ABC's Marlantes Suggests Bush Admin Worse Than Illegal CIA of the Past

On ABC's World News Sunday, during a story about the release of classified information regarding the CIA's "cloak and dagger" past, correspondent Liz Marlantes suggested that the Bush administration engages in abuses that are worse than the illegal activities detailed in the documents. Marlantes: "But this all comes when the CIA is under fire for an alleged array of current abuses, including the use of secret prisons and torture. Some say the activities of the past may look mild by comparison."

As anchor Dan Harris set up the report, he conveyed that the documents "detail 30 years of illegal CIA operations, from assassination plots to experiments on humans." Marlantes listed some of the activities that included "assassination conspiracies against foreign leaders like Fidel Castro, the infiltration of anti-war groups, and screening of private mail, including letters to actress and antiwar activist Jane Fonda," and "putting journalists under surveillance." (Transcipt follows)

As Marlantes relayed CIA director Michael Hayden's comments that the documents detail activities of "a very different time and a very different agency," the ABC correspondent saw it differently. Marlantes: "But this all comes when the CIA is under fire for an alleged array of current abuses, including the use of secret prisons and torture. Some say the activities of the past may look mild by comparison."

After showing a clip of Bush administration critic James Bamford complaining that some of the controversial actions that were done "in a very mild degree" decades ago are now being done "wholesale," Marlantes concluded: "A look back at a controversial history, whose lessons may be more relevant than ever."

Below is a complete transcript of the report from the June 24 World News Sunday on ABC:

DAN HARRIS: The CIA is going to release some of its deepest, darkest secrets tomorrow, documents detailing 30 years of illegal CIA operations, from assassination plots to experiments on humans. Not only is the spy agency disclosing this long-hidden information, it is also doing it voluntarily. ABC's Liz Marlantes has the story.

LIZ MARLANTES: They are known as the "family jewels," documents so secret and so potentially damaging that the CIA has fought to keep them classified until now.

THOMAS BLANTON, National Security Archive: The "family jewels" are a series of CIA officers going into the confessional and saying, "Forgive me, father, for, I have sinned."

MARLANTES: Then-CIA director James Schlesinger ordered the 700-page dossier in 1973, compiling decades of illegal activities by the agency. Many details were later revealed in newspaper reports and congressional hearings. It is the stuff of spy novels. Among the abuses, assassination conspiracies against foreign leaders like Fidel Castro, the infiltration of anti-war groups, and screening of private mail, including letters to actress and antiwar activist Jane Fonda. The CIA also put journalists under surveillance, like columnist Jack Anderson and his then-assistant Brit Hume.

MICHAEL GETLER, Former Washington Post reporter: It was very spooky, very spooky. I mean, this is America. And you don't expect that.

MARLANTES: Former Washington Post reporter Michael Getler was monitored by a team of agents around the clock.

GETLER: They were watching who I was talking to. They took pictures of who I was having lunch with. They actually took pictures through the picture window of our home.

MARLANTES: The CIA would have had to release the documents eventually under the Freedom of Information Act. But the decision to do it now may reflect a new openness on the part of the agency about its cloak and dagger past. CIA director Michael Hayden described the documents as a glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency. But this all comes when the CIA is under fire for an alleged array of current abuses, including the use of secret prisons and torture. Some say the activities of the past may look mild by comparison.

JAMES BAMFORD, Author of Body of Secrets: A lot of the things that were done in a very mild degree back in the '50s, '60s and '70s are now being done on a whole scale basis.

MARLANTES: A look back at a controversial history, whose lessons may be more relevant than ever. Liz Marlantes, ABC News, Washington.