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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 reveals 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.
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.
Aaron J. Leonard is a writer and historian with a particular focus on the history of radicalism and state suppression. He is the author of Heavy Radicals: The FBI’s Secret War on America’s Maoists, A Threat of the First Magnitude—FBI Counterintelligence & Infiltration: From the Communist Party to the Revolutionary Union, and The Folk Singers and the Bureau: The FBI, the Folk Artists and the Suppression of the Communist Party, USA-1939-1956. He lives in Los Angeles.
Conor A Gallagher is a researcher and educator from Brooklyn, New York. He has a masters degree from the University of Southern California, Rossier School of Education. He currently lives with his wife Michelle in China where he teaches history.
“Aaron Leonard and Conor Gallagher’s text reveals in graphic detail the extent that activists and citizens in the leftist movements of the Sixties and Seventies were manipulated by the FBI via informants they believed to be trusted friends. More importantly, it reveals how little the FBI cares about the individuals whose lives they ruin in the name of national security. A Threat of the First Magnitude is a riveting story of FBI lies and deceit. It is a fascinating history that is also a prescient warning. After reading this book, I can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out if the government’s informants had never been members of the groups they helped destroy.”
“We already knew the FBI spied on “political subversives”. Now Leonard and Gallagher turn a welcome spotlight on the informants who infiltrated deeply and likely illegally into radical political groups.”
“An important book in shining a light on government repression and specifically the role of informants against the left.”
“A first-rate history lesson in what the US power structure will do to those who threatened left wing revolution. At the same time, it is a warning to those who do so in the future.”