JPat Brown

JPat Brown is Executive Editor of MuckRock.

  • Scientists Under Surveillance

    The FBI Files

    JPat Brown, B. C. D. Lipton, and Michael Morisy

    Cold War–era FBI files on famous scientists, including Neil Armstrong, Isaac Asimov, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Alfred Kinsey, and Timothy Leary.

    Armed with ignorance, misinformation, and unfounded suspicions, the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover cast a suspicious eye on scientists in disciplines ranging from physics to sex research. If the Bureau surveilled writers because of what they believed (as documented in Writers Under Surveillance), it surveilled scientists because of what they knew. Such scientific ideals as the free exchange of information seemed dangerous when the Soviet Union and the United States regarded each other with mutual suspicion that seemed likely to lead to mutual destruction. Scientists Under Surveillance gathers FBI files on some of the most famous scientists in America, reproducing them in their original typewritten, teletyped, hand-annotated form.

    Readers learn that Isaac Asimov, at the time a professor at Boston University's School of Medicine, was a prime suspect in the hunt for a Soviet informant codenamed ROBPROF (the rationale perhaps being that he wrote about robots and was a professor). Richard Feynman had a “hefty” FBI file, some of which was based on documents agents found when going through the Soviet ambassador's trash (an invitation to a physics conference in Moscow); other documents in Feynman's file cite an informant who called him a “master of deception” (the informant may have been Feynman's ex-wife). And the Bureau's relationship with Alfred Kinsey, the author of The Kinsey Report, was mutually beneficial, with each drawing on the other's data.

    The files collected in Scientists Under Surveillance were obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests by MuckRock, a nonprofit engaged in the ongoing project of freeing American history from the locked filing cabinets of government agencies.

    The Scientists Neil Armstrong, Isaac Asimov, Hans Bethe, John P. Craven, Albert Einstein, Paul Erdos, Richard Feynman, Mikhail Kalashnikov, Alfred Kinsey, Timothy Leary, William Masters, Arthur Rosenfeld, Vera Rubin, Carl Sagan, Nikola Tesla

    • Paperback $24.95
  • Writers Under Surveillance

    Writers Under Surveillance

    The FBI Files

    JPat Brown, B. C. D. Lipton, and Michael Morisy

    FBI files on writers with dangerous ideas, including Hannah Arendt, Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, Susan Sontag, and James Baldwin.

    Writers are dangerous. They have ideas. The proclivity of writers for ideas drove the FBI to investigate many of them—to watch them, follow them, start files on them. Writers under Surveillance gathers some of these files, giving readers a surveillance-state perspective on writers including Hannah Arendt, Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, Susan Sontag, and Hunter S. Thompson.

    Obtained with Freedom of Information Act requests by MuckRock, a nonprofit dedicated to freeing American history from the locked filing cabinets of government agencies, the files on these authors are surprisingly wide ranging; the investigations were as broad and varied as the authors' own works. James Baldwin, for example, was so openly antagonistic to the state's security apparatus that investigators followed his every move. Ray Bradbury, on the other hand, was likely unaware that the Bureau had any interest in his work. (Bradbury was a target because an informant warned that science fiction was a Soviet plot to weaken American resolve.) Ernest Hemingway, true to form, drunkenly called the FBI Nazis and sissies. The files have been edited for length and clarity, but beyond that everything in the book is pulled directly from investigatory files. Some investigations lasted for years, others just a few days. Some are thrilling narratives. Others never really go anywhere. Some are funny, others quite harrowing. Despite the federal government's periodic admission of past wrongdoing, investigations like these will probably continue to happen. Like all that seems best forgotten, the Bureau's investigation of writers should be remembered. We owe it to ourselves.

    Writers Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, Ray Bradbury, Truman Capote, Tom Clancy, W. E. B. Du Bois, Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, Aldous Huxley, Ken Kesey, Norman Mailer, Ayn Rand, Susan Sontag, Terry Southern, Hunter S. Thompson, Gore Vidal

    • Paperback $24.95