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2002-07-09

The Einstein Files: J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret War Against the World’s Most Famous Scientist

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We have been talking about the FBI’s investigation into US scientists who could have been behind last fall’s anthrax attacks.

Today we are going to look at another scientist the FBI investigated for more than 20 years. The world’s most famous scientist, in fact. This scientist who revolutionized the study of the physical world, rewriting the laws of space, time and gravity. But he was also a pacifist, a Jewish immigrant who supported civil rights, disarmament, internationalism, and socialism. He was a friend of celebrated African-Americans Paul Robeson and W. E. B. Du Bois. And he dared to use his immense prestige to denounce Joseph McCarthy at the height of McCarthy era, and publicly urged witnesses to refuse to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

I am talking about Albert Einstein, the great physicist who gave the world the theory of relativity in 1919. J. Edgar Hoover launched a ruthless, "derogatory information" campaign against Einstein in 1933, the year he emigrated from Germany to the United States. The campaign included illegally opening Einstein’s mail, monitoring his phone, going through his garbage, trying to link him to Soviet spies, and trying to take away his US citizenship.

The investigation turned up nothing, but that did not stop Hoover from amassing an 1800-page file on the physicist. He closed the file a few days after Einstein died in 1955.

A broad history of this story has been known since 1983, when an English professor obtained a censored version of Einstein’s FBI file and wrote about it in The Nation magazine. But a new book provides further shocking details of the FBI campaign against Einstein. The book is called "The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret War Against the World’s Most Famous Scientist." It was written by Fred Jerome, who sued the government with the help of the Public Citizen Litigation Group to obtain a less censored version of the file. The book was published in May by St. Martin’s Press.

Guest:

  • Fred Jerome, author of "The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret War Against the World’s Most Famous Scientist"

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