Worried about Chinese spies, the FBI freaked out about Epcot Center

Muckrock has secured the FBI's files on Epcot Center, revealing the panicked thrash that the prospect of a semi-circle of international pavilions around a toy artificial lake set off in Cold War atmosphere of 1981.

First came the news that the Disney organization had approached the USSR, but struck out because the Russkies refused to establish a pavilion if they couldn't use it for "political messages." (Aside: imagine what an amazing pavilion that would have made!).

But the main event was the Chinese pavilion, which would (initially) have six Chinese nationals staffing its retail branch. These six were intensely scrutinized, especially KW Poon, a greedy restaurateur who only wanted "a fast buck" who'd run an "unclean" restaurant at a World's Fair whose food was "low-quality."

By 1981, the FBI was already anticipating where these Chinese nationals living in the United States would be housing, namely in Snow White Village on Seven Dwarfs Lane. What the Bureau planned to do with this information, in terms of possible procedures for surveillance has been redacted or was made moot by the fact that the delegates ended up taking housing in Orlando.

The Tampa office felt so inadequate to handle the new residents, not to mention the millions of international tourists, that they sought help from the Knoxville office who were in the midst of handling similar problems with the Chinese delegate to the 1982 World’s Fair in Tennessee.

Ultimately, the Chinese delegation appears to have been chosen from Chinese nationals living as resident aliens and attending universities inside the United States. By the time the delegates got down to Florida, the FBI already knew an astounding amount about them, including the fact that one young woman was, "a ‘loner’ who refused to mix socially with other students."

The FBI feared communist infiltration of EPCOT

[Matthew Guariglia/Muckrock]

(via /.)