Seth Rosenfeld is a true investigative reporter. He spent 30 years filing multiple lawsuits to obtain the documents that illustrate just how much of a rogue agency the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover was and the part that Ronald Reagan played in helping the agency destroy the careers of many innocent people, condone violence, and ignite protest on a massive scale in the 1960’s, beginning in Berkeley and spreading throughout the country.
To tell this story, Rosenfeld filed multiple lawsuits that ultimately forced the FBI to release over 250,000 pages of files. These documents proved what many of us who were alive in the 60’s already knew: the FBI was ruthless, often vicious, and above the law. What we probably did not know was the part that Ronald Reagan played and how much it benefited him personally and politically to betray his own union as a mole for the agency.
The main characters through which this story are told are J. Edgar Hoover, Clark Kerr, the president of University of California- Berkeley in the 60’s, Mario Savio, the student activist who led the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, and Reagan, whose alliance with the FBI began in the 1940s and lasted at least until 1972, when Hoover died.
The part of this story which was most shocking to this reporter had to do with the FBI’s use of political information and power to boost the political career of Ronald Reagan in ways that were clearly immoral as well as illegal. For others, it may be the exposure of prominent characters in protest organizations such as The Black Panthers as moles for the FBI or any of the many instances of extreme misconduct that the FBI got by with as revealed by their own documents.
Even for those of us who already know that our government has often done bad things when they thought they had good enough reason, this book is going to be shocking and eye-opening. Rosenfeld is to be commended for his perseverance in researching this book despite all odds and for bringing the truth about Hoover’s FBI, Reagan, and the war against student activism to the public.
Any American citizen who really wants to know about American political history and to understand how dangerous unchecked political power can be will benefit from reading this book.