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Pete Seeger's FBI File Reveals How the Folk Legend First Became a Target of the Feds

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Pete Seeger, 1919-2014
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From the 1940s through the early 1970s, the US government spied on singer-songwriter Pete Seeger because of his political views and associations. According to documents in Seeger's extensive FBI file -- which runs to nearly 1,800 pages (with 90 pages withheld) and was obtained by Mother Jones under the Freedom of Information Act -- the bureau's initial interest in Seeger was triggered in 1943 after Seeger, as an Army private, wrote a letter protesting a proposal to deport all Japanese American citizens and residents when World War II ended.

Seeger, a champion of folk music and progressive causes -- and the writer, performer, or promoter of now-classic songs, including as "If I Had a Hammer," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?," Turn! Turn! Turn!," "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine," "Goodnight, Irene," and "This Land Is Your Land" -- was a member of the Communist Party for several years in the 1940s, as he subsequently acknowledged. (He later said he should have left earlier.) His FBI file shows that Seeger, who died in early 2014, was for decades hounded by the FBI, which kept trying to tie him to the Communist Party, and the first investigation in the file illustrates the absurd excesses of the paranoid security establishment of that era.

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David Corn is  Mother Jones ' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories,  click here . He's also  on  Twitter  and  FacebookRSS  |    David is (more...)
 

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