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Irving Kristol, Soviet Spy?

That’s what the FBI was asking itself in 1988. That year is not a typo. Gawker [1] has scans of the FBI documents showing that the reputed Godfather of neo-conservatism was a person of interest in an ongoing investigation into a potential Soviet spy.

The FBI heavily redacted the documents—citing national security in many instances—so it’s difficult to make out exactly what happened. But it seems fairly clear that, sometime around May of 1988, the FBI’s counterintelligence division came to possess a notebook or address book belonging to a suspected Soviet agent. And Irving Kristol’s name was in it. That launched a five-month investigation into Kristol’s background, including criminal record checks, interviews with “assets” at the school where he taught, and eventually an interview with Kristol himself, conducted under a “pretext” so as to avoid letting him know the true nature of the investigation. This despite the fact that Kristol had already been subjected to an FBI background check in 1972, when he was considered for a job in the Nixon White House, and came up clean.

Now it would be easy to make too much of these. Soviet spooks could have easily written Kristol’s name in their notebooks to throw investigators off the scent, or just for a few late-Soviet era giggles. Kristol had been strongly identified with anti-communism for a long time by 1988. The FBI report is funny – it includes a section describing the American Enterprise Institute written as if by foreigners. It notes “AEI  employment appears to be a viable option to those having already achieved a successful career” before mentioning Robert Bork.

The writer of the FBI report seems to conclude on the basis of a Nexis review that Irving Kristol would naturally be of interest to their suspected Soviet spy, and seems to conclue that Kristol’s denial of ever meeting with him as sufficient evidence to close the investigation.  I’m not sure that would qualify even as good journalism, but it sufficed for the FBI. What a fascinating late Cold War era document.

Of course committed conspiracy theorists will make the most of this sort of thing. The John Birch Society still promote the idea that William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review was a CIA operation aimed at destroying nothing else but the John Birch Society.  This one will surely take on a life of its own as well.

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#1 Comment By MattSwartz On December 3, 2010 @ 4:27 pm

The Birchers may have been a bit myopic, but Buckley was about as CIA-linked as anyone could possibly be, he didn’t like the Birchers, and he got paid money to say so. That much is pretty solidly established, right?

#2 Pingback By Tweets that mention The American Conservative » Irving Kristol, Soviet Spy? — Topsy.com On December 3, 2010 @ 5:50 pm

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by TruDiligence, Stanley. Stanley said: [2] Irving Kristol, Soviet Spy?: That's what the FBI was asking itself in 1988. That year is no… [3] […]

#3 Comment By SoSo On December 4, 2010 @ 1:24 am

Wouldn’t surprise me in the least. I. Kirstol was a known Trotskyite, a passionate Commie in other words, and the Trots were the most cynical of a uniquely cynical bunch. Murderers – mass murderers, the lot. That W. Kristol, son of I. Kristol, presumes to lecture real Americans on any sort of political subjec is almost surreal. Shouldn’t there be at least a one or two generation moratorium on allowing Commies or sons of Commies to speak to America about politics? Do we invite Goebbels or Hitler kin to instruct us on how America should be run? What nonsense.

#4 Comment By Purson On December 4, 2010 @ 2:35 am

Where did all the Trotskyites go? And what did they do? Just because Papa Joe arranged an ice-pick for Leon himself doesn’t mean that the Trotskyites all suddenly came to Jesus, or that their children weren’t thoroughly imbued with the germ of totalitarianism.

Is Bill Kristol’s New Roman/Hebraic Empire just the son’s vision of his father’s Socialist Paradise? When has Bill Kristol ever accounted for, apologized for, or even admitted, that he is of Communist descent? The only thing lower than a Nazi?

#5 Comment By Stephen On December 4, 2010 @ 8:37 am

The Kristol’s don’t need to be spies. They are inherently bad for freedom. Neither one, in any sense, has any affinity for, nor appreciation of, traditional American values. Any society they are part of will be endlessly subjected to their sick “critiques” and desire for power and influence. They are not capable of being conservatives. At least not until they have either rewritten or wholly obscured the definition thereof.

#6 Comment By G-ish -Man On December 4, 2010 @ 11:00 am

You haven’t read many FBI files, have you?

There is nothing in there (allowing a lot is redacted). Typical FBI reporting – funny to academics and reporters, standard fare if you’ve ever worked counterintelligence (disclosure: I have, for years).

Short verion: Irv Kristol’s name pops up in a suspicious place, FBI does due diligence given IK’s access to Big People in DC, IK answers questions, not much there. Gawker is just being its usual asinine self here.

I am NO kind of fan of los Kristols but, really? Given the amount of attention the KGB long gave – some of it quite lethal – to alleged followers of Mr Bronshtein (AKA Trotsky), what sense would it make for IK to have been a KGB agent? Zero. Back in the 1940s he would have been a major enemy.

Irv and his far worse son have done massive damage to the GOP and the Right in the country all by themselves, no help from Moscow required.

#7 Comment By Allison W. Land On December 4, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

All the more reason to read “Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea”: [4]

#8 Comment By Steve On December 5, 2010 @ 6:21 am

Allison,

Fun you should mention this book. I’m reading it right now! I got it through Mises.org.

Anyone interested in the origins of neoconservatism, should read this book. Then they need to ask themselves, do I really want to be associated with this crowd?

The only place to be is with the true conservative/libertarian movement. Any thing less, is a sell out.

#9 Comment By Jeannon Kralj On December 5, 2010 @ 7:26 am

I think what SoSo wrote is extremely relevant.

I think the “neoconservatives” are all Trotskyites.

I do not see any true conservatives in any group or party in the USA, certainly not the John Birch Society.

Yes, there is a giant overriding conspiracy for a one world death and slavery system. All the “isms” have just been created and used in the continual Hegelian dialectic.

The liberals and the neoconservatives and the fake conservatives have no personal morals and certainly are not Christians. They all meet my definition of “terrorists” and they have successfully destroyed America and Americanism by design.

#10 Comment By gyigui On December 5, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

The man is a traitor, its not out of the realm of possibility. I’d say there is zero doubt they (his liar and warmonger son Bill also) work against the interests of the united states.

#11 Comment By MattSwartz On December 5, 2010 @ 4:58 pm

If people more well-schooled than myself say that there is no solid evidence of the Elder Kristol’s having worked for the Soviets, then I’m inclined to believe them. But I am not convinced by the argument that he couldn’t have possibly been a Soviet spy because he spent his life fighting Communism. That line is as unconvincing in his case as it is in the more obvious case of George Soros, who supposedly “spent millions to bring down communism.” Well, it is clear that he spent millions, but it is unclear exactly what his motives were and what effect they had on how things turned out. It is just as plausible to say that he spent millions to influence (or co-opt) the dissidents who were bringing down an already doomed communist system. The same thing could be said of Irving Kristol. He isn’t beyond suspicion.

#12 Comment By Keith On December 5, 2010 @ 10:03 pm

We need to come clear about what Irving Kristol and his son are truly at heart. Some call them commies, others claim they are Neo-cons, but in reality they are nothing more than Jewish supremacists who put Israel’s interests above the country to which their citizenship belongs.