Army Surveillance in America, 1775-1980

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9780300046687: Army Surveillance in America, 1775-1980

Since the Revolution, Americans have debated what action the military should take toward civilians suspected of espionage, treason, or revolutionary activity. This important book—the first to present a comprehensive history of military surveillance in the United States—traces the evolution of America's internal security policy during the past two hundred years. Joan M. Jensen discusses how the federal government has used the army to intervene in domestic crises and how Americans have protested the violation of civil liberties and applied political pressure to limit military intervention in civil disputes. Although movements to expand and to constrain the military have each dominated during different periods in American history, says Jensen, the involvement of the army in internal security has increased steadily. Jensen describes a wide range of events and individuals connected to this process. These include Benedict Arnold's betrayal of West Point; the colonial wars in Cuba, where Lt. Andrew Rowan, the nation's first officer spy, won a medal for carrying a "Message for Garcia"; the development of "War Plans White" in the 1920s  to guide the army's response in the event of domestic rebellion; the activities of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI in the 1950s and 1960s; the use of the National Guard in the South at the height of the civil rights movement; and the surveillance of and violence against protesters during the Vietnam War. Scrutinizing the historic workings of the American government at closer range than has ever been done before, Jensen creates a vivid picture of the growing invisible intelligence empire within the United States government and of the men who created it.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A dense and well-detailed history of army surveillance that throws light on a shadowed aspect of our past. Jensen (History/New Mexico State Univ.) focuses on the interplay between the shifting tides of American political ideology and the Constitution itself, which dictates a ``minimal internal security apparatus.'' The author documents incidents of the US military using spies and ad hoc security forces from the Benedict Arnold case through the Civil War, when Allan Pinkerton was hired to form a secret service to keep watch on ``disloyal Americans.'' Jensen notes, however, that prior to the 1920's, ``no systematic plan existed to guide the army's response in case of a domestic rebellion.'' Then, after WW I, a plan was formulated by the War Department to transform ``a system to protect the government from enemy agents [into] a vast surveillance system to watch civilians who violated no law but who objected to wartime policies or to the war itself.'' Labor struggles and fear of Bolshevism led to the government spying on a ``vast number of workers,'' including members of the International Workers of the World, a precedent that constituted the army's ``first extensive internal security experience with American civilians.'' Jensen goes on to examine ``War Plans White,'' the military's ``contingency plans for a war at home''; FDR's concern ``about Russian attempts to influence domestic affairs''; the later fears of an alliance between religious pacifists and American Communists; and, during the Vietnam era, the ``massive army surveillance of dissenters.'' Jensen's contention that government spying has always been ``curtailed by public outcry'' seems a bit optimistic, and it is arguable that our ``internal security policy'' has evolved ``to become one that maintained restraint.'' Still, the author capably reveals the conflict between politics, security, and policy. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

In many ways these two penetrating works are complementary. Both authors are academic historians who have written extensively on the perplexing and disturbing question of domestic surveillance by the army and its relationship to cherished American constitutional freedoms. Both are very critical of the army and those who used the army for domestic political purposes. Jensen's book is the first scholarly attempt to analyze in a historical context how the executive branch for over 200 years frequently has used the army to maintain internal security over the civilian population. One major theme that emerges from both studies is the dynamic balance between expansion and constraint of the army. At various times necessity, bureaucratic competitiveness, a willingness to ignore legal restrictions, and ideological persuasion combined to promote expansion. At other times these forces promoted constraint. Domestic social crises fed each tendency in turn. Talbert concentrates on the development of the Negative Branch of Military Intelligence (MI), created by Major General Ralph H. Van Deman in 1917 to observe and harrass the left. After the Red Scare of the early 1920s, MI lost strength, but the social upheavals of the Great Depression and the coming of World War II rekindled it. Both works are illuminating and well written. Talbert's bibliographical essay is especially useful. Jensen's work is more scholarly and focused than Nathan Miller's Spying for America: The Hidden History of the U.S. Intelligence ( LJ 3/15/89), and Talbert's research is more thorough and utilizes much better sources than William R. Corson's The Armies of Ignorance: The Rise of the American Intelligence Empire ( LJ 1/1/78). Both are highly recommended for academic libraries and large public libraries.
-Charles C. Hay III, Eastern Kentucky Univ. Archives, Richmond
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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