William Kunstler's FBI Files

Surveillance Justification and Detail

William Kunstler and his family were followed by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations for nearly two decades. They watched his house. They tapped his phone calls. They attended and recorded his speeches. When the filmmakers made a Freedom of Information Act request for his FBI file before starting work on their film, they didn't know what to expect. Six months later they received a box with copies of thousands of pages of information about their father's activities during the 1960s and 1970s. Ironically, the filmmakers credit the FBI for being a great source of transcripts of their father's speeches.

The following pages contain excerpts from the files and PDF copies that you can download. This collection focuses on the reasons that the FBI decided to put William Kunstler under surveillance.


Click on the images above to download a PDF of all the documents in this section. (27 pages)


1. [X] Subject's name is included in the ADEX., Category [X] I [_] II [_] III [_] IV


4. [X] A suitable photograph [X] is [_] is not available.

Date photograph was taken: 1971___________________________

Subject previously interviewed (dates) Never___________________________

[X] Subject was not [X] interviewed [_] reinterviewed because: (state reason)

"He is an attorney and a controversial public figure. By letter dated 12/10/62, the Bureau directed that the subject not be contacted any occasion without prior Bureau approval."

[X] Submitted 10/2/64___________________ Placed [X] Yes


To: SAC, New York

From, Director, FBI

Date: 3/5/70


"In view of Kunstler's extensive activity in communist front activities during the 1960's and his increasing leadership in anti-United States and other affairs of the New Left, including recent-U.S. demonstrations, plus the fact that he has given recent speeches which have instigated riots, it is felt that his name should be included on the Security Index and the Agitator Index."


Date: November 29, 1973

"The Key Activist program was initiated in 1968 for the specific purpose of affording intensified investigation to those individuals within the "Movement" who engage in extensive travel and are most vocal in statements denouncing the United States and calling for civil disobedience and other forms of unlawful and disruptive acts. A review of the subject's file indicates that Kunstler remains in the vanguard of movement-type activities and continues to engage in considerable travel throughout the country legally representing movement-type people and causes and at the same time giving anti-American speeches during which he sometimes declares that confrontation by the people with the power structure is inevitable. Subject's travel and activities referred to above continue to require coverage by various field offices.

In view of the above, Headquarters does not concur with your recommendation in referenced letter and, therefore, subject should continue to be designated as a Key Activist. In your continuing investigation of the subject be particularly alert for any information indicating subject's activities may be in violation of Federal or local statutes."

JM: wae


"Subject is a Movement attorney who has been active in civil rights litigation, legal matter involving racial groups, communist party front organizations and New Left causes. In 1970 and 1971 he traveled across the country addressing rallies both on and off the campus urging his listeners to resist authority and stating the only remaining course is revolution. Violence has followed some of his speeches. Although the tone of subject's rhetoric in recent months has been somewhat less violent he still continues to be extremely active in Movement causes, engages in considerable travel and, therefore, his retention in the Key Activist Album is considered desirable."

DATE 8/11/80____ BY [ILLEGIBLE]____


Click on the images above to download a PDF of all the documents in this section. (27 pages)

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Special thanks to Sascha Weiss and Sophia Kruz, our summer interns, for their help with this project.