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Secret FBI files reveal covert activities at UC Bureau's campus operations involved Reagan, CIA

by Seth Rosenfeld

 

[Excerpts]

Under the guise of protecting national security, the FBI conducted wide-ranging and unlawful intelligence operations concerning the University of California that at different points involved the head of the CIA and then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, The Chronicle has learned.

According to thousands of pages of FBI records obtained by The Chronicle after a 17-year legal fight, the FBI unlawfully schemed with the head of the CIA to harass students, faculty and members of the Board of Regents, and mounted a concerted campaign to destroy the career of UC President Clark Kerr, which included sending the White House derogatory allegations about him that the bureau knew were false.

The FBI, in contrast, developed a "close and cordial" relationship with Reagan, who made campus unrest a major issue and vowed to fire Kerr during his 1966 gubernatorial campaign.....

The Chronicle obtained thousands of pages of previously undisclosed FBI records concerning the University of California as a result of three lawsuits brought under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents provide the most detailed account to date of the FBI's activities at any American university during a turbulent, historic period and show that those covert operations spilled off campus and into state politics.

The FBI maintained in court that its activities regarding UC were proper and intended to protect civil order and national security. But a series of federal judges concluded that the FBI engaged in a range of unlawful activities that included investigating student protesters, interfering with academic freedom and intruding into internal university affairs.

The FBI's campus files show that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover took a special interest in UC, which was the nation's largest university, operator of federal nuclear weapons labs and the scene of some of the nation's first and largest campus protests over constitutional rights and academic freedom.

Looking for dirt on UC

According to the documents, Hoover became outraged over an essay question on UC's 1959 English aptitude test for high school applicants that asked: "What are the dangers to a democracy of a national police organization, like the FBI, which operates secretly and is unresponsive to public criticism?"

In response, Hoover ordered his aides to launch a covert public relations campaign to embarrass the university and pressure it to retract what he called a "viciously misleading" question.

The director also ordered his agents to search bureau files for derogatory information on UC's 6,000 faculty members and top administrators.

The resulting 60-page report said 72 faculty members, students and employees were listed in the bureau's "Security Index," a secret nationwide list of people whom the FBI considered potentially dangerous to national security who would be detained without warrant during a crisis.

Congress was not told about the FBI detention plan, which failed to meet statutory requirements that there was "reasonable ground to believe" prospective detainees would engage in espionage or sabotage, said a 1976 report by the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Operations.

The FBI's 1960 report on UC also alleged that faculty members had engaged in misconduct such as "illicit love affairs, homosexuality, sexual perversion, excessive drinking or other instances of conduct reflecting mental instability."

Excerpted from San Francisco Chronicle, 9 June 2002

 
 

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Copyright 2002 Regents of the University of California. Email: benemann@law.berkeley.edu.