A limited series podcast that does a deep dive into the history of FBI spying on protest movements and activists. Hosted by Defending Rights & Dissent policy director Chip Gibbons.
Primary Sources Podcast: The New York Times, the Pentagon Papers, and the Secret Weapon of the First Amendment
When The New York Times published the Pentagon Papers it sparked one of the greatest battles for press freedom in US history. In an unprecedented move, the Nixon administration sought to bar The New York Times from publishing further. The Times's outside counsel had told them they would not defend them if they chose to publish the top-secret history of the Vietnam War.
But their General Counsel, James Goodale, argued that The New York Times had the right to publish. As Goodale explains to host Chip Gibbons, while the First Amendment is today a cornerstone of press freedom cases, in those days it was a "secret weapon." And one he was prepared to use.
Primary Sources Podcast: From the Pentagon Papers to the Doomsday Machine feat. Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg is the most iconic whistleblower in US history.
On our inaugural episode, he joins host Chip Gibbons for an in-depth conversation. On the 50th anniversary of the Pentagon Papers release, Ellsberg explains how the top secret history of the Vietnam War led him to believe the war was not merely a mistake, but a crime. Ellsberg explains what was in the Pentagon Papers, why he chose to release them, and what he hoped to accomplish.
The Pentagon Papers whistleblower also talks about his current work to alert the public to the dangers of nuclear war and how in doing so he may be putting himself yet again in the crosshairs of the Espionage Act.
Folk Singers & The Bureau (Bonus Episode) feat. Aaron J. Leonard
The FBI has long devoted its resources to stamping out dissent. As part of its ruthless war on the Communist Party, the Bureau set its sites on America’s folk singers. In his new book The Folk Singers and the Bureau: The FBI, the Folk Artists and the Suppression of the Communist Party, USA-1939-1956, historian and writer Aaron J. Leonard draws on an unprecedented array of declassified documents and never before released files to chronicle the FBI’s attacks on such folk musicians as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.
Aaron J. Leonard is a writer and historian with a focus on the history of radicalism and state suppression. He is the author of Heavy Radicals: The FBI's Secret War on America's Maoists and A Threat of the First Magnitude--FBI Counterintelligence & Infiltration: From the Communist Party to the Revolutionary Union. He is a contributor to the History News Network, Jacobin, and Truthout.
On September 16, 2020, the Still Spying Podcast hosted a livestreamed event with Leonard to discuss his new book and this is a lightly edited audio-only version of that event, moderated by Still Spying host Chip Gibbons.
Our Story: Frank Wilkinson, the FBI, and the Origins of Defending Rights & Dissent
In our final episode, we explore the Defending Rights & Dissent’s own origins. Frank Wilkinson was a public housing advocate who was working on an integrated public housing project in Chavez Ravine, The FBI and HUAC working together, hounded him out of a job and Chavez Ravine became Dodgers Stadium as opposed to public housing. Frank went on to found an anti-HUAC, pro-civil liberties organization that would eventually become Defending Rights & Dissent. The FBI was less than thrilled with his career change.
To recount this history, host Chip Gibbons is joined by Kit Gage, the former director of the organization Frank founded and to which Defending Rights & Dissent traces its origins.
The Bureaucratic Heart of McCarthyism feat. Ellen Schrecker
The Second Red Scare may have been named after the demagogic Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, but no one was more central to it than J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Host Chip Gibbons is joined by renowned historian Ellen Schrecker to discuss what McCarthyism was, how the FBI was central to it, and why if “observers known in the 1950s what they learned since the 1970s when Freedom of Information Act opened the Bureau's files, 'McCarthyism' would probably have been called 'Hooverism.'”
Spying on Muslim & Arab Americans feat. Abdeen Jabara
Since 9/11, the FBI has subjected the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities to surveillance. Sending infiltrators and confidential informants into mosques and other community spaces absent any evidence of criminal wronging, it’s clear that for the FBI race, religion, and national origin are inherently suspicious in the War on Terror. However, the FBI’s history of targeting Muslim and Arab Americans goes back long before 9/11. As early as 1972, Richard Nixon had ordered mass surveillance of Arab Americans as part of “Operation Boulder.” To discuss this history, host Chip Gibbons is joined by Abdeen Jabara, a longtime civil rights attorney, past president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination,and former board member of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Jabara not only fought against surveillance and discrimination on behalf of others, he himself was spied on by the FBI and the NSA.
Great historical context
I always look forward to Chip’s “Chip Chat” segments on the District Sentinel podcast, with his reports on the latest abuses of the US surveillance state.
The episodes here so far give a broader historical view, disproving the notion that this is an aberration, either unique to Trump or post-9/11 America.
The episode with professor Gerald Horne in particular was a joy to listen to; much wider-ranging than other interviews the prof has given recently.