Ted Kennedy and the lost notebook: FBI was watching him
FBI files on Sen. Ted Kennedy kept between 1961 and 1985 are full of death threats and clues to the senator's relationship with the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Sen. Ted Kennedy’s just-released FBI files are a fascinating window into the complex relationship between the nation’s most famous family of Democrats and its most famous federal law enforcement agency.Skip to next paragraph
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During the era of Director J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI appeared to be keeping a wary eye on at least some of Senator Kennedy’s political activities. At the same time, Director Hoover appears to have maintained a cordial personal relationship with Joseph P. Kennedy, Ted’s father, as well as with young Ted himself.
The sad legacy of Kennedy assassinations was a major factor in the relationship, as well. The documents released Monday contain hundreds of pages of death threats against Sen. Kennedy collected by FBI informants or passed to the agency from local police.
These range from the apparently serious to the ephemeral. For instance, on July 24, 1968, a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner wrote Hoover a personal letter saying that in the course of researching stories on Extra Sensory Perception, the reporter had become convinced of ESP’s validity.
“[This] warning is being passed on to you for your files,” wrote the journalist, whose name is redacted from the document as released.
Historians, journalists, political scientists, and ordinary Kennedy buffs have been eagerly awaiting a look at the FBI’s Ted Kennedy files. The agency released 2,352 pages of documents on Monday per a Freedom of Information Act request from the Associated Press and other media organizations.
The material released came from seven FBI files, noted the agency in an overview posted on its web site. Three of these files were held at FBI headquarters in Washington, and four were field agency files. In total, they cover the years from 1961 to 1985.
The bulk of the material consists of threats of violence or extortion attempts against Kennedy or other public officials, notes the FBI.
“At no point do these files suggest that the FBI investigated Senator Kennedy for a criminal violation or as a security threat,” says the FBI’s statement.
That does not mean the FBI did not watch some of the things Kennedy was doing, however. That might be demonstrated by the incident of the lost notebook.
In 1961, just prior to his first election to the Senate, the young Teddy took a fact finding trip to Central and South America. Long worried about the influence of leftists, revolutionaries, and outright communists on US affairs, the FBI “took an interest in Kennedy’s travels”, according to the agency itself.