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MuckRock FOIA Request Releases Christopher Hitchens' FBI Files 44

v3rgEz writes: Outspoken atheist firebrand Christopher Hitchens was never one for understatement, and apparently the FBI took notice. A Freedom of Information request from investigative news site MuckRock has resulted in the release of his 19-page FBI file, including details such as how his interest in socialism in college sparked heightened monitoring when given a scholarship to come to the United States. Some of the pages had actually been previously released, but were then removed from the FBI's own website a few years ago. Despite the monitoring, Hitchens files have nothing on the hundreds of pages the FBI had on Richard Feynman.
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MuckRock FOIA Request Releases Christopher Hitchens' FBI Files

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  • Well duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2015 @12:34PM (#49674293) Journal

    "Despite the monitoring, Hitchens files have nothing on the hundreds of pages the FBI had on Richard Feynman."

    No shit. I'd expect a world class physicist who was involved in the top-secret development of the nuclear bomb would attract a bit more scrutiny than a vocal anti-religious advocate and author. One of these things is not like the other things...
    =Smidge=

    • True, but then again, we wouldn't want those un-American heathen atheists to go unchecked, would we?

      • Re:Well duh (Score:4, Interesting)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2015 @12:49PM (#49674485) Journal
        Aside from the "zOMG!!!! He belonged to some 'socialist' club in college!" bullshit, most of the rest of the file seemed to be variations on 'some foreign guy wants to be a permanent resident; we have absolutely nothing interesting on him'.

        I suppose you might as well write it down if you go to the trouble of checking; but even J Edgar Hoover's paranoid little minions apparently couldn't find too much to hyperventilate about.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        anyone who advocates a challenge-to-authority and shakes up the 'established' order is a threat to any modern government, these days. at least in the US, we want pawns who will do what they are told and not rock the boat.

        religion is the main way the elite controls the masses. if you shake up belief in religion, the upper classes will worry about their stability in maintaining control. they don't like that.

        I find it disgusting that 'law enforcement' wastes time on people who are absolutely no threat at al

        • I find it disgusting that 'law enforcement' wastes time on people who are absolutely no threat at all.

          And the way you know who is 'absolutely no threat at all' is what, exactly?

          An investigation that results in a 19 page file is a very, very minimal report.

        • There's nothing wrong with people rocking the boat. That's the claim politicians make to get elected, and it's what they try for to get reelected.

          What scares the government is when someone tries to capsize the boat. If your anti-religion rants are a means to radicalize people against a supposedly-religious government in an effort to spark a civil war, then yes, the FBI should be watching. That's a large part of its job.

          I've been involved with a particular group of people who like to build rather energetic e

    • I'd imagine everyone who worked on the Manhattan project has a hefty FBI file.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      No shit. I'd expect a world class physicist who was involved in the top-secret development of the nuclear bomb would attract a bit more scrutiny than a vocal anti-religious advocate and author. One of these things is not like the other things...

      True. A few hundred years down the road, I am sure that Hitchens will be remembered as one of the great pioneers for mankind to throw off its yoke.

    • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwater@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday May 12, 2015 @01:52PM (#49675263) Homepage

      No shit. My FBI file (the last time I saw it) ran fifty plus pages. (Courtesy of getting a significant clearance and a couple of compartmentalized accesses.)

      Actually reading the linked files... most of them are just noise, routine bureaucratic acknowledgements of something or other. When you summarize what's left it adds up to "we looked into this guy, nothing significant found, nothing to worry about". Nothing scary, nothing more than I'd expect of foreign national travelling in the US, or of someone becoming a citizen, or of someone getting a White House press pass.

      Move along, nothing to see here except clickbait meant to excite the usual easily excitable demographic.

    • Re: Well duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kenh ( 9056 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2015 @03:04PM (#49675987) Homepage Journal

      Let's also remember that Feynman had made a habit of 'cracking' the various top secret safes at Los Alamos during the Manhattan project... Besides, Feynman is infinitely more interesting than Mr. Hitchens

      A 19 page FBI file is a very, very thin report IMHO.

  • I sent one. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chris Katko ( 2923353 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2015 @12:37PM (#49674337)

    I sent an FOIA request on myself to the NSA for fun/curiosity. (Technically, it's "Privacy Act" request when you're doing yourself.) It's pretty easy.

    It took them three pages to tell me, "Go fuck yourself." Every line was peppered with "this doesn't acknowledge the existence, or lack of existence of any records relating to you."

    Their whole reason for denying my request of "any applicable records" was: because the NSA program in the news is classified, any records caught by the program are also classified. Except that any records not found by a classified method wouldn't be classified by that logic (Google, anyone?). So in otherwords, it was like I said, it was more of a "Fuck you, peasant" letter.

    • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2015 @12:41PM (#49674375)

      In all fairness, can you imagine the cost to them if they had to turn over the recordings of every one of your phones calls and emails for the last 10+ years? That shit would add up fast, man.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That's the cost of being a bunch of criminals.

      • It'd be somewhere (lower) on the scale of what it took to obtain all that info in the first place. And we're the ones paying for that to begin with.
      • In all fairness, can you imagine the cost to them if they had to turn over the recordings of every one of your phones calls and emails for the last 10+ years? That shit would add up fast, man.

        I presume they would just type in the appropriate search term into their huge database yielding a couple of gigs of text that can be put on 10,000 floppy disks and mailed.

    • Re:I sent one. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2015 @12:45PM (#49674421) Journal

      Or it could be that they don't actually have anything on you. Not to burst your self-importance bubble but (with apologies to South Park) the odds are good that you're fat and unimportant.

      More than half of Mr. Hitchen's FBI file is records of previous requests (by the USSS for his White House press pass, by Immigration and Naturalization for his residence permit, and so forth) that returned nothing of consequence, exactly what you would expect for someone with no criminal record. I've seen my own FBI file; it's a handful of requests for information from various State agencies (all related to background checks for firearms licenses) that resulted in "no hit." I'm also fat and unimportant....

      • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2015 @01:45PM (#49675189)

        That's the great thing about living in post-9-11 America, NO ONE is too unimportant to have their phone calls and emails archived. To the NSA, we're ALL special!

        • That's the great thing about living in post-9-11 America, NO ONE is too unimportant to have their phone calls and emails archived. To the NSA, we're ALL special!

          I blame the exponential growth in archival storage sizes. :)

    • by bondsbw ( 888959 )

      If they didn't already collect any records on you, you can be assured that they will start now.

      • Ah yes, the paradox of privacy advocacy. All of us who advocate publicly for privacy and civil rights likely sacrifice some of our own in the process, and so be it, it's only because of the constant roar of millions of voices that we are able to preserve our ability to speak freely.

    • I sent an FOIA request on myself to the NSA for fun/curiosity.

      I can understand the reason why someone can ask about themselves, but I don't understand why a third-party request like this hasn't caused more of a reaction. "OMG 19 pages" isn't what I mean.

      I mean "the government is collecting info we don't think they should and THEN handing it out to anyone who asks for it." Why should a FOIA request about someone completely unrelated to you be approved? If the government shouldn't collect it, why should they hand it out? (Yeah, I know, He's Dead Jim, but his family i

  • by kenh ( 9056 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2015 @04:55PM (#49676865) Homepage Journal

    While you may find it upsetting that the FBI had a file on an author, understand a few things:

    1) the original impetus for the report appears to be a 'tip' from an informant

    2) a number of the documents in the file have to do with a request for a press pass into the White House

    3) the resounding conclusion of the 19 pages is that there is nothing to be concerned about

    I would hope that reporters that want to work inside the White House would have SOME investigation into their background performed before issuing credentials, and at 19 pages, this was a very minimal investigation.

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