Judge LAURENCE H. SILBERMAN writes this in the 20 July 2005 Wall Street Journal:
We told the [House Judiciary] committee that the bureau had sought, at the direction of a political figure, to gather unfavorable information on his opponent during an election campaign. Rep. Herman Badillo of New York pressed me to admit that it was an investigation of Allard Lowenstein, an antiwar candidate running against Rep. John Rooney, the powerful chairman of an appropriations panel with jurisdiction over the FBI. I repeatedly denied that and finally said it involved the presidential campaign of 1964. Shortly thereafter, Don Edwards, the chairman, terminated the hearing. But reporters dug out more facts.
Only a few weeks before the 1964 election, a powerful presidential assistant, Walter Jenkins, was arrested in a men's room in Washington. Evidently, the president was concerned that Barry Goldwater would use that against him in the election. Another assistant, Bill Moyers, was tasked to direct Hoover to do an investigation of Goldwater's staff to find similar evidence of homosexual activity. Mr. Moyers' memo to the FBI was in one of the files.
(HT: Irish Pennants)
Mark Felt's ghost writer offered another story in the same vein:
Contrary to legend, J. Edgar and Richard M. thoroughly disliked each other, though they kept their feelings under wraps. Following his usual custom of trying to keep new presidents off-balance. Hoover sent Mark Felt to investigate trumped-up charges by political gossip columnist Jack Anderson that John Ehrlichman, a Nixon adviser, was a homosexual. Ehrlichman was cleared, but from that moment Felt had him in his pocket, and the president had it in for Felt.
When Hoover died, Felt served for one day as acting director. But when it was suggested that Felt take over Hoover's job, Nixon was emphatically against it. Felt was "a bad guy," Nixon said. "I don't want him. I want a fellow in there that is not part of the old guard." Instead, he appointed L. Patrick Gray III, a Justice Department official. When the scandal began to build, Bob Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff, complained, "the FBI is not under control because Pat Gray doesn't exactly know how to control it." Felt was running the investigation, and it was "leading into some productive areas" and getting much too close to home. Every thing that FBI agents were turning up was in Felt's hands. Moreover, Haldeman suspected, and he was correct, that Ehrlichman was reporting White House cover-up activities to Felt, and he had been told that Felt was leaking to the Washington Post and to Time.
Sure, this is old news; we all know that the FBI under Hoover collected reams of information for blackmail. But it is worth remembering that it was precisely this sordid FBI culture that Mark Felt wanted to preserve.
Hoover's capacity for blackmail was wholly a function of the press's love of anonymous leaks. Most of the information in those confidential files was useless for law enforcement or intelligence work. Hoover's victims did not fear arrest: they feared seeing their dirty laundry splashed across the front page of a newspaper. The FBI could always find some "investigative journalist" who was willing to accept their leak and run with a hot story. That their source was breaking the law seemed not to trouble them at all.
This is just one more reason why a blanket shield law for journalists is a bad idea. They "protect the slimiest type of bureaucratic infighter when our goal should be to expose them as the scum they are.