IN OTHER WORDS: Jack’s files

Over four decades as one of most famous US investigative journalists, Jack Anderson amassed thousands of documents that a lot of top officials wanted to keep secret. Mostly, they were embarrassing missteps or leaks by whistle-blowers who saw things going wrong and wanted to tell somebody. But now, only a few months after his death, the FBI wants to paw through 188 boxes of Anderson’s old files to look for documents they say might have been classified somewhere along the line as secret.

The Anderson family has rightly refused to allow the FBI unfettered access to these papers, arguing that such an intrusion would betray Anderson’s principles as a journalist and amount to a fishing expedition that could intimidate other journalists and their sources. The reasons should be clear to anyone who values the free exchange of ideas. First, much of the substance in those documents has been published. Second, if it is classified, it is probably old, and may not have deserved to be classified in the first place.

This administration always excuses its obsession with secrecy by citing national security. If that’s the larger issue, is the Anderson estate really a priority? Is the public really best served in the age of high-tech terrorism by having FBI agents rifling through a dead reporter’s files?