Homemade Bombs

In the unit lesson, we discussed that individuals can find instructions for how to build homemade bombs on the internet. Do you feel that law enforcement and the U.S. Intelligence Community should do more to ensure that this type of information is not readily available, or do you feel that would be considered a violation of the right to free speech? Why, or why not?


                                                                                                    CLASSMATE’S POST

Yes, law enforcement should do more to prevent harm from coming to its citizens. Yes, it is a violation of free speech. One question is: 1) Is attempting to prevent an exercise in First Amendment rights needed to ensure a thing? This response Dear Mr. Hoover, “What Say You,” titled after an idiomatic expression of English origins, speaks to the core of the matter. At the heart are critical elements of the argument: unimpeded dissemination of protected speech versus government’s agency intrusion in the rights of free speech in any form of medium (e.g., book, newspaper, entertainment, or internet media). These two elements serve to mask what is really at stake; the integrity of the United States Constitution.

As a case demonstrating this issue has arisen in the past, I forward the argument of free speech guaranteed in the First Amendment in the United States Constitution versus the 1971 attempt of an attack on free speech that the United States Department of Justice quashed after efforts to prevail by the FBI failed in its findings of a violation of any United States Codes or state statutes.

Though the argument’s support is rooted in an era of counterculture and its activities, a multi-generational gap exists between events then and events now, and given technological advancement, the human ingredient remains. Additional support comes from excerpts of recently declassified government intelligence agency documents. The 1971 Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is central to the discussion due to the letters selected from three classifications of the American citizenry representative of those living at a time of social revolution in ideas and rejection of the status quo.

Serving as evidence and presented as exhibits are three personal letters sent from a selected group of  Americans that are representative of the average 1970s American mainstream mindset that opposed the advancing ideological counterculture during the period 1964-1974. The letters are from Miss Charlette Carson of West Palm Beach, Florida (Exhibit 111), The Honorable George Mahon Congressman (Democrat, Texas 19th District (Exhibit 115), and Attorney John Dean III, Chief White House Counsel to the Present of the United States (Exhibit 101).


In 1971, a 19-year-old college student, unhappy with America’s escalating involvement in Vietnam, exercised artistic license in freely presenting and disseminating instructions in his work The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell. Powell claimed the target audience of his book was the squares of traditional American mainstream culture.

In an era marked by social unrest a turbulent and blossoming American counterculture, Powell, a 19-year-old-college student and committed anti-war activist authored a controversial do-it-yourself book on topics considered taboo within the American mainstream. As the book gained more and more popularity the news media advance the controversial story and Americans began to respond by letter writing to these in American law enforcement and political leadership. The book was selling but not as fast as complaints from American response to the review forwarded by critics of the book.

What was he thinking?

William Powell gained notoriety when he authored a do-it-yourself manual that contained shocking material at the time. Concerned Americans began writing letters to FBI Director Hoover about their concerns; many included newspaper clippings that revealed details about the book’s contents and asked what the Director was going to do about the publishing and distributing The Anarchist Cookbook (Government Attic, 2021). American intelligence was aware of The Anarchist Cookbook as can be attested to in an unclassified document and the acknowledgment of its review of an Arkansas Gazette story on the book on January 14, 1971, on February 17, 1971.

The article pointed out some of The Anarchist Cookbook’s highlights that were a concern for American citizens at the time. Following is a list of items that the reader could obtain instruction in making Surveillance, explosives, lethal gases, wiretapping, electronic jamming, sabotaging, and use of guns and knives (Government Attic, 2021). The manufacturing of homemade drugs, for example, Lysergic acid (LSD) and cooking with marijuana and hashish. The book included a chapter on how to kill a man using a knife and the lethal positioning of the blade for the best effects (Government Attic, 2021).

From:  The American Citizen

When a letter to Mr. Hoover arrived from Miss Charlotte Carson from West Palm Beach, Florida, Miss Carson included a newspaper clipping appearing in The Arkansas Gazette published January 14, 1971(Government Attic, 2021). The clipping contained information that revealed the content of the book. In her cursive handwriting, Miss Carson conveyed the following to the Director,

Exhibit 111

Dear Mr. Hoover

In reading the local newspaper this evening, and came upon this article. I thought it might interest you also. You would not allow them to put this book on the market–would you? Glad to read in the newspaper that you are enjoying good health. Sincerely, Charlotte Carson (Government Attic, 2021, p. 10).

The Director would use an unyielding answer, “Concerning your question, the FBI has no control over material published through the mass media; however, I share your concern about this matter” (Government Attic, 2021, p. 9). However, the FBI files contain citizen letters to Director Hoover (exhibits-111). In exhibit 111, Director Hoover using the patent response, once again states, “Concerning your questions, this Bureau has no control over material which appears in the mass media.” However, along with the above response from Mr. Hoover, the Director added, “We furnish the results of our inquiries to the Department of Justice, which has the responsibility for determining whether prosecution warranted in these matters” (Government Attic, 2021, p. 18). Mr. Hoover has indicated a change of concern in receiving this latest letter presented in exhibit-115.

The quotations are taken from official FBI memorandums between Director Hoover and American citizens, agency personnel, and politicians (Government Attic, 2021). Access to unclassified documents was allowed by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Evidenced in declassified government documents attest to the level of investigative efforts that the FBI made to find violations of U.S. law in the publishing of the Anarchist Cookbook. The reaction between the American citizen and Mr. Hoover is demonstrated in point one. Following are continued examples between the FBI and the politician and then finally the counsel to the President before the investigations ceased due to a finding of no violations in U.S. statutes by the writer or the publisher of The Anarchist Cookbook.

From: The American Politician

Exhibit 115

Dear Mr. Hoover

Several of my constituents have expressed alarm and concern over the publication of The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell, a student at Windham College, Putney, Vermont; the attacked article explains in more detail the contents of the book. I have not seen the book myself, but apparently, the reviews have caused quite a controversy. I would appreciate having someone on your staff provide me with a bit of background material on the book and its author, which I could pass along to my constituents. I am also interested in what authority the Federal Government has in this whole matter. Thanks and all good wishes, Sincerely, George Mahon (D-19th Dist.Texas) (Government Attic, 2021, p. 21).

The letter dated January 26, 1971 (exhibit-115) from Democratic Congressman George Mahon (D-19th District) prompted an inquiry into The Anarchist Cookbook by the FBI’s Communications Section Research Section. Subsequent reporting of findings forwarded to the Director of Domestic Intelligence for the FBI(Government Attic, 2021, p. 23).

The FBI Communications Section on January 31, 1971, reported to the Domestic Intelligence Division Research Sectiondetails of the background of The Anarchist Cookbook included the structure of the book, including its introduction, preface, table of contents (157 pages), bibliography, and a chapter-by-chapter review of their contents. The FBI’s Division of Communications investigated the author William Powell, author of the book’s preface, Peter Maury, and the publisher of the book, Lyle Stuart (Government Attic, 2021). The investigation would include the history of Stuart and Bergman and visits to Cuba. Additionally, the report had a history of arrest in foreign countries, punishment received in political leanings, and sympathies towards communism (Cuba) and marxism (Government Attic, 2021). Other information reported to the FBI Director of the Division of Domestic Intelligence. was the cost per unit of the book ($5.95 paperback & $12.95 hardback) in the marketplace and who (bookstores) was distributing the book for the publisher (FBI, 2021, p. 86). The investigation moves forward to Mr. Hoover in a report prepared by the Assistant Attorney General Criminal Division for the FBI (Government Attic, 2021, p. 32).

From:  Chief Counsel to the President

Exhibit 101

Dear Mr. Hoover

On February 3, 1971, a letter was prepared and sent to John Dean III (exhibit-101), the council to the President of the United States. Once again, the review of the book was laid out in all the details mentioned on the way up the political and law enforcement, and investigative chain.  The result of investigating the author and publisher of the Anarchist Cookbook violated Title-18 Section 252 of the United States Code (USC) (FBI, 2021, p. 128). In a document dated October 29, 1971, the Department of Justice (DOJ) states, ” The DOJ Assistant Attorney General of the Internal Security Division has determined that insufficient evidence sufficient to prosecute further on violations of applicable statutes” (Government Attic 1971, p.1). Discussion at the highest levels subsided.


In conclusion, one can draw a nexus between the still lingering social problems and a counterculture manifesting its dissatisfaction by purchasing legal reading materials or visiting internet sites that demonstrate mayhem creation. The above report has shown that writing and publishing ideas counter to another view does not violate anyU.S. statute and is protected by the first amendment to the constitution. Additional research indicates instructions as of this writing are still found online; for example, one can obtain the Army’s Improvised Munitions Handbook U.S. Army Training Manual (TM) (TM 31- 210).  In unconventional warfare, the use of conventional munitions may be compromised; thus, rendering mission accomplishment put in jeopardy.  The introduction in the manual states its purpose as “to increase the potential of Special Forces and guerrilla troops by describing in detail the manufacture of munitions from seemingly innocuous locally available materials” (Archive, 1969, p. 1).


Dokoupil, T. (2011, February 2). Sorry About All the Bombs. Newsweek.


Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI Records: The Vault.

https:vault.fbi.gov/william -Powell-part-01-of-01/view#document/p89

Government Attic. [documents menu]. The Anarchist Cookbook.


Headquarters Department of the Army. (1969).

http://www.archive.orgdetailmilmanual-TM31-210 improvise-munitions-handbook/1969

Ingraham, C. (2015, April 2). Dianne Feinstein says ‘The Anarchist’s                     

               Cookbook   should be ‘removed from the Internet.’ Washington Post.



Internet Archive.(September 2012) TM 31-210.

              Improvised munitions handbook. http:archive.org

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