FBI Surveillance of the War Resisters League during the Vietnam War, 1965–1973

Peace & Change, Volume 46, Issue 1, Page 52-70, January 2021.

During the Vietnam War, the FBI conducted counterintelligence operations on many groups and individuals seen as communist collaborators and national security threats. The War Resisters League, a pacifist group, was not just a target of FBI surveillance but was cast by the agency as a seditious organization. FBI records and corroborating sources show that Hoover’s aim was to consolidate his own power over the Justice Department and, in the later years of the war in Vietnam, the White House. Since the majority of existing scholarship on FBI surveillance of the WRL focuses on the interwar period between World War I and World War II, this study expands this history into the critical period between 1965 and 1973. Within this history is Hoover’s process of casting the WRL as a threat and violating members’ civil liberties to “thwart” it. This process not only had an impact on the WRL’s ability to organize but also created a dynamic between nonviolent antiwar activists and the Department of Justice that remains resonant in the twenty‐first century.

This was originally published on Wiley: Peace & Change: Table of Contents.