The FBI’s War on Student Radicals and Reagan’s Rise to Power

September 18th, 2012

As we continue to re-litigate the 60’s, it's worth remembering that the FBI’s war on student radicals, particularly at UC Berkley, was responsible, perhaps more than anything else, for Ronald Reagan’s rise to power.

The activists that were part of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, believed that the FBI was spying on them, had infiltrated them and was trying to embarrass and undermine their efforts. This was all denied at the time

Today we know better. While working as an investigative reporter for the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle, Seth Rosenfeld sued the FBI five times, over 30 years, to obtain confidential records under the Freedom of Information Act. Eventually compelling the FBI to release more than 250,000 pages from their files.

In his remarkable book Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power, he painstakingly recreates the dramatic and unsettling history of how J. Edgar Hoover worked closely with then California Governor Ronald Reagan to undermine student dissent, arrest and expel members of Berkeley's Free Speech Movement, and fire the University of California's president, Clark Kerr.

My conversation with Seth Rosenfeld: