At the White House in the late 1960s, singer and actress Eartha Kitt told Lady Bird Johnson what she thought of the war in Vietnam. “You send the best of this country off to a war and they get shot and maimed. They don’t want that … they rebel in the streets.” The papers reported — though both Kitt and Johnson remembered otherwise — that Kitt’s comments made the first lady cry.

A week after the real or imagined tears, the CIA had compiled a dossier on the performer. Kitt would be blacklisted for the next decade...

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