By Amy Gorel, Staff Writer
Thanks to tools like MuckRock and the Freedom of Information Act, government documents are made availible in an effort to have a transparent government, to an extent.
A man named Conor Skelding recently requested documents from the FBI that detailed a government investigation of Isaac Asimov, former BU professor-as well as a rather famous sci-fi author.
While I don’t know the reasons behind Skelding’s request for this information, the documents give some perspective on the public’s indignation at the NSA these days.
The reasoning the documents provide for investigation are as follows:
1. Asimov was born in Russia (though he came to America when he was three, and was naturalized by the time he was eight years old).
2. He was in academia as a biochemist (they were looking for ROBPROF, an academic in the field of microbiology).
3. He wrote for Sci-Fi Magazines which did some “blind” publishing for the Communist Party (CP) in the states.
4. His name was on a list from the 1950s of people who the CPUSA should contact for recruitment-but it doesn’t say if he was contacted or not.
Solid enough evidence? Well, the FBI didn’t think so and no, there was no further investigation into the matter.
But the government’s command of information is nothing new. The Cold War brought about a great deal of Soviet paranoia-calling out the communists-in America, especially during the 1950s. When Asimov was considered as a potential face of ROBPROF, a code name for a Soviet spy, it was already the 1960s and some of the craze had died down. However, this was the time when the government was looking for people who were inflaming the anti-war movement-which, according to BU Professor William Keylor, was assumed to have been fueled by the communists.
Nevertheless, the fact that the government had an entire file on him was probably not known to Asimov. They listed his address, phone numbers, wife, educational history; they had all the details of his private life.
So when the Edward Snowden ordeal became public and everyone started realizing just how much information the NSA had on each and every American-as well as foreign subjects it was investigating-it should have been no surprise.
Maybe you’re slightly uncomfortable with the government being privy to all those Google searches of cats you do every day, but this is nothing new: there’s just a new platform for you to submit information out into the world for the government to find. And anyways, why would the government care about how many times you’ve colored in the Koalas to the Max photo?