• Email
  • Print

Freedom of Information and Other Queries

To the Editors:

As a doctoral student working on a comparative dissertation on the anti–Vietnam War movement at SUNY-Buffalo, Penn State, Michigan State, and Kent State I have found that obtaining FBI files through the Freedom of Information Act is no easy task. The Detroit FBI office and, subsequently, the US Justice Department, denied outright my request for files pertaining to the Michigan State University Christian Movement on the grounds of “national security.” I suspect that this decision was rendered on behalf of the sensitivities of David Stockman, an important MSU antiwar activist in the 1960s. (I have a Stockman quote from 1967 in which the young radical calls for the abolition of “bourgeois complacency” and restructuring of the capitalist system so I cannot imagine what more embarrassing “Stockmanisms” are to be found in the FBI’s UCM files.)

In contrast to the Detroit office, the Buffalo FBI has been much more cooperative, too cooperative in fact. Innocently, I requested the FBI files on the SUNY-Buffalo Students for a Democratic Society and The Resistance. To my shock the FBI informed me that it had nearly 11,000 pages of documents on just those two organizations in the Buffalo area. Eleven thousand pages on perhaps six hundred individuals. Included in this letter was a request for payment of duplication fees—at ten cents a page only a mere $1,100.

Being an impoverished but persistent graduate student I filed a fee waiver request with the US Department of Justice. The Justice Department denied my request because “evidence” of academic significance was lacking, e.g., a book contract. I know of few twenty-five-year-old doctoral students with book contracts, but ah well.

Given my misadventures to date with the FOIA I would like to correspond with faculty, clergy, and student anti–Vietnam War activists from Kent State, Michigan State, Penn State, and SUNY-Buffalo, and, if possible, examine their FBI files.

Kenneth Heineman

3P25 Forbes Quad

Department of History

University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA 15260

  • Email
  • Print