by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

The Reagan administration’s paranoid concern with communism has led to the development of a national private spying network and an official effort by the FBI to turn America’s librarians into spies.

People and groups who speak out against Reagan administration policies put themselves in jeopardy of surveillance by private intelligence-gathering organizations composed of conservative groups with close ties to the White House. Members say they pass on the information they collect to federal agencies, like the Justice Department, and on occasion to the White House itself.

Conservative groups involved in these spying activities include the Institute for Contemporary Studies, the Young America’s Foundation, the Council for Inter-American Security, and the Capital Research Center.

Stephen Schwartz works at the Institute for Contemporary Studies, a San Francisco think-tank founded by top Reagan aides like Ed Meese. Schwartz calls it “the commie-watching network.”

Michael Boos, Program Director of Young America’s Foundation, says the group promotes conservative ideas on college campuses .. and keeps track of what the left-wing opposition is up to. Boos keeps files, makes lists, takes photographs … all to keep an eye on students and professors he says “need watching.” Boos says that two top-level Reagan Administration officials — Ken Cribb, Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs, and Frank Donatelli, the President’s chief Political Advisor — support his work. Both serve on Young America’s Board of Directors. Young America’s financial records reveal the organization received money from the federal government -­over $100,000 from the United States Information Agency.

Michael Waller gathers information on left-wing activists for a private political group called the Council for Inter-American Security. The Council claims that Bill Casey was driven to have a brain seizure because of harassment by the liberal media and liberal members of Congress. It also claims that Michigan Congressman George Crockett was once a communist agent and that other congressmen who secretly collaborated with the Soviet KGB included John Burton, Ted Weiss, Ron Dellums, John Conyers, Don Edwards, and Charles Rangle.

Willa Johnson, who heads the Capital Research Center which gathers information on opponents of White House policies, is former Deputy Director of Personnel at the White House. The Center gets its money from corporations and right-wing benefactors like Joe Coors and Ellen Garwood, two key funders of the secret White House effort to support the contras.

Meanwhile, the FBI officially recruits librarians to spy on library users who might be diplomats of hostile powers recruiting intelligence agents or gathering information potentially harmful to U.S. security. While the current program, euphemistically called the “Library Awareness Program,” started shortly after the August, 1986, arrest of a Soviet spy who frequented New York Libraries in search of student recruits and stolen, unclassified library materials, the FBI said the program has existed for years in various incarnations.


KRON-TV Target 4, San Francisco, 11/10-12/87, Sylvia Chase, Jonathan Dann; Center for Investigative Reporting, Dan Noyes; PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/23/88, “FBI asks librarians to help in the search for spies,” by Amy Linn.