My research materials for my biography of James include, among other things, hundreds of pages of documents detailing his whereabouts, activities, and acquaintances’ views of him over the course of many years. This is, in highly technical terms, “good stuff.”

So, what’s the “ill-gotten” part? These documents are from the file the FBI maintained on him during World War II and the Cold War, they contain a lot of unsubstantiated speculation, and they represent the significantly compromised freedom of just one U.S. citizen among the many subjected to the same sort of governmental intrusion during that period and beyond.

I’ve got mixed feelings about having access to this material. (Thank you, Freedom of Information Act, har har!) But I’ve also been waking up ahead of my 5 a.m. alarm, eager to read what’s next in the file.