Thursday, January 24, 2013
CHOICE (Jan. 2013) review of Surveillance in America: Critical Analysis of the FBI, 1920 to the Present (Lexington Books, 2012) In this tightly argued and impressively researched monograph, Greenberg, the author of the well-received Dangers of Dissent (2010), extends his earlier analysis of the threat expansive surveillance operations pose to civil liberties. Based on research in FBI records released in response to (his own and other) Freedom of Information Act requests and extensive reading of the relevant secondary literature, this book surveys FBI surveillance operations since 1920. Greenberg recounts in detail how FBI investigations extended beyond legitimate security threats to encompass radical and labor union activists, historians and prominent writers, reporters, and social justice proponents, and, in an interesting chapter, relates FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt's questionable actions in the Watergate affair. In addition, the author pinpoints the fundamental shift in the conduct of such operations from the secret use of recognizably illegal or extralegal investigative procedures during the post-World War I through the Cold War eras to their legalization through permissive, wide-ranging legislation enacted in the 1990s, 2001, and 2008. Greenberg's sobering account offers a welcome perspective for assessing the current debate over the proper balance between security and liberty interests in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.