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When the Government Tried to Bust Abbie Hoffman For Publishing Its Own Public Records

The year was 1969.

Abbie Hoffman in 1969 protesting the Vietnam War.
Abbie Hoffman in 1969 protesting the Vietnam War. Richard O. Barry

A version of this story originally appeared on Muckrock.com.

On what would have been the radical’s 80th birthday, we look back at one of the strangest incidents in Abbie Hoffman’s 13,000 plus page FBI file: when the Bureau tried to bust him for publishing the government’s own records.

In 1969, the Bureau managed to get its hands on a rough draft of Hoffman’s upcoming book, Woodstock Nation, having been tipped off that it was “anti-American.”

The book, written while Hoffman was awaiting trial for the infamous Chicago Seven case, describes Hoffman’s experience at the festival, and was of particular interest to the Bureau due to the chapter on attaching explosives to dogs.

As a side note for those unfamiliar with his work, Hoffman’s narrative style could charitably described as “all over the place.”

The recipe for said explosives came from the Army’s Field Manual 19-30, and the FBI launched an inquiry into whether Hoffman would be violating any Federal laws by publishing it.

That inquiry was almost immediately closed, however, when it was very quickly determined that the manual was a declassified public document literally available to anybody who asked.

Thwarted again by their inability to suppress their own information, the Bureau was powerless to stop the publication of Woodstock Nation a few months later.

The relevant section of Abbie Hoffman’s FBI file has been embedded below.