A Threat of the First Magnitude

FBI Counterintelligence & Infiltration From the Communist Party to the Revolutionary Union — 1962-1974

BY: Aaron J Leonard & Conor A Gallagher

The untold story of the FBI informants who penetrated the upper reaches of organizations such as the Communist Party, USA, the Black Panther Party, the Revolutionary Union and other groups labeled threats to the internal security of the United States.

Sometime in the late fall/early winter of 1962, a document began circulating among members of the Communist Party USA based in the Chicago area, titled “Whither the Party of Lenin.” It was signed “The Ad Hoc Committee for Scientific Socialist Line.” This was not the work of factionally inclined CP comrades, but rather something springing from the counter-intelligence imagination of the FBI.

A Threat of the First Magnitude tells the story of the FBI’s fake Maoist organization and the informants they used to penetrate the highest levels of the Communist Party USA, the Black Panther Party, the Revolutionary Union and other groups labelled threats to the internal security of the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.

As once again the FBI is thrust into the spotlight of US politics, A Threat of a First Magnitude offers a view of the historic inner-workings of the Bureau’s counterintelligence operations — from generating “fake news” and the utilization of “sensitive intelligence methods” to the handling of “reliable sources” — that matches or exceeds the sophistication of any contenders.

A Threat of the First Magnitude will be published in January 2018. Pre-orders are available at Amazon UK / Hive / Amazon US / Barnes & Noble / Indiebound.

On sale: January 2018
Paperback ISBN: 9781910924709 ($14.95 US // $16.95 CAN)
eBook ISBN: 9781910924723 ($9.99 US &CAN)


Aaron J. Leonard is a writer and historian. He is author of Heavy Radicals: The FBI’s Secret War on America’s Maoists (Zero Books, 2015). His research interests focus on twentieth century US history, particularly sixties history, and the interplay between radicalism and governmental repression. He has a BA in social science with a concentration in history from New York University and is currently pursuing a doctorate in history at the University of California, Irvine.

Conor A Gallagher is a researcher and educator from Brooklyn, New York. He became an activist while in high school and was involved, among other things, in the movement to stop police brutality and the anti-war movement following the second Iraq War. His interest in social movements and revolutionary theory led him to the CUNY Baccalaureate program at the CUNY Graduate Center where he designed his own degree: Soviet Studies and Revolutionary China Studies. He has a masters degree from the University of Southern California, Rossier School of Education. He has previously lived in Argentina and Perú. He currently lives with his wife Michelle in China where he teaches history. He supports Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield.

Their book Heavy Radicals: The FBI’s Secret War on America’s Maoists was published by Zero in 2015.