The last section of Malcolm X’s 10,000 plus page FBI file concerns the Bureau’s electronic surveillance of the activist shortly before his death. For months, agents listened to X’s phone calls, photographed his comings and goings, and even considered bugging his Queens residence - only to hastily discontinue the operation for fear it would taint a potential conviction.
In 1976 and again in 1977, the Justice Department decided not to prosecute anyone for the CIA’s illegal surveillance and mail openings. The report issued in 1977 reveals the Justice Department’s highly flawed reasons, including claims that prosecution would not serve to prevent such questionable or outright illegal surveillance from happening again - ironically setting the stage for modern surveillance programs.
A few years after the Nixon administration first re-opened communication with the People’s Republic of China, the CIA found itself having to field persistent requests from the Navy to enlist Kissinger’s help in substantiating rumors that the Soviets had deployed a laser weapon against the PRC.
In the Bay State, the grotesque black holes of bureaucracy sometimes take on an added Groundhog Day-esque tint. Like when your request is rejected. But you win your appeal. And then your request is rejected again.
Earlier this year, the FBI released “Game of Pawns” a short film dramatizing the Glenn Duffie Shriver espionage case. The film’s awkward dialogue and low production value drew some jeers, pointing out that their “downtown Shanghai” was clearly filmed outside the DC Chinatown Metro stop. Despite its cheap feel, the project still cost the agency at least $650,000 - almost ten times the amount Shriver was paid by the Chinese government.