he 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.