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 raw data—though the word ...