Subversives

My review of Seth Rosenfeld’s Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals and Reagan’s Rise to Power ran in yesterday’s Boston Globe. Here’s a link.

The first two paragraphs:

Paranoia masquerading as vigilance has been the catalyst for many American witch hunts, from fearful Salem to the wretched House Un-American Activities Committee. During J. Edgar Hoover’s directorship of the FBI, such aggressive suspicion — we think he’s a communist, so let’s prove he’s a communist — was often standard operating procedure. The political, personal, and social damage wrought by Hoover’s bureau is well-chronicled, but Seth Rosenfeld’s “Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power” offers a grim, powerful reminder of Hoover’s ruthlessness.

“Subversives” is much more than a rehash of Hoover’s previously revealed folly, though. The product of a decades-long battle with the FBI, “Subversives” draws on 250,000 newly released FBI documents. The bureau fought Rosenfeld, a former investigative reporter for the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle, every step of the way. But after 30 years, four lawsuits, and nearly $1 million of taxpayer money spent by the FBI to thwart his efforts, Rosenfeld lays bare the bureau’s sometimes illegal, 1960s surveillance and intervention efforts aimed at student and faculty activities on the University of California-Berkeley campus. Rosenfeld also shows us a long suppressed, unflattering side of Ronald Reagan, then an aging actor and fledgling politician.

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