.
The FBI conducted extensive surveillance of a U.S. senator, Wayne Morse of Oregon, after he opposed Johnson's Vietnam War policy, and the FBI complied with Johnson's order to find derogatory information on private citizens who wrote to Morse in support of his views, according to the documents, which were obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act.The records were obtained by free-lance writer Mark Kirchmeier of Washington. An article by Kirchmeier, based on the documents, appears in Sunday's edition of the Portland, Ore., Oregonian.
The article says the FBI sought to obtain embarrassing information on Morse and on nearly 100 private citizens who wrote to him to express support for his views on the war.
The records obtained from the FBI showed that as early as 1964, the agency began investigating Morse and his supporters.
Later, the documents showed, the FBI also conducted surveillance of Wes Michaelson, who was a principal adviser to Oregon Gov. Mark O. Hatfield at the time. Hatfield strongly opposed the Vietnam policies of Johnson and President Richard M. Nixon.
When Nixon's "enemies list," which has become a symbol of abuse of executive branch power, surfaced during Watergate, it was revealed that Hatfield had made that roster due to his dovish Vietnam views. The Morse files indicate Johnson may have used a similar strategy to protect his Vietnam policies.
The Vietnam War has been over, and Morse dead, for nearly 15 years. But the disclosures raise questions that have relevance in 1988. Congress has never resolved the issue of whether the FBI should demonstrate evidence that shows possible communist or subversive activity before undertaking thorough, official investigations of individuals.
Morse represented Oregon in the Senate from 1944 until 1968, when he was defeated by the current incumbent, Bob Packwood. Morse was widely regarded as a maverick in the Senate who jealously guarded his political independence.
In August 1964, Morse and Ernest Gruening, D-Alaska, were the only two senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which became the basis of major U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.
Later in August 1964, an FBI domestic intelligence specialist notified FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover of the identities of 196 persons who wrote letters to Morse supporting his vote, Kirchmeier discovered.
Two years later, in 1966, Morse had letters from 93 people who opposed the war inserted in the Congressional Record.
The FBI files indicate Johnson saw the letters and immediately ordered his legal counsel, Jake Jacobsen, to have FBI agents seek derogatory information on the 93 people. Four days later, FBI agents reported uncovering embarrassing facts on 17 of the 93 persons. Jacobsen told them to "be alert" for that type of information in the future.
In 1967, after Morse and seven other senators asked Johnson to halt U.S. bombing in North Vietnam, the FBI agents sent a report to C.D. "Deke" DeLoach, then the director of the FBI's investigative section, discussing "possible communist and subversive influences" on Morse and the other senators.
Jacobsen, now an oil executive in Austin, Texas, defends the LBJ-ordered surveillance. "It (the investigations) didn't have much to do with Sen. Morse, as much as with the people who wrote him," he says.