Saturday, May 22, 2010

Gay files: history's grim closet

Research for a film led a director to explore repression and persecution in the US, Britain and Russia.


DELVING into millions of unclassified FBI and CIA documents and recordings covering six decades or more, one realises conventional history is a bit of a farce, since everything said by governments at the time is undercut by millions of secret documents revealing an alternative universe.

Metaphorically, but sometimes in fact, real history is in the closet. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, last century's greatest professional voyeur and adept keeper of secrets for 48 years, had great interest in homosexuality, as reflected in his files. This went beyond gossip on stars such as Rock Hudson but reflected events on which history has turned.

Tracking the subject of homosexuality in these formerly "Eyes Only" secret documents, reveals an often malicious national security and political obsession with homosexuality at the highest levels of the US and British governments, including among US presidents Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. On the surface, the obsession had understandable origins with the revelation that some of Britain's great spies and traitors – Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and, later, Anthony Blunt – were homosexual Soviet agents. Burgess, with British (heterosexual) master spy Kim Philby, had helped advise on the structure of the CIA. Unclassified FBI files reveal a US intelligence frenzy of activity around these events with top secret memos to director Hoover regularly noting that Burgess was "homosexual", Maclean "reportedly homosexual" and Blunt "notoriously homosexual".....

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