Thursday, May 29, 2014

FBI files on iconoclastic musician Pete Seeger to be released online

Thousands of investigative files that the FBI maintained for more than half a century on folk singer Pete Seeger are set to be released to the public online, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has told Al Jazeera.

When Seeger died in January at the age of 94, dozens of journalists, researchers and curious members of the public sought his files from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act. The FBI has been informing requesters that it turned over all of Seeger’s files to the NARA before his death.

NARA spokeswoman Miriam Kleinman said in an interview that the archive would now seek to publish the files once it completes processing them. They are thought to total about 2,500 pages and need to be screened for information that is exempt from disclosure, as well as names and details that might be redacted to protect the identities of informants or confidential sources.

“As soon as possible, NARA will post this file online,” Kleinman said. “We are waiting for review to be complete.”

The NARA initially decided to release the files only to researchers on request, for a hefty administrative fee of at least $2,000. But Kleinman said public interest in the files prompted a switch in policy.

Seeger, the subject of secret FBI and CIA surveillance dating to the 1940s, was blacklisted during the McCarthy era because of his political beliefs and was indicted for contempt of Congress.