FBI Surveillance of Norman Mailer

mailer-book1.jpgThe 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.

You may also like...

8 Responses

  1. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    It was also revealed recently that the FBI kept a file on the Pulitizer Prize-winning reporter David Halberstam. See http://nycitynewsservice.com/2008/11/06/fbi-kept-tabs-on-ny-reporter-halberstam/

  2. Carol Cross says:

    Not surprising that those in government who have absolute power often abuse this absolute power because they CAN. Who watches the watchers who watch the watchers who watch the enemies of government?

    Hoover’s understanding of representative government and the First Amendment didn’t allow for any attack on the power structure of the status quo.

    Hoover was a conventional government servant, and not a worldly man. His great talent for organization and loyalty to the status quo and his own VISION of the country meant that the “enemy within” had to be kept under surveillance. His consciousness was formed when America’s government was primarily a racist WASP fortress.

    Any citizen even slightly left of center was suspect, even if they were duly elected to the Congress of the United States. Reds and Blacks were on his list as he personally perceived them to be enemies of the State. The Kennedy’s were probably a bad experience for Hoover who did not like the changing times.

    Hoover has gotten lots of bad press in recent years, but for many years, the same press, at that time in our history, painted him as a true American hero and glamorized him and the FBI in the eyes of the American people, who still have great respect or fear of the FBI, who does generally do good work on behalf of the American people.


  3. Mark Edwards says:

    Laura Bush married a fool, and the FBI’s conduct in urging Marting Luther King to commit suicide was despicable.

    I always wanted my own file!

  4. Carol Cross says:

    Unfortunately, the FBI is subject to supporting the policy decisions of the administration in which they serve.

    Aren’t you faulting the wrong people?

    Who knows? Maybe you have your own file. Did you ever do a FOIA search?

  5. Quidpro says:

    This is a surprise? In celebrating himself, Mailer always displayed his leftist bonafides. Having an FBI file is a great career move. He wallows in the self-delusion that he supports the oppressed masses and boosts his book sales.

  6. Mary Dudziak says:

    Re: your point: “Apparently, if you want to avoid having an FBI file, don’t mock the First Lady and don’t criticize the FBI” — criticism of Hoover & the Bureau, and even criticsm of someone close to Hoover, seems to have been the impetus for the opening of many FBI files. Thurgood Marshall’s lengthy file is out of chronological order (which is curious and unusual) making it hard to determine what the file begins with. The first documents from the 1940s are about TM’s harsh criticism of the FBI for failing to investigate lynchings. So it was another case of beginning an investigation of a Bureau & Hoover critic. For entertainer Josephine Baker (file not on-line), it was her criticism of Hoover friend and gossip columnist Walter Winchell that led Winchell to send a tip to Hoover, starting her file. You can find other FBI files on-line here.

  7. Privacy Lawyer says:

    Mailer sent out Christmas cards?

  8. Privacy Lawyer says:

    Mailer sent out Christmas cards?