Reviewing the FBI FOIA release regarding Madalyn Murray O’Hair that I described here, I suppose that the most striking aspect of it is the total absence of, even, an intimation that she had committed any crime. And, the file was opened in 1959 — 4-years before the famous Supreme Court decision1.
She was a vocal socialist, and sympathetic to Russia, but generally a law-abiding citizen guilty of no more than being out-of-step with the placid 1950s of Dwight Eisenhower.
Even so, the notes indicate that reports of her activity were sent to “Director” — J. Edgar Hoover, presumably — and the file includes instructions directly from “Director” about continued surveillance. Again, this began in 1959, 4-years before the Supreme Court’s school prayer decision, and there is no suggestion in the file I have that O’Hair was suspected of any crime.
In other words, the FBI was surveilling a law-abiding American citizen because she had expressed socialist sympathies — and for no other reason.
Seriously, the more I get back into this file, the more convinced I am that my first instinct was sound: There is a hell of an interesting, slice-of-America story here.
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1 I should add that the school prayer decision would not, in itself, justify surveillance, but would make it at least understandable in the uber-paranoid universe of Hoover.