Thursday, January 30, 2014

What's in Pete Seeger's FBI File?

(Seeger with Joan Baez. Public domain photo.)

The legendary troubadour and social justice advocate Pete Seeger died this week at age 94, and when I heard the news about his death my memory bank called up times in first and second grade from the early 1960s.

My siblings and I attended public grammar school in West Caldwell, NJ, and our teachers were of the liberal and do-gooder type. We were taught folk songs of the era, including those penned or sung by Seeger, and sang them in class and during school assemblies, so I have a long connection to and appreciation of Seeger's music and politics.

During his lifetime, Seeger was under surveillance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and some of his file has already been released, but now that he has died it's time for the agency to release all of its records on him. I sent a request to the agency and suspect other activists and a few journalists have done the same, and our collective curiosity will likely lead the feds to post the Seeger file on its web site, due to widespread public interest.

Here's the reply from the agency to my request. Let's see how long it takes the feds to disclose what they hold on Seeger:

Dear Mr. Petrelis, 

The FBI has received your Freedom of Information Act/Privacy (FOIPA) request and it will be forwarded to Initial Processing for review. Your request will be processed under the provisions of FOIPA and a response will be mailed to you at a later date. 

Requests for fee waivers and expedited processing will be addressed once your request has been assigned an FOIPA request number. You will receive written notification of the FBI’s decision. 

Information regarding the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy is available at or If you require additional assistance please contact the Public Information Officer. 

Thank you, 
 David P. Sobonya

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