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Investigating the FBI's battle to subvert subversives

Surveillance now takes many forms. From cameras on city street corners, to government traces of emails, texts, tweets, and phone calls, to the rise of domestic drones. It’s unclear, at this point, exactly how much we’re being watched, but we do know that the government – especially the FBI – has a history of surveillance, both legal and illegal. And we know that, in part, because of the work of people like Seth Rosenfeld. He’s a correspondent with the Center for Investigative Reporting and author of the bestselling new book Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals and Reagan's Rise to Power.

The book discusses the social protests of the 1960s, but first it shows how the seeds of that unrest were sown in the preceding decades. The buildup to WWII and its sudden and violent conclusion. The national rivalry between the US and Russia, the arms race. Through it all, the FBI worked hard to make sure it kept control of the message. Rosenfeld  uncovered the many liberties the agency took to make sure that control was as complete as possible. Rosenfeld shared some of what he discovered with KALW's Ben Trefny.

Click the audio player above to listen to the conversation.

Seth Rosenfeld is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. Read more about how he gained access to hundreds of thousands of classified FBI documents here

Ben joined KALW in 2004. As Executive News Editor and then News Director, he helped the news department win numerous regional and national awards for long- and short-form journalism. He also helped teach hundreds of audio producers, many of whom work with him at KALW, today.