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Richard Feynman's FBI Files Released 181

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the soviet-sympathizers-beware dept.
v3rgEz writes "The FBI files of noted physicist, esteemed author and all-around geek Richard Feynman have been released. Feynman and the FBI had an extended encounter after the Bureau discovered he had been invited to speak at the USSR, which set off a flurry of investigations into his loyalty — even as he pestered the State Department for guidance on whether he should or shouldn't go, guidance they only gave belatedly. Of particular interest to the FBI was his avid devotion to the art of lock picking, his high school membership in a socialism club (for social reasons, he swore), and the fact that he was a godless scientist who loved his bongo drums. Original documents are available. One other element? A seven-page letter detailing a conspiracy theory that Feynman was a sleeper agent for enemies unknown, but probably communist ones."
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Richard Feynman's FBI Files Released

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  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:40PM (#40234073) Homepage

    No, they wouldn't. Actual background checks take too long and return far too much information. Today, your visit is recorded in a database, correlated with the fact that your plane had held a suspected terrorist in its last flight, so the conclusion is that you must be the recipient of a secret package hidden inside your seat cushion. That's enough to get a GPS tracker on your car and addition to the no-fly list.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:47PM (#40234147)

    The government wouldn't waste time doing a background check just because you flew to modern-day Democratic Russia.

    Now they just do it whenever you buy an airplane ticket?

  • Re:Sleeper agent? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:47PM (#40234153) Homepage

    Divulge nuclear secrets that would otherwise provide America an upper hand in the nuclear arms race. Essentially, something close to another Klaus Fuchs.

  • Jelious co-worker. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bussdriver (620565) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:50PM (#40234185)

    Envious people cause a lot of trouble; especially when you provide them outlets to express such emotions.

    Modern day witch hunts are no better, people exploit the idiocy of the time to their own ends. We've not evolved any, we just like to think we are better than people thousands of years ago.

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:53PM (#40234237)

    >>> the conclusion is that you must be the recipient of a secret package hidden inside your seat cushion.
    >>>That's enough to get a GPS tracker on your car and addition to the no-fly list

    That's enough to get you thrown in jail without a right to trial under the NDAA which Congress passed by ~65% and Obama vetoed..... ooops, I mean signed. (I would have vetoed.)

  • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:54PM (#40234247)

    Fortunately, FBI agents apparently were more reasonable even during the Cold War than they are in the War on Terrorism, because he'd probably be in jail for that prank today.

    Its not so complicated as an individual's judgment call, its simpler; back then we were the good guys. Not so much now.

  • Re:Sleeper agent? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @01:00PM (#40234339) Journal

    Divulge nuclear secrets that would otherwise provide America an upper hand in the nuclear arms race. Essentially, something close to another Klaus Fuchs.

    Alternatively, be in a position of trust to be able to recruit young and impressionable 'up and coming' physicists that might have better access to the current cutting edge military tech than he would have. The USSR already had most of the data from his generation, so using him to run a next generation network makes sense.

  • Different era (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rbrander (73222) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @01:02PM (#40234365) Homepage

    That was a whole different era; government was different, indeed, human nature was entirely different.

    There is NO chance of another generation looking back at all the surveillance of every Muslim community picnic and shake their heads in wonder at our paranoia. All of our investigations are justified and wise.

  • Re:Different era (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @01:09PM (#40234449) Homepage

    To quote from a previous generation's songwriter, Tom Paxton:

    I learned our government must be strong.
    It's always right and never wrong.
    Our leaders are the finest men.
    And we elect them again and again.
    That's what I learned in school today.
    That's what I learned in school.

  • by The Mister Purple (2525152) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @01:17PM (#40234557) Homepage

    I find it funny that the term "security-minded" is used when describing the scientists upset by Feynman's lock picking, when the impression I got from reading his memoirs and biography was that he was not concealing it and was indeed pointing out security vulnerabilities at Los Alamos. He was able to open a colonel's office safe using the default combination, if I recall correctly. After all, it's not like Feynman was letting the Germans or Japanese know about the weakness of the locks, let alone about the existence of the Manhattan Project. It's basically the same problem as seen in computer security today: people who point out vulnerabilities in a non-destructive way still get criticized (or worse, ignored).

  • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @01:28PM (#40234737)

    Possibly someone like Klaus Fuchs [wikipedia.org]. Secrets are being leaked. Counter intelligence is certain to find out and come looking for an insider source. Better to divert attention towards a plausible suspect than have them spot you.

    Law enforcement (in general) seems to develop a theory of a crime and then go looking for supporting evidence rather than keeping an open mind. So if you give them a plausible hypothesis, they'll stop their wider investigation. Its an old trick and still works quite well.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @01:29PM (#40234763) Homepage Journal

    I find it funny that the term "security-minded" is used when describing the scientists upset by Feynman's lock picking, when the impression I got from reading his memoirs and biography was that he was not concealing it and was indeed pointing out security vulnerabilities at Los Alamos.

    "Security-minded" people always hate it when holes in their security systems are pointed out. It's practically a law of nature.

  • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @02:35PM (#40235599)

    So? Veto it anyway. Make them declare themselves to be for the reasons that he vetoed the bill.

  • by cfulton (543949) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @03:27PM (#40236215)
    A sleeper agent who had the time and smarts to develop quantum electrodynamics. What government would put a physicist capable of winning a Noble prize in another country as a sleeper agent? Surely the Russians (who love physics) would rather have him as their noble prize winning physicist than working as a double agent in America. That is just crazy.
    Are we sure the director of the FBI at the time wasn't some dress wearing conspiracy nut?

    Feynman has always been my favorite Nobel prize winner. This just takes him up a notch.
  • Re:Sleeper agent? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @03:36PM (#40236321)

    ...so using him to run a next generation network makes sense.

    Only on Slashdot would someone post this and get moderated Insightful. If you wonder where all the paranoid people on the interwebs hang out, you've come to the right place...

"And do you think (fop that I am) that I could be the Scarlet Pumpernickel?" -- Looney Tunes, The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones)

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