- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Praeger (April 22, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0275954552
- ISBN-13: 978-0275954550
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,387,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Assault on the Left: The FBI and the Sixties Antiwar Movement
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From Library Journal
In 1939 President Roosevelt first authorized the FBI to investigate subversive activities in the United States. Here Davis (Spying on America, LJ 5/1/92) takes up the bureau's assault on "the New Left" 30 years later. The New Left included militant student organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which mobilized against the war in Vietnam. Davis contends that in the New Left Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) used by the FBI, the bureau went far beyond gathering information and pursued secret actions against groups and individuals that weakened the antiwar movement. Along the way, the FBI "circumvented First and Fourth Amendment guarantees and thus exceeded its authority." To support his claim, Davis draws on hundreds of FBI documents. Yet in the end he gives us only the documentation of the COINTELPRO actions, not a historical or contextual analysis of the FBI's actions. Only for collections with a strong interest in this area.?Roseanne Castellino, LucasVarity Corp., Buffalo, N.Y.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A sad chronicle of the government's spying on citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. In 1939, writes Davis (Spying on America, 1992) President Roosevelt pressed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to investigate ``sabotage, espionage, and subversive activities.'' With WW II looming, he was right to fear the first two. But, Davis shows, Hoover concerned himself largely with the third sphere, compiling dossiers on millions of Americans who harbored socialist sympathies or protested the governing policies of the era. In 1956, President Eisenhower authorized increased surveillance of suspected radicals, even endorsing Hoover's program of illegal breaking and entering to photograph ``secret communist documents.'' With the rise of the antiwar movement in the 1960s, the antisubversion elements of the FBI embarked on their elaborate, and infamous, COINTELPRO operation, which extended breaking and entering to new heights: infiltrating leftist organizations with paid informants and agents provocateurs who encouraged peaceful groups to engage in terrorism; writing anonymous letters to fellow travelers, parents, and prospective employers charging leftists with illegal activities; targeting prominent dissidents with smear campaigns. The documents Davis offers are sometimes comical, as FBI agents attempt to mimic the language of hippies and Yippies and Black Panthers (``bring your own grass, pot, whatever,'' read one faked flyer announcing a demonstration). Yet, Davis shows, there was nothing at all funny about the government's secret program of violating Americans' civil rights. The COINTELPRO operation ultimately failed--thanks to federal ineptitude--and it did nothing substantial to halt the antiwar movement, which managed to stage some of the ``largest mass demonstrations ever seen in the western hemisphere'' despite the FBI's best efforts. Nelson Blackstock's Cointelpro (not reviewed) and Davis's own earlier book cover much of this ground, but this well-researched study is a welcome investigation of political corruption in the supposed service of Americanism. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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This book is heavily laden with FBI memos from their COINTELPRO operation, but the memos were more focused on the antiwar movement than any other "Leftist" activity. The book provided some very interesting pieces of information regarding different movements at that time as well as some of the significant events that happened in the 60's and early 70's. The biggest problem I found with the book was the very dry way in which a lot of the data was presented. In fact, much of the book was just memos from FBI field offices and from the FBI headquarters. That made for very tedious and boring reading. I was hoping for more interviews from activists, informants and agents alike.
If you're looking for a single source of dates and actual memos from the FBI, then this is the book. If you're looking for a story, or for details that lead to certain events, then I suggest finding a more suitable book.
Using more than 6,000 declassified FBI documents and other primary sources, Davis provides an in-depth look of the Bureau's counterintelligence program known as COINTELPRO; it's goal was to "infiltrate, disrupt, and neutralize" the entire movement. The FBI operation, Davis contends, had no oversight by either the Justice Department or Congress and allowed to run rampant in order to disrupt the New Left. As the oldest republic in the world, the author contends that America "should perhaps know more than any nation on earth about individual liberties" (page 214) and that the federal government failed to provide a check on the COINTELPRO operation to safeguard individual liberties.
This book somewhat fits in with the rest of the historical literature of
the 1960s despite the author of not being a professional historian but rather a student of history for over thirty years. It provides a good, detailed description of the FBI counterintelligence program against the New Left but sometimes the writing style was a little choppy and repetitious. Finally, this book is recommended for any history buff and for professional historians as well to get a glimpse of the FBI's COINTELPRO operation against the antiwar movement. Therefore I give it 4 out of 5 stars.