Former President George W. Bush lied to FBI Director Robert Mueller in the Oval Office to protect White House programs that secretly eavesdropped on Americans, according to an upcoming book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tim Weiner.
In "Enemies," the former New York Times reporter reveals the extent of the bureau's long war against terrorists, spies and anyone considered subversive, including American presidents. Among its explosive claims, Weiner reports that the FBI was penetrated by agents working for China, Russia, Cuba and al-Qaeda and that the bureau gathered evidence that was sufficient to impeach Presidents Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
In the wake of 9/11, when the Bush administration expanded its anti-terror programs to include warrantless eavesdropping of Americans' phones and emails, FBI director Mueller was one who opposed the program because he felt that the White House was "trying to do an end run" around the law. After drafting a letter of resignation, Mueller met with Bush one-on-one on March 12, 2004, telling him that "he would resign if the FBI was ordered to continue warrantless searches on Americans without an order from the Department of Justice." The meeting came the day after the infamous bedside visit to Attorney General John Ashcroft, when White House chief of staff Andy Card and legal director Alberto Gonzales unsuccessfully tried to get the ailing Ashcroft to sign off on the program.
Weiner writes of Bush and Mueller:
"Both men had sworn upon taking office to faithfully execute the laws of the United States. Only one still held to his oath.
"The president pleaded ignorance of the law and the facts. He said he hadn't known there had been legal problems with Stellar Wind. He said he hadn't known [Attorney General John] Ashcroft had been in the hospital. He said he hadn't known Mueller and (acting Attorney General James) Comey had been blowing the whistle. He was almost surely deceiving the director, and deliberately ...
"Bush promised to put the programs on a legal footing. This did not happen overnight. It took years. But based on the president's promise, Mueller and his allies backed down from their threats to resign. Bush kept the secret for twenty more months."
A spokesman for Bush did not return an email for comment from The Huffington Post.
Among other revelations:
- Despite the bureau's domestic purview, the FBI has engaged in many overseas operations and "choreographed" the 1965 American invasion that installed FBI informant Joaquin Balaguer as president of the Dominican Republic. As a testament to its powers of persuasion, the bureau recruited the exiled president within 72 hours of his visit to New York City. The bureau was also able to place spies at the highest levels of communist China, the Soviet Union and Cuba, according to Weiner.
- Weiner is particularly critical of former FBI director Louis Freeh, claiming that the bureau was penetrated by agents working for China, Russia, Cuba and al Qaeda during his tenure. Weiner adds: "The Bureau spent far more time and energy" on the investigation into allegations that China's intelligence services had bought political influence at the White House "than it did on any terrorism investigation during the Clinton years."
- The late FBI official Mark Felt wasn't the only "Deep Throat" -- there were at least five of them, including Bob Kunkel (in charge of Washington field office) and Charles Bates, Dick Long and Charles Nuzum, (chief and lead agent in the FBI's white-collar crime section). These men, along with a few trusted fellow agents, would meet at the end of the day to discuss the Watergate investigation. "They would make a decision, a conscious decision, to leak to the newspapers. They did that because of the White House obstructing the investigation. And they leaked it because it furnished the impetus to continue," agent Paul Daly told Weiner.
- The rumors about J. Edgar Hoover's cross-dressing and homosexual tendencies have become legend -- and provided fodder for Clint Eastwood's recent movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the head G-man -- but Weiner discounts the rumors. He attributes them to rival CIA director William "Wild Bill" Donovan and to an book that describes Hoover's sexual relations with companion Clyde Tolson. "It would be fascinating if it were true. But it is almost surely false. The allegation rests on third-hand hearsay from highly unreliable sources. Not a shred of evidence supports the notion that Hoover ever had sex with Tolson or any other human being."
- Hoover's staff obtained documents in the 1930s "suggesting lucrative financial connections among American bankers, multinational companies doing underground business with Germany, the German-American Bund and the Nazi government." The FBI got the information by recruiting an assistant cashier and midlevel manager at America's biggest bank, Chase, sneaking in and spending hours poring through records.
- Hoover was prescient in at least one respect -- sending intelligence warnings of suicidal airborne attacks against New York and Washington from 1947 on -- describing "suicide planes with atom bombs," "large-scale attack of suicide paratroopers" and "dirty bombs" unleashed in attache cases in midtown Manhattan.
- The bureau revealed evidence of the Reagan White House's plot to divert the proceeds of arms sales to Iran to the Contras in Nicaragua. "In a remarkable feat of forensics, FBI agents recovered and restored the backup tapes for the internal White House email system that recorded the arms sales and the diversion of funds," writes Weiner, despite the fact that Oliver North and national security adviser John Poindexter shredded records and deleted computer files.