Sometimes I’m more surprised by who doesn’t have an FBI file than who does. Yesterday I got a letter from the FBI in response to my Freedom of Information Act request for any records they might have on Ray Tomlinson, one of the inventors of email. They insist that he doesn’t have a file.
I’m not saying that Tomlinson ever did anything wrong or illegal that should’ve attracted the attention of the FBI. But typically people who work on high-level, government-financed technology—as Tomlinson did while working at BBN as a DARPA contractor—get at least a brief once-over from the FBI.
Below, I’ve compiled a short list of people about whom I’ve submitted FOIA requests to the FBI, and have turned up nothing.
- James Edward Baker, cult leader of The Source Family, better known as Father Yod? No file.
- Paul Baran, internet pioneer from RAND? No file.
- Paul F. Bennewitz, UFO investigator and conspiracy theorist? No file.
- David Bowie, music legend? No file.
- Gary Chapman, first executive director of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility? No file.
- Nicholas Constantine Christofilos, nuclear weapons physicist who worked on Operation Argus? No file.
- Ray Eames, artist and co-designer of the Eames chair who worked on various United States Information Agency propaganda films? No file.
- Henry Way Kendall, MIT physicist and member of the Jasons? No file.
- Joseph Carl Robnett “JCR” Licklider, internet pioneer? Records destroyed July 26, 1988.
- Theodore H. Maiman, one of the inventors of the laser? No file.
- Roy Orbison, musician famous for the song “Pretty Woman,” and rumored white supremacist? No file.
- Eero Saarinen, Finnish-American architect and designer who worked on various US embassies around the world? No file.
- W. Clement Stone, businessman and author with strong ties to the Nixon White House? No file.
- David Wolper, TV and film producer whose credits include the 1964 documentary “Four Days in November” about the JFK assassination? No file.
Now, of course, some of these aren’t so surprising. But others are a bit suspicious.
Many of the FBI files that I’ve received over the years have little more than clearances for military projects. And the fact that a man like Paul Baran, one of the most important and visionary inventors of the internet, doesn’t have an FBI file seems strange to me.
I guess the FBI can’t keep tabs on everybody.