FBI’s Final Files on Eleanor Roosevelt Sought

     WASHINGTON (CN) – More than three decades after the FBI disclosed most of its 3,000-page dossier on former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a George Washington University researcher filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit seeking to uncover what he believes to be the last 12 pages.
     Christopher Brick, project director and editor for the university’s Eleanor Roosevelt Records Project, sued the Justice Department in Federal Court on Monday.
     Eleanor Roosevelt became a liberal icon during her husband’s presidency, standing up for women’s rights, civil rights for black people and other progressive causes. The FBI revealed its extensive file on her in 1982, a decade after the death of J. Edgar Hoover.
     During the height of the Red Scare, Hoover kept close tabs on Roosevelt and anyone else he suspected of communist sympathies, including Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Lorraine Hansberry – in fact, at least half of the era’s well-known black American authors, and later, as is well-known today, Martin Luther King.
     Brick said in an interview that he suspects the final dozen pages in the FBI’s Roosevelt case file relate to her two trips to the Soviet Union, in 1957 and 1958.
     As his organization’s principal investigator, Brick says, its collection adds up to “probably north of 100,000” pages. Two volumes in the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project have been published.
     “The core mission of the project revolves around reconstructing the documentary history of Eleanor Roosevelt post-White House, in her public life and career,” Brick said.
     His group’s mission statement states that in addition to being an “ardent champion of human rights,” Roosevelt was “one of the century’s most prolific journalists – publishing more than 8,000 columns, 580 articles, 27 books, 100,000 letters, delivering over 1000 speeches, and appearing on more than 300 radio and television shows.”
     To this day, the FBI claims on its website that it tracked her movements “due to her prominent public role,” but that its findings are “not an investigative file.”
     The Public Broadcasting System, however, states on a web page for its “American Experience” history program that the FBI files contain “charges against her for suspected Communist activities, threats to her life on the grounds of her disloyalty to the country, close monitoring of her activities and writings, and a record of possible insurrectionary groups that she may have influenced.”
     One of Eleanor Roosevelt’s many sins, in Hoover’s eyes, was that she denounced the FBI’s “Gestapo-ish” methods.
     Brick’s 4-page lawsuit remarks briefly upon Hoover’s campaign against Roosevelt.
     “Although recognized in her obituary in The New York Times as ‘the object of almost universal respect,’ her political beliefs incurred the suspicion of J. Edgar Hoover, and under his direction the FBI maintained an extensive file on her,” the complaint states.
     Brick said the FBI’s response to his June 25, 2013 FOIA request appeared to be the first time it had reviewed the files since their original release more than three decades earlier.
     A year later, the FBI released an additional, redacted 338 pages, citing exemptions for privacy interests and law enforcement information, sources and methods.
     But since Roosevelt died, on Nov. 7, 1962, Brick said, appealing the FBI censorship, “the passage of time, more than half a century, has reduced the potential harm from the release of this information.”
     He says he and his project have “a statutory right under FOIA to the withheld portions of the 12 pages from the FBI’s file on Eleanor Roosevelt.”
     He is represented by Rachel Clattenburg with the Public Citizen Litigation Group.
     In a disclaimer on its Eleanor Roosevelt web page, checked Wednesday morning, the FBI says that “the information found in these files may no longer reflect the current beliefs, positions, opinions, or policies currently held by the FBI.”

%d bloggers like this: