seth rosenfeld

Starting in Hollywood in the 1940s, Ronald Reagan developed a special relationship with the FBI. He became an FBI informer, reporting other actors whom he suspected of subversive activities, and later, when he became president of the Screen Actors Guild, the FBI had wide access to the Guild’s information on various actors. At one point, the Guild turned over information on 54 actors it was investigating as possible subversives — so the FBI viewed Reagan as an extremely cooperative source in Hollywood. He was far more active than we know from previously released FBI records. As a result of this, Hoover repaid him with personal and political favors later.

[FBI Director] Hoover instantly ordered a major investigation of the Free Speech Movement and assigned a lot of agents to look into it and whether it was a subversive plot. And they determined that while there were a few communists and socialists involved in the protest, it would have happened anyway, because it was really just a protest about this campus rule [a rule banning students from political engagement]. His agents repeatedly told [Hoover] that it would have happened anyway and it wasn’t a subversive plot, but Hoover ordered further investigation, and beyond that, dirty tricks to stifle dissent on the campus.

- Seth Rosenfeld on the FBI’s Interest in the Free Speech Movement 

Who was Richard Aoki?

Aoki was the man who gave the Black Panther Party some of its first firearms and weapons training – which preceded fatal shootouts with Oakland police in the turbulent 1960s. He was also an undercover FBI informer.

Learn more about what journalist Seth Rosenfeld uncovered through FBI files and interviews on The I Fileshttp://youtu.be/sOWR3ArCEqI – a video produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Fresh Air speaks to journalist Seth Rosenfeld about his book Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals and Reagan’s Rise to Power,now in paperback. The book looks at the FBI’s vendetta against the student movement at Berkley in the 1960s, and Reagan’s hand in getting the president of the university (Clark Kerr) fired:

[FBI Director] Hoover instantly ordered a major investigation of the free speech movement and assigned a lot of agents to look into it and whether it was a subversive plot. And they determined that while there were a few Communists and socialists involved in the protest, it would have happened anyway, because it was really just a protest about this campus rule [a rule banning students from political engagement]. 

photo via Chronicle, by Nat Farbman: Mario Savio, a leader of the student protests at Berkeley, is dragged away by campus police in 1964.