Saturday, May 23, 2015

Allen Ginsberg's FBI files


                                        [Allen Ginsberg in Cuba with a plane shot down in The Bay of Pigs]


We are immensely grateful to Shawn Musgrave and MuckRock for the recent (April, 2015) release by the FBI, (following a Freedom of Information Act request first filed in November, 2012), of 89 pages of investigative documents held in government files on Allen Ginsberg.  As MuckRock pointedly notes, "The agency's response letter indicated that there may be additional FBI files pertaining to Ginsberg, but that a search for the missing records "met with unsuccessful results" and that other documents may have been transfered to the National Archives" (a request for those documents has now been made). "Another CIA document was deemed classified and withheld in full"


Allen, of course, through his own energies (his own personal FOI requests) was made familiar with, and provided with copies of, much of this information before he died. 

Aside from those files included in his papers at Stanford University, pertinent documents (FBI Investigation and Surveillance Records) are available here at the Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University, Milwaukee 

"Three Documents From Allen Ginsberg's FBI file" appears in Lewis Hyde's On The Poetry of Allen Ginsberg (1985)  (along with "In Our Files" (from a Memorandum, Federal Bureau of Narcotics, New York Office) and "A Letter to Richard Helms", Director of the Central Intelligence Agency")

Herbert Mitgang's  1988 digest in Dangerous Dossiers - Exposing the Secret War Against America's Greatest Authors may be referenced here  







We would also draw your attention to an early notice, "What Six Nice People Found in the Government's Drawers" (written in 1976, published in Oui magazine, Feb 1977) and the Introduction to "Smoking Typewriters" (from 1981, part of Geoffrey Rips' UnAmerican Activities), both included in Deliberate Prose - Selected Essays 1952-1995










As Shawn Musgrave in his accompanying report notes, "Documents released to MuckRock indicate that Ginsberg first came to FBI attention in September 1963…In response to an unspecified agency's request for a name-check, the FBI replied that it hadn't investigated Ginsberg to date…(They) decided to dig deeper in 1965 after learning he would be traveling to Cuba to judge a poetry competition (the Casa de las Americas Prize for Literature). A February 1965 memo from FBI headquarters directed the New York office to initiate an investigation to "ascertain whether he is engaged in any activities which would be considered inimical to the interests of the U.S.". Two months later after conducting dozens of informant interviews and checks of arrest, telephone, and other records, the New York office sent back its findings. Their report concluded that Ginsberg's "bizarre" activities did not warrant (him) being added to the (clandestine) "Security Index" of potentially dangerous individuals to be arrested if martial law were declared in the United States
"No interview of Ginsberg is recommended at any time", agents wrote, "in view of his narcotic and sexual proclivities, his psychiatric history and his connection with mass media". In their 23-page report, the FBI distilled Ginsberg's career to date, (an obsessive and skewered distillation), making frequent references to his advocacy for the legalization of marijuana and (his) "self-admitted" homosexuality…" "While the FBI concluded its 1965 report that Ginsberg posed no threat, the agency did pass a copy on to the Secret Service. The transmission cover letter cited such broad criterea as "antipathy towardgood order and government"…In 1968, the FBI field office in New York reaffirmed that Ginsberg's activities, "while extremely eccentric" did not merit his inclusion on any blacklists" 

****The 89 Pages Of Allen Ginsberg FBI Files Made Available (curious reading) are available  HERE














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