Thomas Sowell

Clint Eastwood's movie character "Dirty Harry" Callahan was clean compared to Dirty Harry Reid, the Senate Democrats' minority leader. Callahan may have roughed up the bad guys but Senator Dirty Harry Reid smears anybody for any reason.

 While Senator Reid's cheap shot that President Bush was a "loser" -- a strange label for someone who has beaten Reid's party twice -- got a certain amount of notice in the media, a far worse remark by Senator Dirty Harry is that Michigan judge and federal judicial nominee Henry Saad has some things in his FBI file that should give Senators pause before confirming him.

 What makes this dirty is that FBI files contain anything that anybody has said about you, whether it is true or untrue. That is why FBI files are confidential, because they include unsubstantiated statements that have not been evaluated by anybody.

 Most Senators -- including Dirty Harry Reid -- have not and cannot see what is in the FBI file on Judge Saad because only members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are allowed to see that file. If any member of that committee said anything about that file to Senator Reid, that member violated confidentiality.

 Even Judge Saad himself cannot see the file, so he has no way of knowing what Senator Reid is referring to -- and therefore no way to defend himself against whatever unknown statement may be there. Nor is there any way for him or us to know whether whatever is in the file is serious or trivial.

 We have only the word of Senator Dirty Harry Reid.

 It so happens that my own FBI file, compiled back in the 1970s when President Ford nominated me to the Federal Trade Commission, contains a claim that I was a Communist. Not even the people who were opposed to my nomination took that seriously. But anonymous statements to the FBI are a way to knife someone in the back.

 Obviously the statement about me was made by someone who was both hostile to me and ignorant enough of my politics to think that this charge would fly. That narrows down the suspects and I have a pretty good idea who it was.

 But the point here is that anybody can say anything to the FBI during one of these investigations, which is why the files are kept confidential, leaving things in them to be evaluated later on by a few authorized people. The statement against Judge Saad might easily have come from someone who lost a case in his court.

 Why is Senator Reid making insinuations about unknown and unsubstantiated statements in Judge Saad's confidential FBI file? Because Dirty Harry is desperate.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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