The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover's Secret War Against the World's Most Famous Scientist

Most people would be surprised to learn that, by the time of his death in 1955, the FBI had compiled a file of more than fourteen hundred pages on the world's most famous and most revered scientist, Albert Einstein. Now often viewed as a kindly, disengaged, and possibly absent-minded professor, Einstein was actually passionate about certain political causes and skillful in using his favorable public image to further them. He was a bane of 1924-1972 FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, whose agency systematically compiled derogatory material about Einstein from before his 1930's visits to the US, and culminating in a vicious "get Einstein" campaign from 1950 on. The trigger for Hoover's wrath was Einstein's interview on an Eleanor Roosevelt radio program, in which he stated his opposition to the US development of a hydrogen bomb. (Einstein had earlier opposed the use of atomic weapons against Japan, although he had urged FDR to develop them.) The FBI file on Einstein is now available on the Web, at http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/einstein.htm, but it is difficult to read intelligently, partly because of the numerous expurgations but even more because of the lack of context. Fred Jerome of the Gene Media Forum of the Newhouse School of Journalism at Syracuse University has done an excellent service in providing the historical background for a shameful example of how secret government surveillance and propaganda can infringe the civil rights of citizens and immigrants, and distort public policy.

Pick Attribution: 

Fred Jerome

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, January 1, 2002
Price: 
$27.95