MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.
ANTHONY BROOKS, host:
And I'm Anthony Brooks.
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BRAND: But first, the CIA this week released its long-awaited collection of previously classified documents known as the family jewels. The 700-page compilation details of some of the agency's nefarious actions in the '60s and the '70s, everything from assassination plots to spying on civil rights activists and American journalists. Among the journalists named in the documents is famed muckraker Jack Anderson and some of his staff. Fox News anchor Brit Hume worked for Anderson at that time, and he joins me now from Washington, D.C. Welcome to the program.
Mr. BRIT HUME (Fox News): Thank you.
BRAND: Well, I understand you too were on the list.
Mr. HUME: Jack was being spied on and a group of his staff. Several of his staff members, including myself, were also being spied on. And it was a fairly elaborate operation, from what we know about it. The operation, I think, if memory serves, was called Operation Mud Hen or something like that. And we all had code names which were drawn from liquor. I was Eggnog, somebody was Brandy, somebody was Champagne. I've forgotten what the others were. And they had a nest in an office building across the street from the building where Jack had his offices.
They had agents out watching our houses, following us to and from work, following my wife when she was taking the kids to school and that sort of thing. It must have been very tedious for them because I didn't have anything to do with the leaks that they were investigating that Jack had gotten. So they've complied a lot of not very interesting information about me, I'm afraid, so I didn't feel I had too much to worry about.
BRAND: Well, take us back to that time because this was a pretty tumultuous time in the country's history. What was Jack Anderson writing about at that time that got the CIA so interested in him and then you?
Mr. HUME: At the time that this all germinated, Jack had received a huge collection of highly classified documents from inside the Nixon administration, which among other thing showed that the despite publicly declared neutrality in the then-conflict between India and Pakistan, in fact the administration had privately and secretly tilted heavily toward Pakistan. And it was referred to, I think, in the documents as the tilt.
Now, Jack Anderson wrote a column about this in which I think he made mention without quoting from the documents. The column had absolutely no impact. I mean he had a huge readership, and I'm sure his readers read it and were interested in it. But it didn't cause any kind of a stir in Washington. So the next time he wrote the same column, only about a week or so later, and this time he quoted at some length from the documents themselves. Well, that woke everybody up.
They next thing you know, the reporters in the hallway wanted to see the documents and Jack was only too happy to comply. Great swatches of Xerox documents were carted out of the Jack Anderson offices there K Street by a number of reporters and the contents splashed all over the nation's news media. And it was a very big deal at that time, because the Nixon administration was clearly not telling the public the truth about what its policy was.
Jack eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on that. But it was regarded, and I think probably correctly so by the Nixon administration, as this kind of a security hemorrhage. And this CIA operation, I think, was inspired, if that's the right word, by that reporting.
BRAND: Well, all this talk about secrecy and internal spying, it kind of brings to mind the current administration, wouldn't you think?
Mr. HUME: Well, maybe, but I'm not sure how much real internal spying has been going on here. I mean this is light years from the atmosphere that I remember in the 1970s. I lived through all that. It was a darker time than now. The atmosphere in that White House was deeply paranoid compared to what we see today. Although most presidencies or presidents and their staffs end up with a low regard for the news media, whatever party they belong to. It was much worse then.
BRAND: A lot of this information in these documents, these family jewels, as you say, has been out for a long time. You knew about the spying on yourself since 1980. Anything that surprised you from the release yesterday of the documents?
Mr. HUME: I haven't really looked at it very carefully because it's kind of a twice-told tale, and maybe I will today. But I remember at the time, you know, it was really kind of a two-edged sword because being considered a victim of the nefarious practices of the Nixon administration and the CIA was good for one's career at the time.
And I don't mean to be cynical about it, but that's that way it worked at that time. So it was - you know, and the best thing, of course, that could have happen to you during your career in the 1970s was to actually be on the so-called enemy's list. That was really good for business. Unfortunately, Jack made the enemy's list. I think I only kind of made it by extension, which was a disappointment.
(Soundbite of laughter)
BRAND: Okay. Well, Fox News anchor Brit Hume - or should I call you Eggnog.
Mr. HUME: Yeah, you could call me - you are free to call me Eggnog. There are people still who know me by that name.
BRAND: All right, Eggnog. Thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. HUME: My pleasure.
BRAND: And you can find a link to the CIA's declassified documents at our Web site, NPR.org.