Subversives-the FBI´s war on student radicals, and Reagan´s rise to power (Seth Rosenfeld):
“CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request. The fact that existence or nonexistence of requested records is currently and properly classified.”
my oh my. As soon as I saw this book, I made an immediate purchase. Mandatory, with no explanation required.
First & foremost, Subversives is an extraordinary deposit of information, encompassing a strenuously fought legal extraction on behalf of the author from the FBI under extended Freedom of Information requests. The extraction (the first FOIA was issued in 1981) would stretch on to become one of the longest in US history.
“My fight for the files resulted in the release of the most extensive record of FBI activities concerning a university during J. Edgar Hoover´s tenure, and the most complete release of bureau records on Ronald Reagan´s pre-presedential years. These documents show that during the Cold War, FBI officials sought to change the course of history by politics. The bureau´s efforts by secretly interceding in events, manipulating public opinion and taking sides in partisan politics. The bureau´s effort, decades later, to improperly withhold information about those activities under the FOIA are, in effect, another attempt to shape history, this time by obscuring the past.”
I found the nature of the book´s writing style suffering from a mild but palpable blandness. It would still be worth reading for the information & extracts alone, but the strength of the subject matter, the quoted content (of which there is a lot) & secondary reporting is tremendous & helps balance the dryness.
So essentially what you are talking about here is massive, massive legal overreach on behalf of the FBI. Furthermore, the tactics employed, by a domestic intelligence agency, were often illegal, supremely dishonest & clandestine, grossly undemocratic & flagrantly unethical. They were also – socially & politically – completely biased & unilateral (in accordance with right wing conservative ideology). Naturally, a secret alliance of this scale & calibre between a national intelligence agency – operating covertly against it´s own citizens, with close collusion to the White House & it´s president – is by definition a “conspiracy”.
“Conservative professors funnelled information to him about colleagues they deemed suspect, and sent Reagan reports like the one beginning, ´Ron, my spies tell me …´”
Espionage, disruption, disinformation, harassment, intimidation, unfair portrayal & misrepresentation & a mass of suppressive frustrations & secret interventions through a wide array of coordinated bodies. Much of this would come under the despicable COINTELPRO covert “counter measures” as a secretive operation & national effort to harry, neuter & negate perceived “subversives”. A great deal of those “subversives” turned out to be the nations youth, college kids, teachers & broad sections of the education community, as well as a buoyant tide of counter culture &/or left wing section that was in the throws of challenging & rejecting the tired system of exploitation, deceit, sanctimony, plutocracy & false morality.
“we have a saying in the movement,” – “Don´t trust anyone over 30.” – Free Speech Movement
How funny that the “traditional values” conservative, moral crusader & FBI chief – J. Edgar Hoover – turned out to be a well closeted homosexual, cross-dresser & child abuser (Witney Webb) who had a close rapport & “working relationship” with the deeply & evil utterly repellent Roy Cohn (who also happened to be another closeted but turbo voracious homosexual & child trafficker).
Hoover began COINTELPRO in 1956 to circumvent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that had curtailed his power to act against law-abiding domestic groups. Initially aimed at the communist party, the program´s covert operations were eventually used “disrupt” and “neutralize” a wide range of individuals and organizations. The Church Committee found that the program was a “sophisticated vigilante operation” that violated the U.S. Constitution and broke criminal laws.”
Of course, it is only a matter of time before MKULTRA – an even more disturbing & more classified & sinister, covert “mind control” operation run by the FBI´s darker counterpart the CIA – creeps onto the pages. Parallel, superbly written titles such as Stephen Kinzer´s Poisoner in Chief – Sydney Gottlieb and the CIA´s Search for Mind Control & Tom O´ Niell´s magnificent Chaos-Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties deliver far larger penetration into MK Ultra, where as Subversives exercises greater concentration on COINTELPRO & the student & campus operations (you can be all but certain that both Kinzer & O´Niell will have shredded Subversives at least once), chifly that of Berkley. Likewise, Battleground Chicago-the police and the 1968 democratic national convention by Frank Kusch provides another vivid component of this cultural backlash & the fear & desperation by the state to extinguish it by ´extraordinary´ measures.
Among the trove of exclusives in Rosenfeld´s brilliant effort are completely new revelations about Ronald Reagan. The Reagan presidency was a complete prolapse. A bullshitter & a Hollywood actor who had featured in over fifty movies before he took his ultimate starring role in the White House fronting for capitalist nihilism during a bonanza of deregulation, Reagan bluffed his term with well-rehearsed posture for the straining cameras whilst fostering the “age of individualism” who´s deep & unhealed burns still covers so much of our modern crisis. Worst of all, but so typical of those of his ilk, was the “traditional values” old-time conservatism ruse that he “sold” the voters as a central plank of his presidency. Yet, as is well documented (although not known by enough), behind the snake-oil sure sell, one of Reagan´s closest associates, fixers & friends (I also suspect ´unofficial´ advisors) was the squalid, odious & evil Roy Cohn, who´s profuse & profound multitude of transgressions & replete criminality was as far away from Reagan’s “moral crusade” as humanly possible. & Reagan was fully aware of this, so much so that Roy used to attend the prestigious Republican events & parties – ostensibly filled with conservative “values” diehards – with his latest young male companion (which one year happened to be a then youthful Donald Trump, who of course had an extraordinarily intimate & enduring relationship with Cohn). So the rabidly homosexual, “industrial tub of Vaseline”, gay pornographer, drug binging, dissolute Studio 54 mainstay & legal representative, major mafia attorney go-to, child trafficker, human compromise operations specialist & ultimate “crooked lawyer” (he was eventually disbarred) was on endeared terms with Ronald & Nancy Reagan, who knew the nature & many activities of the man. When he eventually contracted AIDS from the never-ending casual homosexual promiscuity (publicly, he viciously attacked homosexuals & persecuted them), Reagan arranged for him to have groundbreaking treatment, all in secret, whilst publicly downplaying AIDS was a problem. It did not do the bastard any good, & he died of his illness.
unsurprisingly, there is a lot of bad stuff on Reagan here, but perhaps the biggest revelation is regarding Reagan´s son, & his cavorting with the son of Joseph “Joe Bananas” Bonnano, the “fearsome” head of one of New York´s major crime families who had relocated to Arizona. Declassified FBI reports confirm that Reagan´s son Michael “had been observed in the company of Joseph Bonnano, Jr., recently and on numerous occasions.” shortly after the violent beating of a coffee shop owner by Joseph Jr., FBI cables state Joseph and Michael were involved in “unspecified activity” that was “subject of growing concern among residents of that particular neighborhood.”
this is seriously bad stuff for a future “law and order” political candidate, “but Hoover interceded” & “blocked agents from questioning Reagan” thus sparing him “potentially adverse publicity that could of damaged his political chances”.
“Reagan was very grateful for Hoover´s help. News that his son was hanging out with the son of one of America´s most notorious Mafia bosses might have damaged his first foray into electoral politics”.
Reagan was also a Hollywood informant, known as “Confidential Informant T-36” who helped with blacklisting & expulsions among the Hollywood community under the “Red Scare” pandemic (we hear how lots of careers were furtively terminated on the basses of loose suspicions or personal whims/grudges, all under the guise of ousting “Communists”).
Reagan also escaped the draft, receiving “special treatment”, just as Trrump did due to his shit spurs. these pro-war patriot arseholes always find a way to exempt themselves – “In late 1941, Reagan was finishing his biggest film yet, a $1 Warner Brothers production titled Kings Row, and was negotiating a studio contract that would nearly triple his salary. When he learned afterwards that he would have to report for service, Warner Brothers requested a deferment on the grounds that his absence would cause the studio significant financial loss. The request was not approved, and Jack Warner deployed William Guthrie, the studio’s liason to the military. Guthrie had been with the FBI only two years when he was dismissed in 1920 “because of conduct unbecoming an agent.” an internal burea inquiry concluded he was “entirely dishonest; was using his official position to further his own ends; [and] was not above accepting gratuities or graft.” It further noted that “he depended very much on influential friends submitting communications on his behalf.”
Reagan was deferred “at least twice” with the help of Guthrie. He was “finally” ordered to report to cavalry service in 1942 where he was considered propitious for “limited stateside service” due to “poor eyesight”. Reagan was there “just five weeks” whilst Guthrie & Warner created a “special movie detail” with the Army Corps.
“Special assignments”, “black bag jobs”, the shooting, killing, beating, wounding & gassing of students & protesters, gigantic, totally illegal covert surveillance campaigns of civilians & targetted interventions that very often violated the law & human rights criteria – all on the speed dial of the sitting president. Yeah, that´s Amerikkka for you.
“I hope you will not hesitate to call upon the FBI for assistance in all matters of mutual interest.” – J. Edgar Hoover in a letter to Ronald Reagan, August 1966
But of course, the Black Panthers contribute. The most dramatic disclosure concerning the Panthers comes with Rosenfeld´s uncovering of the Japanese American Panther Richard Aoki being an FBI agent &/or informer! DAMN!! Rosenfeld´s conclusion – & the profusion of evidence provided does seem corroborative – is that he was also a hardcore agent provocateur, who provided arms to the Panthers & was always pushing for violence & confrontation, to which the FBI & authorities could then respond with a crackdown or assassination/shooting. Below is a link to a short video the Author filmed on Richard Aoki…the government informer & plant.
An outstanding accomplishment & immense feat of investigative journalism.
Seth Rosenfeld, 2012, Picador, 512 pages