January 28, 2002:
The FBI and NFL Security
Copyright © 2000, 2002 by Dan E. Moldea
As the National Football League wraps up its conference championships and Super Bowl XXXVI approaches next week, I am, once again, reminding football fans about the behind-the-scenes power wielded by the NFL. In this article, I tell another untold story: How I came under investigation by the FBI because of my work on the NFL.
In my controversial--but well-documented--1989 book, Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football, I tracked the history of NFL Security, which is the NFL's internal police force. Explaining the general history and functions of this unit, I wrote in Chapter One:As a result of the 1963 players' betting scandal, [NFL Commissioner Pete] Rozelle created NFL Security and selected Jim Hamilton, the former chief of intelligence with the Los Angeles Police Department, as its first director. In 1966, Hamilton, who died after a long illness, was replaced by William Hundley, the chief of Robert F. Kennedy's organized crime division in the Justice Department. Hundley was succeeded by Jack Danahy, a New York FBI agent, in 1968. Danahy held the position until 1980, when he was followed by the current director of NFL Security, Warren Welsh, a former Miami-based FBI agent.After laying this foundation in the opening chapter, I then proceeded to concentrate much of the rest of my book on how NFL Security manages to gain the cooperation of a variety of law-enforcement agencies in order to avoid public-relations problems when people involved with the NFL get into trouble. In fact, I charged and documented in my book that over fifty legitimate investigations of corrupt activities within the NFL had been either suppressed or flat-out killed because of this sweetheart relationship between NFL Security and the law-enforcement community, particularly with the FBI.
The directors of NFL Security have attempted to safeguard the league against the corruption of its more than 1,500 players, trainers, coaches, owners, and referees, all of whom are potential targets for blackmail and payoffs in exchange for inside information and other favors. NFL Security is supported by a network of private investigators, mostly former officials with the Justice Department and other law enforcement agencies, who are stationed in the twenty-six cities where the twenty-eight NFL teams are based (New York and Los Angeles each support two teams).
"These representatives are on retainer to the league, and they specifically report to the league," Warren Welsh told me. "In addition to their game-day coverage and their liaison with the local law enforcement community, they would also do background investigations that we might have for game officials, an ownership group, impersonations, misrepresentations, whatever it might be, as opposed to just working for the local team."
The NFL, under Rozelle, followed [former NFL commissioner] Bert Bell's policy of maintaining regular contacts with members of the gambling underworld in order to monitor the betting on NFL games. Warren Welsh explains, "We're very cognizant that the early line comes out on Sunday, and we have somebody in Vegas that follows that for us. And then we have our security reps all over the country report in to us, and give us the opening line. And then if there are changes in the line that are over two points they report that immediately. If not, then the security reps report to us on Friday at about noon. And then we are able to disseminate the line and any changes to our key executives, so that they are aware of the information and any changes."
Monitoring NFL personnel, as well as the line, may be unpalatable, but it is necessary. Two years before the Schlichter suspension, several members of the Denver Broncos were quietly disciplined by the league for receiving cocaine from gambling figures. And, in 1986, the league began an investigation of Irving Fryar, a wide receiver for the New England Patriots who was accused of betting on NFL games. Fryar had been named by his team's officials as one of six Patriots players who used illegal drugs. The investigation remains open.
The conditions under which players may be compromised are clear and present in the NFL today. "Our worst case would be the athlete who is strung out on drugs and has a line of credit with his drug dealer and can't pay the bill," says Warren Welsh. "Then he gets that knock on the door. And [the player] says, 'Hey, I told you. I can't pay the bill.' And then [the dealer] says, 'Hey, I don't want your money, but now you're going to work for us.'" . . .
Criticism of the NFL's security system is generally not targeted at the commissioner or the security director. Instead, it's directed at the NFL owners, who establish the league's policies. Aaron Kohn, the former executive director of the Metropolitan Crime Commission of New Orleans, told me, "They [the NFL owners] have a tendency to employ as security people former FBI agents and other people of confidence who do competent investigations and do accumulate adverse information. But at the policy-making level, the decisions are not made consistent with the fact-finding.
"I know that the NFL can't go too far. They are going to do whatever they have to to prevent the problems of their owners and players and their overall profits from becoming subjects of public scrutiny."
Some critics say that the league enforces its rules selectively. "Rozelle [couldn't] enforce the rules against the owners because he works for them," Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association and a former All-Pro guard for the Oakland Raiders, told me. "There's no way he [could] say, 'I'm going to punish you because you own a racetrack, because you're involved in Las Vegas, or because you do business with people who are involved in gambling.' But I would like to think that the rules of suspension and banishment should also apply to the owners."
One top NFL official says, "We've had owners that have supposedly been friends or associates of mobsters, and when we looked into it they had dinner in a restaurant, maybe four or five times in a year." Nevertheless, the NFL did nothing about these owners who socialized with underworld figures.
Another football insider says that many investigations of NFL owners have ended up in "a black hole" and were never disclosed. "To me," he says, "NFL Security is a special police force that monitors the players but protects the owners. It's one thing to monitor the activities of the players, because they come and go. It's quite another to monitor the activities of the owners. They seem to last forever."
Patrick Healy, the former executive director of the Chicago Crime Commission, told me, "The NFL tries to give you the public Kiwanis Club talk: 'We have very little gambling; we have very little drugs. We have everything under control. We have FBI agents working for us, and whenever any rumor comes out they pounce on it. They discover it. They investigate it.' Actually, the whole thing is really just a witch tale."
Former Senate investigator Phil Manuel, another critic of the NFL security system, told me, "The oldest trick in the world is to hire old Justice Department officials and then make them understand that the security they are to protect is the security of the NFL owners.
"These retired law enforcement guys maintain their ties to their old agencies, and they can then tell which investigations are being done and whether they might be troublesome. When some wrongdoing is ready to go public, the NFL Security people can go to their old fellow workers and say, 'We can handle this ourselves. Give us a chance to straighten the mess out without all the attention your public investigation will bring.'"
Ralph Salerno, the former chief of detectives for the New York Police Department, goes even further. "How does the NFL protect itself with one guy in each NFL city? They do it illegally. The local NFL Security guy takes the local police commissioner, the chief of detectives, and any other important law enforcement official and gives him season tickets and box seats. They get wined and dined and taken out to play golf.
"And then these public employees who are paid with public funds come up with criminal information and turn it over to profit-making corporations, like the New York Giants, the Cincinnati Bengals, and so on. And that is illegal. Do the police do that for every trucking company or every furniture manufacturer? Of course not. It would be illegal for them to do it with anyone. But they do it for the NFL. That whole NFL Security operation that Rozelle [bragged] about is simply an illegal operation."
Welsh defends the current system. He insists that he is a "fact finder" and has never been asked to halt an investigation of any NFL personnel. "And there have never been any roadblocks put up in my path in terms of investigating anything that would have to do with a member club--whether it was a player, coach, or an owner."
That might be true: Warren Welsh and his predecessors have all been men of high integrity. But they have had no final decision-making powers. Thus, the real question is: What have their bosses, the NFL owners, done once they received the results of their investigations?
The evidence is clear that they have protected themselves and their investments--sometimes to the detriment of the sport they represent.
In early 1992, I received a call from a colleague who told me that a newly-released book--Alien Ink: The FBI's War on Freedom of Expression, written by author Natalie Robins--revealed that the FBI had maintained a covert "book review section", which had been used to sabotage authors and their published works. My writer-friend added that my embattled 1989 book, Interference, was named in Robins's book and, according to the author, had been one of the FBI's targets--in fact, one of its last two targets before the section went out of business. My colleague knew that I had been extremely critical of the FBI in my book for its suppression of numerous investigations involving National Football League personnel and a variety of underworld figures.
I had never before heard of Robins--who is the wife of Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, the New York Times's widely-respected daily book critic--or her new publication. For whatever reason, she never attempted to interview me. However, I am very grateful for the revelations in her book.
At the time I received the news about Robins's book, my attorneys and I were in the midst of our litigation, Moldea v. New York Times, which claimed that Interference had been sabotaged by the NFL through its relationship with Gerald Eskenazi, a New York Times sportswriter, who had written a false and misleading review of my book in the New York Times Book Review.
However, we had also charged that a second review--which received very little attention but was published in the Washington Post Book World--had been written by a well-known investigative journalist who had also served as a long-time informant for the FBI.
After my friend told me about Robins's book, I began making my own inquiries, going first to the New York Times Book Review. Explaining the contents of Robins's new book, reviewer David Traxel had written:Since antiquity, governments have feared writers because of their willingness to subvert official truths while seductively arguing for visions of their own. . . .In other words, the FBI had created a section within the bureau for the purpose of, when necessary, undermining books with controversial points of view, as well as the authors who wrote them.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had begun gathering information on American writers at least a decade before J. Edgar Hoover assumed command in 1924, but he brought an energetic efficiency and sense of mission to the task that resulted in hundreds of journalists, novelists, short-story writers and poets receiving unwanted reviews. . . .
What they [independent researchers] found ranged from the banal (newspaper clippings, extracts from Current Biography, bone-headed interpretations of the writings that would make a freshman blush with embarrassment) all the way up to serious trouble (malicious and anonymous letters, wiretap transcripts, agent reports)--all perhaps evidence that they had been victims of the sabotage programs the agency ran against those it considered a threat.
Did the FBI's "book-reviewing" operation end with J. Edgar Hoover's death?
In Robins's book, she wrote on pages 373-374:In the eighties, the Book Review Section of the FBI, which had begun life in 1920 as the Publications Section, was placed under the Public Affairs Section. During the 1950s, book reviews had been handled by the Central Research Section, and in the 1960s, by the Research Satellite Section. In the 1970s, they were back under the Central Research Section.Robins then noted these thirteen books, including:
Today, FBI deputy assistant Milt Ahlerich says that certain books are of interest to the FBI "not from an investigative standpoint necessarily," and that "in a very limited fashion we will review five or six books a year." The FBI is no longer looking for subversive writing, but "technique or new research that's being done--maybe a current work on terrorism, a current work on foreign counterintelligence."
In addition, according to FBI special agent Susan Schnitzer, "The authors of books reviewed are not indexed, because it is not done for investigative reasons."
What interested the FBI in the eighties? Thirteen books. . . .In 1989, the Bureau reviewed Interference, by Dan E. Moldea., and Donnie Brasco: An FBI Agent Undercover in the Mafia, by Joseph D. Pistone and Richard Woodley. As of May 1990, no further books were reviewed. (Emphasis added)After calling several sources at the FBI--who, unfortunately, did not have access to records from the bureau's Book Review Section--I filed a Freedom of Information Act request, asking for the FBI's "review" of Interference referred to in Alien Ink.
The FBI investigation
In mid-April 1996, after a four-year wait, I finally received the FBI's files regarding my book about professional football.
These documents demonstrated that, unknown to me, the FBI had placed me under investigation in August 1989, within the days after the release of Interference. The collection of records in the package I received ranged from my investigation of the Teamsters Union--which led to my first book, The Hoffa Wars in 1978--to my work at the left-wing Institute for Policy Studies to my 1986 book, Dark Victory, Ronald Reagan, MCA and the Mob to my probe of the NFL in Interference.
In a portion of a background report to Milt Ahlerich, the FBI deputy assistant who coordinated the investigation of me and my work, an unnamed FBI special agent wrote:I am responding to your request for information concerning the author, Dan Moldea. Mr. Moldea is the subject of Bufile 190-3181, containing five sections. These files contain FOIPA requests dating from 1977 and continuing to the present. The primary subjects of his requests appear to relate to alleged organized crime figures and the Teamsters Union.Dealing specifically with Interference, FBI Special Agent Scott Nelson wrote in another report:
Mr. Moldea is also identified in Bufile 9-60052, Serial 855, dated October 1975. This file identifies Moldea as a self- identified, free-lance writer. . . . [Moldea] previously lived in the Detroit, Michigan, area, and did extensive research on the Teamsters Union. He developed valuable sources close to the Teamsters Union, and planned to put this information into book form. . . . It appeared from Moldea's [theories about the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa] that he was quite knowledgeable of local Teamster politics and individuals associated with the disappearance of Hoffa.Ostensibly providing a public service, the author has turned out a glaring commentary on law enforcement's efforts, or the lack thereof, to rid professional sports of organized-crime influence. At the Federal level, he charges that only the Kennedy and Carter administrations made a serious attempt at curbing organized crime.The FBI, which widely disseminated these and numerous other reports about me, also included the horrific reviews of Interference by Gerald Eskenazi for the New York Times and Sandy Smith for the Washington Post.
Mr. Moldea is highly critical of Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and provides a mixed review of the FBI. While he acknowledges the positive results of some Bureau investigations, he also points out an instance in which the FBI was allegedly uncooperative with the IRS [the Donald Dawson case], that a new Agent working a major gambling case [the Computer Group investigation] was naive to the practices of bookmakers and that the FBI conducted electronic surveillance without court authorization.
Sandy Smith and the Washington Post review
My war with the New York Times over the Eskenazi review is well known. However, very little is known about my streetfight with the Washington Post over the review by Smith, then an investigative reporter for Time whom I openly accused of being a shill and informant for the FBI.
Here is part of what I wrote about Smith in a memorandum to my attorney, Roger Simmons, who was handling the New York Times case:
On October 29, 1989, Sandy Smith published a review of my book, Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football, in the Washington Post Book World. The review was extremely critical and, in my opinion, extraordinarily unfair.
In part, Smith wrote:The most serious problem with Interference is the ridiculous information Moldea cites to support the charge of organized crime influence in pro football. He appears to have been bamboozled by his prime source of information, a Detroit hustler named Don Dawson. . . .On October 30, 1989, I submitted a letter to Nina King, the editor of Book World, in response to the Smith review.
According to Moldea, Dawson's admissions establish that other successful game fixing followed the attempted bribery of two New York Giants in the 1946 NFL championship game.
"Dawson confessed to me that during the 1950s and 1960s he had been personally involved in the fixing of no fewer than 32 NFL games," writes Moldea. "Don Dawson's shocking admission is a first. No one has ever stepped forward and claimed to have actually been involved in fixed games." . . .
Thus Moldea is totally dependent on the shaky credibility of Dawson, a windy gambler convicted in a betting case that had nothing to do with the NFL. The FBI was all over Dawson at the time. While the investigation showed he knew [a particular NFL player] and there was little doubt that [the player] had done some betting through Dawson, there was no evidence of any fixed games."
One major point of contention between Smith and me was which federal agency had conducted the investigation of Detroit bookmaker Donald Dawson. I had claimed in my book that it was the IRS and that, according to federal sources quoted in my book, the FBI had refused to cooperate. Smith claimed that it was the FBI.
In an effort to attack Smith's credibility, I also gave Book World an IRS surveillance report on Dawson and then challenged Smith to support his claims about the FBI. I even asked Book World's editors to publish an "Editor's Note" to determine, once and for all, who was telling the truth: the author or the reviewer.
On November 26, 1989, Book World published my response to Smith's review. However, Book World refused to intervene as a third party to resolve the dispute, even though it's editors were in possession of my evidence that Smith was wrong about the question of which federal agency had conducted the investigation.
Consequently, to the readers of Book World, it was my word against his. And he had the first and last word.
In my published response, I wrote:Sandy Smith spent nearly half of his review of my book, Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football, charging that I was "bamboozled" by one of my principal sources, Detroit bookmaker Donald Dawson. Smith claimed that I was "totally dependent on [Dawson's] shaky credibility," especially with regard to his confession that he had fixed NFL games. Smith's charges are simply not true.In his reply, published on the same page immediately after my response, Smith wrote: "If Dan Moldea had looked around a little more, he would have found that the FBI was indeed 'all over' Don Dawson."
Several federal and state law enforcement officials-- whom I named and quoted in my book--told me that Dawson had participated in the fixing of numerous NFL games. Even former Detroit Lions defensive back Dick 'Night Train' Lane admitted to me that Dawson had personally tried to bribe him.
I then found Dawson and interviewed him. He confessed to me that he had "been involved with players in at least 32 NFL games that were dumped or where points were shaved." (The NFL claims that no game in its 69-year history has ever been successfully fixed.)
In his review, Smith dismissed Dawson's claims as "ridiculous," because "the FBI was all over Dawson at the time." But this is also not true. It was the IRS--not the FBI--that conducted the 1970 federal probe of Dawson and gambling in the NFL and had Dawson under constant surveillance. A top IRS official and several agents involved in the case told me that the FBI refused to cooperate with the IRS in its investigation.
In short, responsible law enforcement officials told me that a target of their investigations had been engaged in NFL game-fixing. I confronted the target with this charge, and he confessed. That would be accepted as credible evidence in any court of law. Consequently, it was incredibly deceptive and misleading of Smith to write that I was "totally dependent" on Dawson and then to use this charge as a means to discredit my book. (Emphasis added)
I was furious when I read Smith's response, because he simply couldn't prove what he had written--whereas I had supplied my evidence to Book World.
Sandy Smith and the FBI
Concluding my memorandum to my attorney, I wondered out loud: (a) where Smith had received his false information; and (b) what the nature of his association with the FBI really was.
While trying to find the answers to these questions, I found three interesting sources about Smith's relationship with the FBI:
* In Sanford J. Ungar's 1976 book, FBI, a critical examination of the bureau, the author wrote on pages 284-285:"As chief spokesman for the Bureau, [Cartha] DeLoach kept a stable of trusted journalists well supplied with information--people such as Hoover's close friend Walter Trohan of the Chicago Tribune, labor columnist Victor Riesel, Jeremiah O'Leary of the Washington Evening Star, Sandy Smith of Time and Life magazines. . . . Like many other government agencies in Washington, the Bureau profited from selectively leaking material to its friends that it wanted to see in print or on the air." (Emphasis added)* In former FBI Special Agent William F. Roemer's 1990 book, Roemer: Man Against The Mob, the author wrote on pages 47-48:"[T]here was one guy in Chicago who was in a position to help us a lot. His name was Sandy Smith, the ace of the investigative reporters in Chicago. Sandy had been with the Chicago Tribune for a decade or so. . . . In general, Sandy's help was invaluable. Whenever we possessed information that we could not use to make a case or to assist in gathering further intelligence, we fed info to Sandy for publication in the Tribune and later, when he left the Trib, in the Sun-Times. (Sandy later left the Sun-Times for Life magazine and eventually Time, where he cemented his reputation as the top crime reporter in the country.)"* In Anthony Summers's book, Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, the author wrote on page 212 that Sandy Smith had allegedly fabricated a story in Life magazine, which was based upon a non-existent FBI transcript:"Life reporter Sandy Smith, who obtained the 'transcript' in 1968, had made his name as an organized-crime specialist while working for the Chicago Tribune, a paper especially favored by the FBI. In 1965, when Playboy consulted Smith about an article by a former agent critical of the FBI, he recommended it be rejected and passed it on to the Bureau. Bureau documents described Smith's value to the FBI as 'inestimable' and say he was 'utilized on many occasions.'Later, Summers gave me his file on Sandy Smith, which included a letter to the editor of Playboy from William W. Turner, a former FBI agent. In his letter, published in the January 1981 issue of the magazine, Turner wrote:
"While Smith has refused to comment, former Life reporter Bill Lambert, who also worked on the Gallagher story, recalled that his colleague was so close to the FBI that he was 'almost like an agent.' It was possible, he agreed, that someone at the FBI might have fed him a phony transcript. Former Assistant Director DeLoach, for his part, has admitted he knew Smith well in 1968, but had no comment on the Life story.""The FBI and the CIA have openly declared that they will continue to secretly employ journalists as collaborators. Obviously, that enables them to propagate their viewpoints with seeming objectivity; but it may interest Playboy's readers to know that there is an even uglier side to this business: disguised censorship. It happened to me some time ago, when my critical article, 'The FBI and Organized Crime,' was submitted to Playboy.Furthermore, at the time of his review of Interference, Sandy Smith was in the midst of a litigation against Little, Brown, the publisher of his recently canceled book about organized crime. Smith and his co-author, Roy Rowan, were represented by Washington attorney William Hundley, the former chief of the Justice Department's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section (OCRS), who had been retained by the two authors in June 1989.
"On March 12, 1965, I was advised by my then literary agent, Lurton Blassingame, that Playboy intended to buy the article and have crime reporter Sandy Smith of the Chicago Sun- Times do some rewrite. Murray Fisher of Playboy gave the article to Smith, and then that's when the fun started. Smith, it turned out, was an FBI collaborator. According to bureau documents recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, he had been 'utilized on many different occasions' and his value was 'inestimable.' No wonder that, in reciprocation, he was able to authoritatively quote 'Justice Department sources' in his crime articles. . . .
"Smith rushed over to the Chicago FBI office and handed my article to Special Agent in Charge Marlin Johnson, who immediately copied it and sent it to Washington. Johnson reported that Smith had 'absolutely no intention of doing this assignment' but 'saw an opportunity to get the article . . . so that we could take a look at it.' Smith intended to tell Fisher that 'it is completely ridiculous, inaccurate and not worth the paper it is written on.'
"One week later, my agent received a memo from Playboy, saying that Smith had told them my article was not worth salvaging and was filled with inaccuracies and errors. . . .
"So the article was dinged, with Playboy's editorial staff not having the slightest notion of the duplicity involved." (Emphasis added)
What is the significance of Hundley's representation of Smith at the time of his review of my book about the NFL?
After leaving the government, Bill Hundley was selected by Pete Rozelle as the director of NFL Security.
In Chapter 18 of Interference, which is entitled "Bill Hundley and NFL Security," I was extremely critical of Hundley's role as NFL security chief, providing specific details of his alleged participation in the suppression and/or killing of official probes, including several investigations of game-fixing.1
However, when I reported Smith's obvious and well-documented conflicts of interest to the Washington Post--including the fact that he was currently represented by an attorney who was the former chief of NFL Security--the Post still decided to do nothing, refusing to give me any ammunition to use in my ongoing libel case against the New York Times, whose attorneys were repeatedly using the Smith review against me in their legal briefs and motions.2
Milt Ahlerich becomes director of NFL Security
Did the FBI attempt to sabotage Interference as a favor to the NFL?
Remarkably, in January 1996--with thousands of candidates to choose from--the NFL's high command selected Milt Ahlerich--the special agent who had supervised the FBI's investigation of Interference and me--to succeed former FBI Special Agent Warren Welsh as the chief of NFL Security. Immediately, Ahlerich began answering to his new boss, Joe Browne, the vice president of NFL communications and Gerald Eskenazi's long-time friend, who had initiated his attacks on Interference seven months before the book's release.
Author Natalie Robins asked the most obvious question at the end of Alien Ink: "Can the excesses that have been the subject of this book happen again?"
My answer? They can, and they will--the next time a journalist decides to investigate the NFL and the Mafia.
Bet on it.
1. In addition, in Chapter 51 of Interference, pages 415-417, I discussed Hundley's role in the killing of a recent federal investigation of MCA, which he later represented as a private attorney. I concluded this section about Hundley--which was also based on my book, Dark Victory: Ronald Reagan, MCA, and the Mob, as well as a June 1988 article, "MCA and the Mob," in Regardie's--charging:
"The evidence is clear that there has been a cabal among some past and present officials of the Justice Department's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section and some of its Strike Force offices. And the NFL, through its long-term sweetheart relationship with a variety of law-enforcement agencies, particularly the OCRS has been a direct beneficiary of this situation--which raises serious questions about possible conflicts of interest, as well as activities that border on sheer political corruption."
Hundley, whom I had interviewed twice, denied my charges about the MCA case, which have since been corroborated by, among other publications, the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee, as well as the American Lawyer. In addition, Hundley directly attacked me in the June 4, 1988, issue of Billboard, over a year before his client, Sandy Smith, reviewed my book.
2. The Smith review of Interference in the Washington Post Book World has been used as a weapon to discredit me in a variety of forums since its publication. The New York Times used it as evidence against me in, among other documents, its motion for summary judgment, submitted to the court on November 30, 1990. Also, it was referred to by attorneys for the plaintiff during my February 11, 1991, sworn deposition as an expert witness for the defense in the libel case, Cooke v. Washingtonian--in which I was, once again, extremely critical of the FBI. The transcript of my sworn statement reflects ten pages of questions and answers specifically regarding the Smith review.
On June 20, 1991, I sent a letter, along with twenty-three exhibits, to Leonard Downie, then-managing editor of the Washington Post. Asking for a retraction of the entire review, I wrote, in part: "Even though a considerable amount of time has passed since the Smith review, . . . I am still being haunted by [it]."
Also, I asked Downie, "Did Hundley or the FBI have any influence on Sandy Smith's review of my book in the Washington Post Book World?"
Without addressing that specific question, Downie sent me his reply on October 26, 1989: "I have reviewed the material you sent . . . with our general counsel. I do not think that there is anything further that should be done in or by the Post at this time.
"As you noted in your chronology, we published your response to the Book World review of your book two years ago. In newspaper terms, much time has passed since. . . . We do not see a reason to pursue this further."
Actually, Downie did know something about Smith. In his 1976 book, The New Muckrakers, Downie had written on page 241 about "the flying squad of muckrakers assembled by Life magazine in its dying days during the late 1960s," who included "Sandy Smith, a burly Chicago newspaper veteran who specialized in investigative stories about the Mafia during two decades with the Tribune and Sun-Times."
On page 242, Downie continued, writing that after Life folded, "Sandy Smith rebounded the most successfully, taking his Justice Department contacts to Life's sister news magazine, Time." (Emphasis added)
In other words, Smith's relationship with the FBI was one of the worst-kept secrets in journalism. Yet, under the guise of objectivity, he was still permitted to publish stories about people, like me, who were critical of his benefactors.