Did the FBI go too far …

oppie1.jpg … in 1954?  The FBI amassed a huge file over many years in their investigation of J. Robert Oppenheimer.  Much of the information they gathered – including illegal wiretapping of conversations between Oppenheimer and his lawyer – was used against him at his security clearance hearing.

Twenty-seven years in the making, American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J.  Sherwin details – sometimes in excruciating minutia – Oppenheimer’s fantastic, complicated life. The title, which refers to the god who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mankind only to be tortured and shamed for his efforts,  reflects the feeling that many people share about Oppenheimer’s treatment after he helped develop the atomic bomb in time for it to be used during World War II. His story is ripe for controversy and conflicting opinions.  Did the U. S. use the bomb against a nation prepared to surrender? Why was Oppie treated so badly by the government he so willingly served? Was his trial fair, or even legal? This biography doesn’t provide answers, but it sets forth many a valid question. For more informaton about the authors journey with their subject, you can read a series of question and answers, originally published online in 2005. Or for more about Oppie, view a centennial exhibit developed by UC-Berkeley.

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