Books

Reagan tapped FBI to spy on his family

cover-rosenfeld-subversives.jpgBay Area journalist Seth Rosenfeld has been rolling out some juicy revelations about historical events in California from the FBI files he got access to for his new book, "Subversives: The F.B.I.’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power.” His latest release looks at how Ronald Reagan, both as a liberal turned anti-Communist crusader in Hollywood then as candidate and governor, helped the FBI and made use of his relationship with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to get information not available to others. Some of that assistance involved his children, daughter Maureen and son Michael.

From a piece by Rosenfeld for the weekend's New York Times opinion section:

The documents show that Reagan was more involved than was previously known as a government informer during his Hollywood years, and that in return he secretly received personal and political help from J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime F.B.I. director, at taxpayer expense....


The newly released files...show that he began to report secretly to the F.B.I. about people whom he suspected of Communist activity, some on the scantiest of evidence. And they reveal that during his tenure as president of the Screen Actors Guild in the ’40s and ’50s, F.B.I. agents had access to guild records on dozens of actors. As one F.B.I. official wrote in a memo, Reagan “in every instance has been cooperative.”

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According to an F.B.I. memo: “Jane Wyman wishes to come to Washington to perhaps straighten out her daughter, get her back to Los Angeles, but before doing so desires to know the following: (1) Is [the man in question] employed as an officer of the Metropolitan Police Department?; (2) Is he married?; (3) Is his wife in an institution and what are the details?; and (4) Any other information which might be discreetly developed concerning the relationship....”

An assistant F.B.I. director, Cartha DeLoach, recommended that the F.B.I. grant the Reagans’ request, even while noting that “there does not appear to be any F.B.I. jurisdiction here.” Hoover quickly approved the inquiry. Posing as an insurance salesman, one agent made a pretext phone call to neighbors; another contacted a police source; a third interviewed the maid at Maureen Reagan’s rooming house.

The investigation confirmed that Ms. Reagan was living with the married patrolman, and Mr. DeLoach ordered an agent to tell the Reagans via [George] Murphy “on a highly confidential basis.”

The anecdote about Michael Reagan involves his friendship with the son of mobster Joseph Bonanno.



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