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Subject: Why the FBI Targeted Einstein
Date: Thu, 18 Jul 2002 21:17:47 -0700 (PDT)
From: portsideMod <>
To: ps <>

The Einstein File shows why the FBI targeted the world's most renowned physicist


Declassified FBI files about prominent personalities are generally full of crap. Rumor, hearsay, outright lies---no scrap of derogatory "intelligence" was deemed unworthy by J. Edgar Hoover, the bureau's longtime, gossipy director. Especially when it came to politically active leftists, his files swelled with unfounded allegations.

But those same files also have their deliciously honest and ironic parts. Consider this example, unveiled in Fred Jerome's new book, The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover's Secret War Against the World's Most Famous Scientist. The year is 1948, and the Cold War is in its infancy. Trying to stem the rush toward global nuclear confrontation, Albert Einstein, the most prominent refugee from Nazi Germany to become an American citizen, is urging the superpowers to cooperate in developing atomic power and agree to cease their nuclear weapons programs. One evening in July, he attends a dinner at a Bulgarian diplomat's home in Washington to promote the proposals.

Einstein's atomic peace initiative, like most of his other political activities, put him squarely and unapologetically on the internationalist, socialist left. With a new round of anti-Communist witchhunts cranking up, Hoover's agents and informants were hounding the scientist. So an FBI source was listening when Einstein sounded off at the dinner. Speaking to the Polish ambassador to Washington, Einstein is reported to have said, "I suppose you realize by now that the U.S. is no longer a free country, that undoubtedly our conversation is being recorded. This room is wired, and my house is closely watched."

Einstein had a keen eye for such surveillance, because he was a veteran target of political repression. After all, he'd relocated to the United States in 1932 to escape the noose of Nazism, which was quickly closing in around the world's most renowned Jew. Einstein spent the remainder of his life---he died in 1955---assisting political underdogs in the United States and around the world. He lent his good name to causes ranging from disarmament to racial justice to free speech to economic equality.

It's telling that the FBI's 1,800-page file on Einstein is littered with false allegations generated by the pro-Nazi press of 1930s Germany. Deeply suspicious of Einstein, Hoover and his minions followed every lead in search of dirt on their target. FBI agents monitored Einstein's phone calls and read his mail. They shadowed him at public events. They managed to turn up titillating stories about his supposed involvement with Communist

He was a lascivious pervert who liked to dress up as a woman and yet he persecuted sexual deviants. He was nothing but a two-bit bureaucrat who blackmailed his congressional bosses into eternally reappointing him. He took pride in his reputation as Americaís chief law enforcement agent and yet he knowingly thought nothing of sending innocent men to long prison terms or, worse yet, their deaths. A twisted voyeur, he sought to defame some of this countryís most famous men. Something of a neo-nazi himself, he sent the FBI to dog those who didnít believe as he did. He was J. Edgar Hoover and doesnít America think itís about time the stain of his name was removed from one of our most important federal buildings? --THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST

conspirators, but the stories fell apart when tracked to their sources, which mostly consisted of raving anti-Semites, con-men and mental patients. For all his efforts, Hoover turned up nothing sinister with which to publicly smear Einstein.

The scientist was an unusually difficult target, Jerome notes: "Einstein's maverick and left-leaning politics combined with his almost universal popularity made him a major threat to those trying to turn America into a nation of political sheep."

Jerome's name will be familiar to many Triangle residents. A journalist since the 1960s, 20 years ago he founded the Research Triangle Park-based Media Resource Service, a referral program that connects reporters with scientists. And he's an ideal chronicler of the tale of Hoover vs. Einstein. A born and bred "Red diaper baby," he grew up in a family under FBI surveillance because of its radical ties. He's spent the last few years teaching journalism in New York and writing The Einstein File, which is based on the disclosures he prompted by suing the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act.

Along the way, Jerome has unearthed a side of Einstein that has been lost in most biographies. As much as Einstein was a brilliant scientist, this book shows that he was a determined and tireless agitator against authoritarianism, capitalism, fascism, racism and the full range of social ills that haunted his century.

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[For the home page of the book reviewed, see -- portsideMod]

Jerome suggests that Hoover and his agents cared less about truthfulness than about silencing celebrities who had left-wing ideas and intimidating the remaining population. Einstein emerges as a hero, refusing to let the federal government's underhanded tactics discourage his support of unpopular causes. A well-written, provocative account that could alter our views of both

Hoover and Einstein

- Kirkus Reviews

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Jerome has a field day telling about the campaign to have Einstein denaturalized and deported, based on spurious charges, many of them emanating from the far-right Catholic newspaper The Tablet. Yet "The Einstein File" uses all of this to paint a picture of America on the verge of fascism, suffering under an "epidemic" of McCarthyism. And in this fanciful portrait of a cowered nation, Einstein is depicted as the leader of a new "call to resistance." Jerome even accuses Einstein's current defenders of sanitizing his left-wing record because they are still "frightened by Hoover's Red-baiting." It does not occur to him that in uncovering Einstein's record, they find his rather typical fellow-traveling activities hardly something of distinction.

THE UNFORTUNATE TRUTH is that Albert Einstein was as gullible on the Cold War as the average college leftist. American scientists' uncritical attitude on everything affecting the Soviet Union, Sidney Hook once wrote, could be attributed to "stubborn ignorance, sometimes compounded by a refusal to examine the evidence of the nature of Soviet Communism." More than fifty years later, there seems no reason to alter that judgment.

- Ronald Radosh in The Weekly Standard 7/9/02

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For the first time, we have a book on intelligence gathering of a sort not normally associated with Einstein. With wit and precision, Fred Jerome documents the invasion of privacy of one of America's most prominent citizens.

- Robert Schulmann, former director, Einstein Papers Project

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A compelling page-turner, vividly recalling an infamous time in our history, when even America's most loyal citizens were under suspicion if they were not always in agreement with government policy. After all, it was Einstein who warned Roosevelt about the possibility that Germany could be building an atomic bomb---a fact that seems to have escaped the FBI in its desperate search for Soviet connections. A timely topic even fifty years later.

- Alice Calaprice, Author of The Quotable Einstein and The Expanded Quotable Einstein

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Hoover utterly failed to limit Einstein's political influence in his lifetime, Jerome argues, [but] he helped de-politicize Einstein's image, reducing his impact on future generations, a process this book should help reverse.

- Publishers Weekly

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It is not surprising that J. Edgar Hoover's FBI spied on Albert Einstein from 1933 to his death in 1955. As this well-done study makes clear, the famous scientist was also a social and political activist with strong pacifist and Socialist leanings. Einstein publicly supported the civil rights and anti-lynching movements and was a friend of leading African Americans. Unafraid, he was willing to denounce Joseph McCarthy and encouraged others to refuse to testify before him. 

-   Library Journal

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The Einstein File is a frightening look at a dark past, hopefully gone forever. It also reestablishes Einstein as a committed social activist, anti-racist, anti-war, critic of capitalism, whose daring extended beyond mathematics.

- Julian Bond

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Fred Jerome's investigative gem details the other life of Albert Einstein, a life most of us have never known about, but which made him a prime target of Hoover-McCarthy Gestapoism. Yet despite those hysterical times, and the ominous parallels between then and now, readers of this breakthrough book will draw hope in discovering the strength and courage that complimented Einstein's genius.

- Paul Delaney, former NY Times reporter and editor and a founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists  ##

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