Reagan’s Personal Spying Machine - NYTimes.com
The documents show that Reagan was more involved than was previously known as a government informer during his Hollywood years, and that in return he secretly received personal and political help from J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime F.B.I. director, at taxpayer expense.
Reagan’s F.B.I. connection is rooted in the turbulent years of post-World War II Hollywood, a time when, Reagan has written, his worldview was coming apart. His film career, his marriage to Jane Wyman and his faith in the political wisdom received from his father, an F.D.R. Democrat, were all faltering.
The timing was thus significant when, one night in 1946, F.B.I. agents dropped by his house overlooking Sunset Boulevard and told him that Communists were infiltrating a liberal group he was involved in. He soon had a new purpose; as he wrote, “I must confess they opened my eyes to a good many things.”
The newly released files flesh out what Reagan only hinted at. They show that he began to report secretly to the F.B.I. about people whom he suspected of Communist activity, some on the scantiest of evidence. And they reveal that during his tenure as president of the Screen Actors Guild in the ’40s and ’50s, F.B.I. agents had access to guild records on dozens of actors. As one F.B.I. official wrote in a memo, Reagan “in every instance has been cooperative.”
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According to F.B.I. records, in 1960 he turned to the federal government for help with the kind of problem families usually handle themselves. That March, his close friend George Murphy reached out to an F.B.I. contact, explaining that Reagan and Ms. Wyman, now divorced, were “much concerned” about their estranged daughter, Maureen, then 19. She had moved to Washington, and, her parents had heard, was living with an older, married policeman.
According to an F.B.I. memo: “Jane Wyman wishes to come to Washington to perhaps straighten out her daughter, get her back to Los Angeles, but before doing so desires to know the following: (1) Is [the man in question] employed as an officer of the Metropolitan Police Department?; (2) Is he married?; (3) Is his wife in an institution and what are the details?; and (4) Any other information which might be discreetly developed concerning the relationship.”
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