[Exclusive] FBI File: Ezra Pound
Update [July 14, 2017]: The FBI’s original response to my request was to review just 90 pages of Pound’s file, which is 1,512 pages long. I appealed this decision, and on July 11, 2017, I got a response. I was told two things: 1) Parts of Pound’s file have been transferred to the National Archives, so I’ll need to make a request there. 2) “[T]he FBI identified certain records in its indices that might be responsive to your request, the FBI searched for, but could not locate, those records. Subsequent to your appeal, the FBI conducted an additional search in an attempt to find the missing records, but is still unable to locate them.” (I’m posting the full response letter at the bottom of this page.) Who knew that getting a previously released FBI file about an old poet would turn into such a bizarre situation?
Update [July 4, 2017]: The FBI referred 8 pages of Pound’s file to the Justice Department’s National Security Division for processing. Those 8 pages have been released in full, and I’ve added them to the end of the PDF file above.
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Ezra Pound was a towering figure of twentieth-century literature, a genius whose poetry (mainly the Cantos), criticism, translations, founding and editing of literary journals, and championing of his fellow modernists (including Hemingway, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, and Yeats) forever changed literature during the first half of the 1900s.
Pound was also openly anti-Semitic and Fascist. He moved to Rome in 1924; Mussolini was Prime Minister. During World War II, he broadcast his inflammatory views on Fascist radio, prompting the Justice Department’s Criminal Division to plan to charge him with treason. When the war was over, they did just that, and Pound escaped execution by successfully pleading insanity. He spent twelve years confined to St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital. After his release, he promptly moved back to Italy, where he spent the rest of his life.
The FBI amassed a 1,512-page file on Pound, which was released due to a FOIA request in 1974. To my knowledge, it has never been posted online. So, in June 2016, I filed a FOIA request for it. One year later – May 31, 2017 – I heard back. The FBI said they had reviewed 90 pages of material. They gave no indication that this is merely 6% of Pound’s file. If I didn’t know better through research, I would be under the impression that this is the entire file.
Also, bear in mind that this is a pre-released file. It was processed and released to a requester 43 years ago, yet the FBI is reviewing it again. And not just the FBI. The Bureau sent eight pages to another government agency for direct response to me. If I understand the cover letter correctly, this other agency is the National Security Division of the Justice Department. For the other 25 pages, the FBI is consulting with a different, unnamed agency and will get back to me.
I’ve already appealed the decision to review 90 pages instead of all 1,512. I’ll post updates here, including any further pages that get released.
Considering the FBI’s need to review, with two other agencies, an already-released WWII-era file about a poet, it would seem that Ezra Pound is still a sensitive subject.
Justice Dept Criminal Division’s File on Ezra Pound [The Memory Hole 2]
“Madness, Paranoia, and Ezra Pound’s FBI File” by Karen Leick
Editorial note: The first two paragraphs of this article were also used when I posted Pound’s DOJ Criminal Division File.
The FBI’s response to my appeal