The FBI assistant director described the man as “demagogic” and “the most dangerous … to the nation … from the standpoint … of national security.” Earlier in the spring, the U.S. Attorney General had signed off on intrusive surveillance of the subject’s living quarters, offices, phones, and hotel rooms, and those of his associates.

That immense threat to national security was not Anwar al-Awlaki, Bradley Manning, or Edward Snowden.

The demagogue was Martin Luther King Jr., and the attorney general who OK’d the surveillance was Robert F. Kennedy. It was 1963, and King had just given a powerful speech at the March on Washington where he talked about how America had given black people “a bad check” and they had come to demand “the security of justice.” FBI surveillance of King expanded after the march and under the Johnson administration, particularly after King denounced U.S. policy in Vietnam, and continued until King’s assassination in 1968.