UPDATE FROM BRAD: Glenn Greewald over at Crooks & Liars had a great find which he posted today in time for Feingold himself to pick up on and mention during today's hearings (video clip here). Here's the crux of Greenwald's post...
During his presidential campaign, Richard Nixon said that he would take full advantage of the new law-a promise that raised fears of a massive invasion of privacy. To calm those fears, the Administration last week issued what amounted to an official statement on the subject.
In his first news conference since becoming the President's chief legal officer, Attorney General John N. Mitchell pointedly announced that the incidence of wiretapping by federal law enforcement agencies had gone down, not up, during the first six months of Republican rule. Mitchell refused to disclose any figures, but he indicated that the number was far lower than most people might think. "Any citizen of this United States who is not involved in some illegal activity," he added, "has nothing to fear whatsoever."
Because all of this was before FISA, the Nixon Administration was able to exercise their eavesdropping powers on Americans in secret, without any oversight of any kind --- just like the Bush Administration has been doing even in the face of FISA. We all know how well that worked out. It was the shocking abuses of those powers by not just the Nixon Administration, but by the Kennedy and Johnson Justice Departments as well --- all which were revealed only as part of the Church Committee's investigation --- that led to the enactment of FISA, since the country no longer trusted political officials to exercise eavesdropping powers on Americans in secret and with no oversight.