Why Did the FBI Open Files on These 20 Famous People?

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. government created the Department of Homeland Security, and the American public started hearing terms such as “No Fly List” and “terrorist watchlist.” Government surveillance of both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens is nothing new, however, and the FBI has been spying on people and sometimes materially affecting their lives since the agency was created in 1908. Some of the people it has targeted might surprise you.

Using the FBI website and various media sources, 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of famous people the FBI opened files on – sometimes investigating them, sometimes harassing them, sometimes merely monitoring their activities. (In contrast to these examples of Bureau monitoring of mostly blameless individuals, here are the biggest cases investigated by the FBI.)

We have chosen prominent figures in the political and entertainment worlds, whose presence in the FBI’s databases might surprise you. We have not included noted criminals or terrorists whose presence in FBI files is to be expected. We have also omitted people(officially the Terrorist Screening Database) and/or No Fly List, usually because they have names similar to genuine subjects of concern. Among these are the last Senator Ted Kennedy, who was repeatedly stopped and interrogated, apparently because the name “T. Kennedy” was used by terror suspects.

Click here to learn why the FBI opened files on these 20 famous people

Chief among the people who attracted FBI interest are those with alleged communist affiliations (Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin, Truman Capote) or who participated in anti-war protests (John Lennon, Yoko Ono, John Denver) or civil rights activity (John Lewis, Jackie Robinson, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.). (These are the greatest speeches of the civil rights movement.)

Among the real head-scratchers on this list are author and disability rights activist Helen Keller (who had lost her sight and hearing as an infant), comedians Abbott and Costello, and “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin.

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