On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, I remembered being near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. What I didn’t know then I learned in September 2013: Declassified documents revealed that during the 1960s the National Security Agency had put him on a watch list.
Martin Luther King was a threat to this country? And what about the bearded guy who was cheering as Dr. King spoke on August 28, 1963? The NSA probably had the FBI’s file on me back then.
As the civil rights movement gained momentum, Dr. King’s enemies were not limited to such openly rabid racists as the Ku Klux Klan. An FBI memo called him the “most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country.” I wonder if Dr. King ever knew how doggedly the FBI was keeping an eye on him.
Its surveillance is chronicled in the landmark exposé The Lawless State: The Crimes of the U.S. Intelligence Agencies. In February 1962, “on the day King was arrested on a charge of parading without a permit in Albany [New York]…[FBI Director] J. Edgar Hoover ordered a field review of FBI files for ‘subversive’ information on King ‘suitable for dissemination.’”