Informant 1 - O1AOKI2.jpg photo

A young Richard Aoki is involved in a 1969 protest at Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way near the UC Berkeley campus. Courtesy of the Oakland Tribune

The revelation that the revered radical leader Richard Aoki was an FBI informant was made in Seth Rosenfeld’s new book, “Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power.” It was also reported in a news article and video that Rosenfeld produced with the Center for Investigative Reporting. The disclosure has sparked a controversy.

Today, the Center for Investigative Reporting published Rosenfeld’s follow-up story on Aoki. This article is based on newly disclosed documents from Aoki’s FBI informant file. These records show Aoki was an informant from 1961 to 1977. 

In the PDF below, Rosenfeld is releasing the Aoki informant file exactly as the bureau produced it to him in response to his Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The entire release contains 270 pages. The first 49 pages are “search slips” the FBI used to locate records in response to his FOIA request. The informant file itself – file number 134-10010 – starts at page 50. 

As released, the documents are mostly in chronological order. The FBI has sequentially stamped them (Aoki-1, Aoki-2, etc.). The bureau heavily redacted the records, claiming the withheld information is exempt under FOIA because it concerns law enforcement [(b)(7)(c) & (b)(7)(d)], or personal privacy [(b)(6)], or administrative matters [(b)(2)]. These citations to the law appear in the margins of the records.

The documents were released by court order in response to Rosenfeld’s FOIA lawsuit. The FBI had said in a sworn declaration that it had no other responsive records on Aoki, but after considering Rosenfeld’s evidence, the court ordered the FBI to release this file. 

“Subversives” is based on more than 300,000 pages of FBI records released as a result of five FOIA lawsuits. The book traces the FBI’s secret involvement with three iconic figures in Berkeley during the 1960s: the ambitious neophyte politician Ronald Reagan, the fierce but fragile radical Mario Savio and the liberal university president Clark Kerr. Through these converging narratives, Rosenfeld tells a dramatic and disturbing story of FBI surveillance, illegal break-ins, infiltration, planted news stories and secret detention lists. “Subversives” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of secrecy and unchecked power. 

“Subversives” was published Aug. 21 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


FBI files – Richard Aoki (Text)

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