Phone-Tap on Trotsky’s Lawyer
News Line 24 July 1977, page 11
Washington – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) illegally tapped telephone conversations between Trotsky’s lawyer Albert Goldman and the head of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1943, newly released FBI files disclose.
Goldman was one of 18 Trotskyists jailed under America’s anti-communist Smith Act during the war.
The Chicago branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently obtained by court order 3,072 pages of FBI documents on the organisation, revealing massive surveillance and infiltration ever since 1920. This was despite a special denial by J. Edgar Hoover – in writing – that he had ordered spying on them.
Among the documents is a transcript of a telephone conversation between Albert Goldman and ACLU leader Roger Baldwin on 21 May 1943.
The transcript and memo does not indicate whether the FBI tapped Goldman’s phone or Baldwn’s, or both. But either tap would have been illegal under the 1934 Federal communications Act.
At the time of the surveillance, the ACLU was assisting Goldman and the other 18 defendants in their appeal against a 1941 Minneapolis conviction brought about by the FBI, which had raided the Socialist Workers Party offices in that city. The Trotskyists lost their appeal and were jailed.
By spying and telephone-tapping operations such as this, the FBI could score over every defendant in frame-up battles, by having foreknowledge of the defence’s strategy in the case.
The documents uncovered show that virtually everyone who was ever in touch with the ACLU was subjected to FBI attention.
Dossiers were compiled on Chicago social worker Jane Addams, a Nobel laureate; on novelist Upton Sinclair; on novelists John Doc Passos; Pearl Buck; John P. Marquand; Theodore Dreiser; Socialist Eugene Debs; lawyer Clarence Darrow; blind writer and teacher Helen Keller; and Felix Frankfurter, later to be a Supreme Court Judge.
Ironically, Frankfurter was described as a ‘radical’ lecturer at a time when besides teaching in Harvard, he was teaching FBI officers at the Bureau’s own academy.
The ACLU was described as ‘nothing more than a front for communists.’
The files released so far only go up to 1943. Another 17,000 pages are still to come in the next few months.