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Features

February 1998

Rebecca West & the FBI

by Carl Rollyson

On Rebecca West's FBI file & what it tells us

On October 19, 1992, I wrote to the Federal Bureau of Investigation requesting under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to see Rebecca West’s file. I had made a similar request for Lillian Hellman’s file, and after several months—with help from my congressman—I received hundreds of pages of reports on Hellman’s activities.[1] She had belonged to several Communist Front organizations. She had been involved in labor union drives in California. She was an outspoken leftist and was often called a Stalinist. Most dramatically, she had had an affair with John Melby, a foreign service officer she had met in the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Even after names had been blacked out, the file was a fund of information. It contained accounts from informants and interviews with Hellman’s friends and associates. This was ra ...

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Carl Rollyson is Professor of Journalism at Baruch College, CUNY. He is at work on a biography of Amy Lowell.


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 16 February 1998, on page 12

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