David Price in CounterPunch:
The FBI has a long, ignoble tradition of monitoring and harassing America’s top intellectuals. While people ranging from Albert Einstein, William Carlos Williams to Martin Luther King have been subjected to FBI surveillance, there remains an under-accounting of the ways in which this monitoring at times hampered the reception of their work.
In response to my request under the Freedom of Information Act, filed on behalf of CounterPunch, the FBI recently released 147 of Said’s 238-page FBI file. There are some unusual gaps in the released records, and it is possible that the FBI still holds far more files on Professor Said than they acknowledge. Some of these gaps may exist because new Patriot Act and National Security exemptions allow the FBI to deny the existence of records; however, the released file provides enough information to examine the FBI’s interest in Edward Said who mixed artistic appreciations, social theory, and political activism in powerful and unique ways.
Most of Said’s file documents FBI surveillance campaigns of his legal, public work with American-based Palestinian political or pro-Arab organizations, while other portions of the file document the FBI’s ongoing investigations of Said as it monitored his contacts with other Palestinian-Americans. That the FBI should monitor the legal political activities and intellectual forays of such a man elucidates not only the FBI’s role in suppressing democratic solutions to the Israeli and Palestinian problems, it also demonstrates a continuity with the FBI’s historical efforts to monitor and harass American peace activists.
Edward Said’s wife, Mariam, says she is not surprised to learn of the FBI’s surveillance of her husband, saying, “We always knew that any political activity concerning the Palestinian issue is monitored and when talking on the phone we would say ‘let the tappers hear this’. We believed that our phones were tapped for a long time, but it never bothered us because we knew we were hiding nothing.”