Hedy Lamarr’s FBI files make no mention of her "Secret Communication System"

Hedy Lamarr’s FBI files make no mention of her “Secret Communication System”

Most of the Bureau’s files on the actress and inventor were destroyed, leaving only a name check behind

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Edited by JPat Brown

Federal Bureau of Investigation documents released to MuckRock on Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress and inventor of technologies that would later lead to Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi, provide yet another example of the FBI’s monitoring of left-wing groups.

In their response to our FOIA request for files on or related to Lamarr, the Bureau noted that some of the files related to Lamarr had been destroyed.


(The destruction of FBI records - whether deliberate or by accident - is an unfortunately common occurrence.)

The only remaining file kept by the FBI on Lamarr is a name check filed by an unknown individual or organization in 1957.


In November of 1941, an FBI informant attended a benefit dinner that Lamarr co-sponsored for the American Committee to Save Refugees, the Exiled Writers’ Committee, and the United American Spanish Aid Committee. The documents state that according to the Special Committee on Un-American Activities (a precursor to the House Un-American Activities Committee), the latter two groups were supposed Communist fronts. The Bureau also took note of Lamarr’s first marriage to Fritz Mandl, an Austrian fascist and munitions manufacturer who aided Germany during World War II, and a $100 donation to the Progressive Citizens of America, another suspected communist front.


Lamarr’s scientific contributions are unmentioned in the name check, although they were certainly known to the U.S. government before 1957. After realizing that radio-controlled torpedoes could be thrown off course by jamming their signals, Lamarr and her friend George Anthiel filed a patent for their frequency-hopping system - filed as the “Secret Communication System” — in 1941.

It wasn’t until 1962 that the U.S. Navy finally adopted an updated form of Lamarr’s technology during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Whether or not intelligence concerning Lamarr and her technology were in the now-destroyed files may never be known.

Read the full file embedded below, or on the request page.

Image by Eric Koch via Wikimedia Commons