WASHINGTON -- Thousands of pages of files compiled by the FBI about the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy reveal numerous investigations into potential threats against the youngest member of the Kennedy political dynasty, including from the Ku Klux Klan and an alleged Mafia plot to kill all the Kennedy brothers.
The files, released by the bureau today, number more than 2,200 pages and cover the years 1961 to 1985, the period in which President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.
The FBI said in a statement posted on its website that "at no point do these files suggest that the FBI investigated Senator Kennedy for a criminal violation or as a security threat."
"The bulk of this material concerns FBI investigation of threats of violence and other extortion claims against Senator Kennedy and other public officials."
One of the threats investigated was a report that Sirhan Sirhan, convicted for the 1968 slaying of Robert F. Kennedy, tried to hire a federal inmate to kill Edward Kennedy, while other probes were prompted by anonymous threats to a Canadian newspaper and individuals angered by Kennedy's stance on the conflict in Northern Ireland, according to an FBI summary.
But the files also provide a new window into the political and personal life of one of the most revered -- and reviled -- politicians of the 20th century.
They detail anew the influence the Kennedy clan had in the highest levels of the government, including a telephone call from Kennedy's father, Joseph P. Kennedy, to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to quash a report that his youngest son was associating with communists. They also provide details about the appointment by President Lyndon B. Johnson of a Kennedy family friend and political supporter to a federal judgeship.
The files include only public reports of the senator's car accident on Chappaquiddick Island in August 1969 in which Mary Jo Kopechne drowned. The FBI said that the bureau "had no investigative role in the case," despite public reports to the contrary.
The collection of documents also reveals a variety of rumors that the FBI tried to verify over the years, including that elements of the Mafia sought to enlist Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe to help discredit Robert and Edward Kennedy by placing them in a "compromising" position at a New York party.
The FBI also kept track of Kennedy's most sensitive public movements, including fact finding trips he took to Mexico, Central America, and South America in 1961, using foreign liaisons to keep an eye out for threats.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.