Documents uncovered from the late FBI director's secret files reveal for the first time the shocking extent of FBI activities in collecting and using derogatory information about prominent Americans and political groups. Historian Athan Theoharis charges that Hoover was an "indirect blackmailer," exploiting the FBI's resources to serve the political interests of the White House and to advance his own political and moral agenda. None of the documents in five separate secret files was intended ever to be disclosed; Mr. Theoharis procured them after intensive research in FBI files using the Freedom of Information Act. The memoranda, letters, telephone transcriptions, and other materials printed here detail a wide range of excesses and include Hoover's providing information about political adversaries to the Johnson and Nixon White Houses; John F. Kennedy's affair with Washington gossip columnist Inga Arvad; FBI monitoring of Supreme Court clerks and staff; the tracking of Adlai Stevenson by the FBI as a homosexual; Hoover's interest in the drinking and sexual habits of congressmen; an anonymous letter attacking Martin Luther King, Jr., composed and sent to Dr. King by the FBI; and much more. Mr. Theoharis describes Hoover's ingenious Do Not File system as well as the FBI's Sex Deviate program and Obscene File.
Athan Theoharis is professor of history at Marquette University. His many books include The Boss, From the Secret Files of J. Edgar Hoover, Spying on Americans, Beyond the Hiss Case, Seeds of Repression, and The Yalta Myths. He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.