Millions trusted baby doctor, but FBI didn't,
agency's files show October 16, 1999
Web posted at: 12:28 PM EDT (1628
DALLAS (AP) -- Newly opened
FBI files reveal that former Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered extensive
surveillance of famed baby expert Dr. Benjamin Spock because of his
anti-Vietnam war speeches.
"He reportedly is liberal, 'politically
speaking,' and his stand on nuclear disarmament and some social reforms have
caused some people (to) question his loyalty," Hoover wrote in a 1965
letter to President Lyndon Johnson.
The FBI released more than 1,700 pages of
Spock's files after a Freedom of Information Act request from The Dallas
Morning News, which reported on the material Saturday.
Spock rose to international renown with his
1946 book on raising children, "Baby and Child Care," which sold
more that 40 million copies.
In 1990, Life magazine listed him among
"The 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century," and
Newsweek in 1994 called him "arguably, the most influential American
Spock died last year at age 94.
To the FBI, Spock was a subversive and a
The file on Spock provides a window on the
government's campaign against left-wing protesters of the era, a time of
deep suspicion and acrimony on both sides of the Vietnam issue.
The bureau had done a routine background
check on the pediatrician in 1964 before his appointment by President
Johnson to the National Advisory Council for the war on poverty.
A memo to Hoover noted that Spock was
"not known to be a member of, or sympathetic to, the Communist
Party." Nevertheless, his anti-war activities -- mainly marches and
speeches -- caught the bureau's attention.
Spock urged draftees to resist conscription,
and in 1968 he was indicted for conspiracy to violate Selective Service
laws. Some evidence against him was came from an FBI wiretap of his office,
the files show.
A federal court convicted Spock, but he was
acquitted on appeal.
Still, the FBI surveillance did not stop, the
files demonstrate. Spock had been placed on the bureau's "agitator
index," with information on his activities furnished to the White House
"on a continuing basis."
By 1972, the bureau was having second
thoughts about watching Spock. Acting Director L. Patrick Gray asked
whether the Spock inquiry should be closed, and an FBI official responded:
"There are more
dangerous characters around needing our attention. ... The basis for
investigation appears to be -- pick someone you dislike and start
FBI spokesman David Miller told the Morning
News that such tactics are "of a bygone age." Investigative
guidelines were tightened beginning in the late 1970s, he said.