FBI Surveillance of Norman Mailer
posted by Daniel Solove
The Washington Post has an interesting article about the FBI’s surveillance of author Norman Mailer:
In the summer of 1962, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was scanning his morning Washington Post when an item on Page A15 caught his eye. Norman Mailer’s most recent article in Esquire magazine had mocked Jacqueline Kennedy for, among other things, being excessively soft-spoken for a first lady.
Hoover scribbled a note: “Let me have memo on Norman Mailer.”
Over the next 15 years, FBI agents closely tracked the grand and mundane aspects of the acclaimed novelist’s life, according to previously confidential government files. Agents questioned his friends, scoured his passport file, thumbed through his best-selling books and circulated his photo among informants. They kept records on his appearances at writers conferences, talk shows and peace rallies. They noted the volume of envelopes in his mailbox and jotted down who received his Christmas cards. They posed as his friend, chatted with his father and more than once knocked on his door disguised as deliverymen.
The Mailer file wasn’t publicly known until very recently. According to the Washington Post article:
The bureau’s first confidential memo on Mailer, dated June 29, 1962, noted that the writer “admitted being a ‘Leftist’” and said that he had described the FBI as a “secret police organization” that should be abolished. An informant claimed that Mailer had been invited to a 1953 reception at the Polish Consulate in New York, though it was unknown whether he had attended. The memo quoted Louis Budenz, a former managing editor of the Daily Worker who broke with the Communist Party in 1945, as saying Mailer was a “concealed Communist.”
Apparently, if you want to avoid having an FBI file, don’t mock the First Lady and don’t criticize the FBI.