For most, the controversial debate over the government’s surveillance practice is an impersonal philosophical question. Few can imagine that their relatively mundane lives would be of interest to CIA or FBI agents in pursuit of terrorists. So you can imagine the surprise of author William T. Vollmann when he recently sued the government for his FBI file and discovered he had once been designated and spied on as a suspect in both the Unabomber and anthrax cases. It’s a bizarre and shocking tale of surveillance that Vollmann describes in this month’s issue of Harper’s Magazine.
* Although the FBI's covert operations have been active throughout its history, the formal COunter INTELligence PROgram, or COINTELPRO, of the second half of the 20th century was centrally directed and targeted a range of political dissidents and organizations. The stated goals of COINTELPRO were to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" those persons or organizations that the FBI decided were "enemies of the State."