Penn Kimball: Journalist who sued the US government after learning that he had been secretly declared a security risk
Penn Kimball was a journalist and academic who sued the US government in the 1980s after he learned that he had been secretly declared a security risk decades earlier. A journalist in the 1940s and 1950s, with stints at Time, the New Republic, the New York Times and CBS TV, he became a professor at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism in 1959.
What he didn't know until decades later was that the State Department, the CIA and the FBI had compiled secret dossiers in which he was called a "definite security risk." In 1977, under provisions of the relatively new Freedom of Information Act, Kimball filed a request for any materials the government had about him. After delays of months and sometimes years, the boxes began to arrive.
"I was stunned," Kimball wrote in his 1983 book The File. "I simply had no idea that for more than half of my life my name had been on file in Washington as a dangerous radical, a disloyal American, a national security risk, a subversive 'too clever' to be caught holding a membership card in the Communist Party."
Kimball was the image of a stalwart member of US society: an American footballer at Princeton, Rhodes scholar, Marine Corps captain during the Second World War, Ivy League professor. In 1946, he turned down a State Department assignment to Saigon because he had accepted an offer from Time. But investigations continued for years without his knowledge. As he pored over the documents later, Kimball saw comments from unnamed sources suggesting that he had been cosy with communists when he was a journalist. His jobs with the New York Times and with the Democratic governors Chester Bowles and Averell Harriman were cited as evidence of leftist leanings.
Kimball believed the files sank his chances for a seat on the Federal Communications Commission in the early 1960s and for academic fellowships. "There's nothing more precious to a man than his character and reputation," he said in 1983. "And what the government did is take that away from me."
What truly infuriated him was a CIA packet he received in 1982 indicating that his wife, a real estate agent, was also a security risk. The documents arrived on the day of her funeral. A documentary about Kimball was shown on PBS, and in 1984 he filed a $10 million lawsuit against the government to clear his name. In 1987, the State Department, the CIA and the FBI agreed to purge their files if Kimball would drop his lawsuit.
Penn Townsend Kimball, journalist: born New Britain, Connecticut 12 October 1915; married 1947 Janet Fraser (died 1982; one daughter), 1985 Julie Ellis (one daughter); died Chevy Chase, Maryland 8 November 2013.
- 1 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 2 Emma Watson on Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak: 'Even worse than seeing women's privacy violated is reading the comments'
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Perez Hilton apologises for publishing Jennifer Lawrence naked 4Chan photos
Jennifer Lawrence 'nude photo hacker' claims there are hundreds more celebrity images to come
Victoria Justice on naked photo leak: 'Let me nip this in the bud right now – pun intended'
Ariana Grande nude photos leak: Pictures are completely fake, say representatives
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: We are working with an exciting orga...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Deputy Education Manager required, S...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: We are working with an exciting orga...
£24,000 per annum pro rata (21 hours per week): Belong: Work as part of a cutt...