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FBI tracked journalist Halberstam

November 08, 2008|Associated Press

NEW YORK — The FBI tracked the late Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author David Halberstam for more than two decades, newly released documents show.

Students at the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism obtained the FBI documents on Halberstam by filing a Freedom of Information Act request. The university posted the documents on its website Thursday.

The FBI monitored Halberstam's reporting, and at times his personal life, from at least the mid-1960s until at least the late '80s, the documents show. The agency released only 62 pages of a 98-page dossier on the writer, citing security, privacy and other reasons.

Halberstam won a Pulitzer in 1964 for his coverage of the Vietnam War while working as a reporter for the New York Times. In 1972, he wrote "The Best and the Brightest," a best-selling book critical of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.

It's unclear when the FBI began monitoring Halberstam. The first documents made public are from 1965, when he was a Times correspondent in Poland during the Cold War.

The agency kept tabs on Halberstam's reporting there and kept tabs on his first marriage, to Polish actress Elzbieta Czyzewska, the documents show.

In 1971, FBI agents considered interviewing Halberstam, according to the documents. They don't say why agents wanted to talk to him or whether they ever did. The last document released is dated 1987.

The FBI declined to comment Friday on why it tracked the writer.

"The FOIA speaks for itself," spokesman Rich Kolko said.

Halberstam's widow, Jean, said he was never certain federal agents were watching him but assumed it was possible.

She called the agency's monitoring of the writer "a terrible waste" of time and taxpayer money.

"David's life was very much an open book," she said. "He did not much care about what people who disagreed with him thought about him."

Halberstam was killed in an April 2007 car crash. He was 73.

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