In addition, a number of prominent Americans appeared on the Minaret watch list precisely because their thinking dovetailed with the emerging Vietnam War protests. With the intelligence agencies under White House pressure to find out the alleged international connections of anti-war leaders, U.S. intelligence agencies cast a wide net in their efforts to meet the president's wishes. Even the most unlikely names would become targets, perhaps because they were prominent and influential and had uttered subversive thoughts. Most, but not all, of the prominent Americans mentioned in the now-declassified NSA history fell into this category.
The Rev. Martin Luther King was almost certainly placed on the Minaret watch list by the FBI in 1967 for two principal reasons. First, one of King's longtime top advisors, Stanley Levison, was a former member of the Communist Party USA, which the FBI and then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy used to justify tapping the civil rights leader's telephones shortly after the 1963 March on Washington. Second, King had always been an outspoken critic of America's participation in the Vietnam War, which almost certainly was why senior officials put him on the NSA watch list shortly after the operation began in 1967. The NSA apparently continued monitoring his overseas telephone calls and telegrams right up until the day he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.
One of the most cautious of the major African-American civil rights leaders, National Urban League Executive Director Whitney Young, had a good relationship with President Johnson and was frequently invited to the White House as a member of LBJ's informal "civil rights cabinet." He initially avoided voicing any criticism of the Vietnam War and thus was not put under surveillance by the FBI. In October 1969, however, shortly after Nixon took office, Young publicly turned against the Vietnam War. The war, he argued, was "tragically diverting America's attention from its primary problem -- the urban and racial crisis -- at the very time that crisis is at its flash point." This single act most likely prompted someone, most likely the FBI, to add Young to the Minaret watch list despite the fact that Young had never been accused of ever doing anything that could be described as illegal or subversive.
Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali probably became a Minaret target shortly after the program began in 1967 because of his outspoken criticism of the Vietnam War. Since converting to Islam shortly after winning the heavyweight boxing title in 1964, Ali had made no secret of his opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1967, he refused to be drafted into the Army on religious grounds after his request for conscientious objector status was denied. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment for draft evasion, stripped of his heavyweight boxing title, and barred from boxing. Despite the fact that Ali posed no threat to national security, it seems likely that his name appeared on the NSA watch list at about this time, probably at the FBI's request. The U.S. Supreme Court finally vacated Ali's conviction in 1971, allowing him to resume his boxing career. But he probably remained on the NSA's Minaret watch list until the program was terminated in 1973.
Someone was suspicious enough of Tom Wicker, the Washington bureau chief of the New York Times, to put him on the NSA watch list. Wicker, one of the United States' most insightful observers of the Washington political scene, wrote a weekly column called "In the Nation" that frequently skewered Johnson and Nixon for their mishandling of the Vietnam War. Wicker's columns infuriated Johnson, who believed that the Times "wanted him to lose the war." Wicker's criticism of the war grew after Nixon became president in January 1969, leading the White House to put him on its "enemies list." Even so, it is frankly terrifying to think that the sole reason Wicker was placed under surveillance by the NSA was because he wrote some newspaper columns that rankled the Oval Office.
It is a mystery why the popular Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald was placed under NSA surveillance. Perhaps the FBI nominated him for inclusion of the Minaret watch list because of his satirical writing about the Vietnam War. As early as 1966, Buchwald had begun writing scathing columns about how the war in Vietnam was being handled, arguing in one column that instead of spending an estimated $332,000 to kill a single enemy soldier in Vietnam, it would be cheaper and more cost-effective to offer Viet Cong defectors a $25,000 home, a color TV, education for their children, and a country club membership. It was probably this sort of satirical commentary that led to Buchwald's appearance on the watch list, though one must wonder if the same happened to other humorists, political cartoonists, and stand-up comedians for daring to question the Vietnam War.
It is likely that presidential paranoia put Senator Church, a moderate critic of the Vietnam War, on the NSA watch list. Church, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a staunch ally of Johnson, had voted for the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which the president used to justify the commitment of U.S. military forces in Vietnam. In the years that followed, however, Church became increasingly critical of the Vietnam War, believing that it was virtually unwinnable. His criticisms stung Johnson, and White House staffers described Church's views as "irresponsible." Johnson even went so far as to suggest privately that Church and the other critics of his Vietnam policies in the Senate were under Moscow's influence because some of them had met informally with Soviet diplomats. By the time Nixon moved into the Oval Office in January 1969, Church was a committed opponent of the war; by then most of his fellow Democrats in the Senate and even a significant number of Republicans had come to share his views.