Tom Hayden & the FBI: What Files Did the FBI Have on the Activist?

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Paul Krassner, Tom Hayden and actor Nick Nolte attend the opening night premiere of “Chicago 10” after party held at The Spur during the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. (Getty)

Tom Hayden, the leftist activist-turned-lawmaker and author, died Sunday at age 76 after suffering from heart issues and falling ill during the Philadelphia Democratic National Convention. Hayden was launched onto the national political scene after the 1968 DNC, when he and other protesters clashed with police and were charged with inciting a riot.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has an extensive file on Hayden. According to the LA Times, “A photo from the late 1970s shows him pondering, with apparent satisfaction, his 22,000-page FBI file, stacked about 5 feet high.”

Those files, available through the FBI Vault, show the government was collecting plenty of information on the radical activist during the tumultuous Civil Rights and Vietnam War era through its Counterintelligence Program (Cointelpro).

The FBI claimed Hayden and a few others provoked police during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago by “throwing of bottle and other objects.” The agency collected leaflets and alternative pamphlets authored or distributed by Hayden and others, including his contribution to “Viet-Report Special Issue: Urban America — The New Front” and an “Open Letter to McCarthy Supporters.”

The Justice Department collected student-run publications, too, from Berkeley and San Francisco:

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Hayden was also mentioned in the FBI’s files on Abbie Hoffman. Hoffman, the founder of the Youth International Party (the Yippies), was part of the 1968 DNC riots with Hayden, and Hayden, a founder of Students for a Democratic Society, was “greeted by an applauding group of about fifty persons” in its report:

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One of Hayden’s advisors in Sacramento, Duane Peterson, told the LA Times, “He was the radical inside the system.”

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