Dangerous Dossiers is as powerful and relevant today as it was when it first made worldwide headlines 25 years ago: a chilling reminder of the dangers of unfettered government intrusion into the lives and beliefs of private citizens, whether famous or not.
This shocking account by award-winning author and former New York Times cultural reporter Herbert Mitgang provided hard evidence for the first time of the decades-long cultural war waged by the FBI and other federal intelligence-gathering agencies against scores of the world’s most renowned writers and artists. Using the Freedom of Information Act to pry loose actual surveillance files kept by the FBI, Mitgang documented that the targets of government snooping included a who’s-who of the literary and artistic worlds whom J. Edgar Hoover and his red-baiting legions suspected of communist leanings or outright disloyalty, usually with no basis whatsoever. They included: Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Thornton Wilder, Carl Sandburg, Norman Mailer, Robert Frost, and Allen Ginsburg; and artists including Alexander Calder, Georgia O’Keefe, and Henry Moore.
Called “a fascinating, illuminating and above all, morally decent book” by The New York Times, and “first-class journalism” by The Associated Press, this exposé and the many “dangerous dossiers” it contains reveal no evidence of guilt on the part of the targets of the FBI witch-hunts. But Mitgang finds plenty of proof of the paranoia, political bias, and cultural illiteracy of those who controlled the nation’s most powerful investigative agencies.