April 4, 2008

Book Review - FBI & American Democracy

The FBI & American Democracy: A Brief Critical History
Athan G. Theoharis
HV 8144 .F43 T49 2004

The FBI has long had a reputation for catching gangsters, spies and most recently, terrorists. Theoharis asserts that this reputation is overrated. He suggests that the agency itself has been largely responsible for creating its positive reputation in the minds of the American people. At the same time, Theoharis asserts, it has become increasingly secretive and dependent on investigative tactics such as wiretapping and searches that push legal boundaries and threaten the privacy and civil liberties of American citizens. Theoharis also questions the mission of the FBI, which has shifted over the years. He believes that the FBI has been used by its directors and political figures to investigate and monitor the private lives of public figures and to discredit individuals whose opinions and public activities were viewed as dangerous or threatening to the political establishment. This highly critical history of the FBI uses archival sources from a variety of government agencies, many of which were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. However, the lack of a detailed bibliography may force readers to question how this author's personal opinions have influenced his assertions and conclusions.