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The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power
“In 1977, The Daily Californian, Berkeley’s student paper, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents bearing on FBI surveillance in Berkeley during the 60’s and early 70’s. In 1981, Seth Rosenfeld, then a Daily Cal reporter, started reading those files that the FBI turned over. He published some initial reports. Later that year, having observed how many files were missing or blacked out (“I wondered whether the bureau was America’s biggest consumer of Magic Markers,” he writes), he filed an additional request for “any and all” records on former UC President Clark Kerr, former Free Speech Movement leader Mario Savio, and more than a hundred other individuals, organizations, and events. Five lawsuits, many more Magic Markers, and 30 years later, he had succeeded in retrieving more than 300,000 pages of records, a federal judge having ruled that the FBI had no legitimate law enforcement purpose in keeping them secret.”
-Todd Gitlin, FDL Book Salon

Tonight, Mike and Mark speak with Seth Rosenfeld, who spent 30 years researching and writing this groundbreaking book.

Subversives traces the FBI’s secret involvement with three iconic figures at Berkeley during the 1960s: the ambitious neophyte politician Ronald Reagan, the fierce but fragile radical Mario Savio, and the liberal university president Clark Kerr. Through these converging narratives, the award-winning investigative reporter Seth Rosenfeld tells a dramatic and disturbing story of FBI surveillance, illegal break-ins, infiltration, planted news stories, poison-pen letters, and secret detention lists. He reveals how the FBI’s covert operations—led by Reagan’s friend J. Edgar Hoover—helped ignite an era of protest, undermine the Democrats, and benefit Reagan personally and politically. At the same time, he vividly evokes the life of Berkeley in the early sixties—and shows how the university community, a site of the forward-looking idealism of the period, became a battleground in an epic struggle between the government and free citizens.

Part history, part biography, and part police procedural, Subversives reads like a true-crime mystery as it provides a fresh look at the legacy of the sixties, sheds new light on one of America’s most popular presidents, and tells a cautionary tale about the dangers of secrecy and unchecked power.

About the guest:

Seth Rosenfeld is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. He was an investigative reporter for the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle and has won the George Polk Award and other journalism honors.


4 comments to SUBVERSIVES

  • Mike and Mark,

    Wonderful show and so needed at this time in history. I have linked to it and added more material at

    I too was on both sides of the equation as a target of COINTELPRO in the sixties and since, and yet as a veteran of the U.S.Army 1963-66 and Planning Analyst for the Office of the Governor of Puerto Rico.

    I agree with your analysis of the mentalities and motives of snitches. Snitches and C.I.s motivated by money, ego, revenge, or getting out of jail, should be distinguished from Citizens who report and try to stop crimes for no other reason than they hate corruption, or they understand the legal duties of Misprision of a Felony laws, or they understand they cannot seek protection of the law without aiding its application if able and if witnesses to crimes and do so at great risk to their lives.

    You guys are doing serious work that needs to be heard, read, supported and promoted widely. “Thank you for your real service”.

    And Mike, I do not believe that you were ever on the “other side of the coin” from the serious “Subversives” in that the serious “Subversives” under surveillance and harassment from FBI, and I was and am one of them, were never anti-Cop or anti-Law per se and they also sought as did you Mike, and as do you Mark, that the law is fully and fairly applied without fear or favor and that the law represents and is trumped by the U.S. Constitution–the Supreme Law of the Land.

    Here is some examples of FBI at work or not at work in the present

    take care,

    take care,

    Charter Member, EWSWAT for Truth

  • Powerful weapon in the hands of whistle-blowers:

    Misprision of a Felony

    Misprision of a felony is the offense of failure to inform government authorities of a felony that a person knows about. A person commits the crime of misprision of a felony if that person:

    •Knows of a federal crime that the person has witnessed or that has come to the person’s attention, or failed to prevent.

    •Fails to report it to a federal judge or other federal official (who is not thems4elves involved in the crime).

    Federal Crime Reporting Statute

    The federal offense of failure to disclose a felony, if coupled with some act concealing the felony, such as suppression of evidence, harboring or protecting the person performing the felony, intimidation or harming a witness, or any other act designed to conceal from authorities the fact that a crime has been committed.

    Title 18 U.S.C. § 4. Misprision of felony. Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

    A federal judge, or any other government official, is required as part of the judge’s mandatory administrative duties, to receive any offer of information of a federal crime. If that judge blocks such report, that block is a felony under related obstruction of justice statutes, and constitutes a serious offense.

    Upon receiving such information, the judge is then required to make it known to a government law enforcement body that is not themselves involved in the federal crime.


    Another Federal Statute for Forcing A
    Federal Officer To Perform a Mandatory Duty

    Another federal statute exists for reporting high-level corruption in government:

    Title 28 U.S.C. § 1361. Action to compel an officer of the United States to perform his duty. The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any action in the nature of mandamus to compel an officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof to perform a duty owed to the plaintiff.

    This federal statute permits any citizen to file a lawsuit in the federal courts to obtain a court order requiring a federal official to perform a mandatory duty and to halt unlawful acts. This statute is Title 28 U.S.C. § 1361.

    These two statutes are among the most powerful tools in the hands of the people, even a single person, to report corrupt and criminal activities by federal officials−including federal judges−and to circumvent the blocks by those in key positions in the three branches of government. That statute was also repeatedly blocked by federal judges and Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.


  • Mike,
    I want you to know you were the very first person that responded to my plea for help for the “Bastard Squad” and I still keep the
    e-mail. I will never forget what you have done for me. My wife still bears the scars of similiar surveillance; however “The Demon Princess” had Casey Badge K329 as her back-up which sent the unmarked black ford fleeing, at least for the moment.

    My very Best,

    Sparky McLaughlin

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