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The Freedom of Information Act request-processing website MuckRock has obtained and published Susan Sontag’s Federal Bureau of Investigation file. The document comprises 73 pages of letters and memoranda dating from 1968 through 1972, noting in mind-numbing detail the late intellectual’s various appearances in the press, her leftist advocacy, Vietnam war opposition, and political writings. In other words, nothing altogether unexpected given what we know of Sontag and the FBI’s behavior during this period, save for the jarring appearance of the Comic Sans font — an apparently contemporary addition — and a dreamboat photograph that gives the whole thing a dimension of scrapbook surrealism.
Consider the banality of eavesdropping: a 1972 report classifies the reason for her file as “Security Matter – Subversive,” even as it says she is a resident of Penthouse A at 340 Riverside Drive. Other documents mention her marriage to, and 1957 divorce from, sociologist and cultural critic Philip Rieff, as well as the names and addresses of her parents in California. No references are made to any other romantic relationships, nor to Sontag’s bisexuality, though a clipped 1971 newspaper article in the file states that she lived in “near-seclusion” in Manhattan with her then-18 year old son David Rieff. The names of her companion(s) in various other cases — flights to Cuba, press interviews, etc. — are redacted in the disclosure.
At several points memoranda note that no attempt has been made to interview Sontag directly. One entry concludes that she was not interviewed because such an attempt might “result in embarrassment for the Bureau” due to her “status as a writer.” Meanwhile, the status of Comic Sans within the Bureau’s disclosures threatens a similar embarrassment today.