A former investigative reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Rosenfeld spent decades accumulating this material, filing Freedom of Information Act requests that prompted the FBI to spend more than $1 million beating back his demands until it grudgingly released more than 250,000 pages of files. Rosenfeld has an agenda in this book of patience and passion: setting straight a previously hidden – and consequential – record. The way his stories converge evokes “They Marched Into Sunlight,” David Maraniss’ similarly structured 2003 book about a Vietnam War firefight.
Through FBI documents and interviews with players including Reagan right-hand man Edwin Meese III, Richard Masato Aoki (a FBI informer who also may have been a student radical), and protestors, Rosenfeld paints a chilling picture. Law enforcement organizations in Reagan’s California joined in a systematic attempt to smear students and professors, infiltrate their associations with moles, discredit the intellectual enterprise, and instigate actions designed to justify deployment of organizations spanning local police and the National Guard.