A Peek Into FBI's Gossip Files

If you happened to surf through the FBI's Internet web site this week, you might have noticed something interesting about the latest old files to be released, CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports.

Right beside John Dillinger, there are names that seem oddly out of place.

Lucille Ball was the "Lucy" everybody loved -- except one 1950s letter writer who accused her of being a Communist. That alone was enough to get her an FBI file under J. Edgar Hoover, whose eccentricities are woven throughout the latest releases.

John Wayne, for example, had a file -- largely, it seems, so Hoover could track the Duke's many marriages.

Even though he was Spanish, Pablo Picasso got Hoover's attention when the artist declared he was a Communist after World War II.

Swashbuckler Errol Flynn was there, as were Jackie Robinson and Will Rogers. All Rogers apparently did was accept a gold medal from a club that offered only the silver version to J. Edgar Hoover. So Hoover's bureau opened a file.

Few of the files really make sense, says Jim Kalstrom, a former FBI assistant director and now a CBS News consultant.

"They're correspondence. They're hearsay. They're gossip," he says. "They are people who called in and complained about somebody or made a statement about somebody."

Today the FBI's rules may be stricter, but their computerized files can still contain unproven allegations, gossip and hearsay.

That is the chief reason the bureau is so finicky about which files it makes public. Even this latest batch, some of which date back more than 60 years, has about 100 pages deleted -- mainly because someone in the government thinks they're still too secret for you to see.

Reported by Jim Stewart
©1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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