I just finished reading Kenneth Ackerman’s book Young J. Edgar. He gives a great insight into the person who became the director of the FBI. Hoover worked all his life in government positions in the Justice Department. He started as a young lawyer and came to newsworthy prominence during the period of time in America which became known as the Red Scare. It was a time much like today whereby there was great fear inspired by terrorist acts. Terrorist bombings occurred throughout the United States. The people demanded action be taken against those responsible.
95 years ago radical groups of anarchists emboldened by the successful revolution in Russia by the Bolsheviks called for the overthrow of the American government and promulgated the idea that we too should follow the lead established by the Reds in Russia. Bombs were sent through the mail, the homes of prominent Americans were bombed including the Attorney General of the United States, and nationwide strikes influenced by the communists were badly affecting the economy.
J. Edgar, a young man of much ability, joined the Justice Department in 1917 right out of law school. He was put in charge at age 24 of the department’s Radical Division in July 1919. A hard, determined, articulate, intelligent worker whose life was his job he set about attacking this Red Menace. By late 1920 the influence of communists had vanished and the country went into the Roaring Twenties having almost totally forgotten the fears of the late teens.
There is little doubt that the force behind the eradication of the Red Menace was J. Edgar Hoover. A.Mitchell Palmer, the attorney general who headed the Justice Department and Edgar’s boss, came under much criticism for the manner in which Edgar acted to destroy the threat to the county. Civil liberties were tossed out the window with the arrest between 5,000 to 10,000 people in massive raids.
Once the fears had evaporated, it became time to go back and examine the methods used by the Radical Division and they were found wanting. Edgar managed to avoid the recriminations and criticisms by suggesting he was an underling only following orders. He went on to become the director of the Bureau of Investigations, appointed as such by Harlan Fiske Stone in 1924.
Stone at the time he appointed Hoover issued a memorandum relative to the Bureau of Investigation stating: “A secret police may become a menace to free government and free institutions because it carries with it the possibility of abuses of power which are not always quickly understood.”
Stone continued: “The Bureau of Investigation is not concerned with political or other opinions of individuals. It is only concerned with their conduct and then only with such conduct as is forbidden by the laws of the United States. When a police system passes beyond these limits, it is dangerous to the proper administration of justice and to human liberty, which should be our first concern to cherish. Within them it should rightly be a terror to the wrongdoer.”
The FBI Hoover created can be only understood by knowing what was it that made the man Hoover operate. His 55 years in the Justice Department, 48 as head of the FBI, left an indelible mark on that Bureau. He started off heeding Stone’s admonitions and stuck to chasing criminals. Slowly he expanded his operations into programs to ““neutralize” (that was the official F.B.I. term) “White Hate Groups” (1964-1971) and the “New Left” (1968-1971).”
Since the time he vacated that office in 1972 after going to bed on May 1 and not waking, the FBI through the bureaucracy created under Hoover continues following his principles. As with any organization, those attempting to keep in place prior doctrine manage to do so but less skillfully than under the original leader. Hoover would know that when things held secret should be in the public realm that keeping them secret reinforces the idea of an out of control secret police agency.
The present leadership of the FBI fails in this understanding. Under Hoover, there is no way in which the killing of Ibragim Todashev by the FBI would be kept secret behind the wall “under investigation” or “under review.”
Hoover would know further that in 1920 the country rejected the idea that the immigration people were to work together with the investigators from the Justice Department. Yet today we see the FBI operating with the Department of Homeland Security Immigration Bureau to ensure those with information about that killing are silenced.
The Boston Globe reports that Tatiana Gruzdeva, the former girlfriend of Todashev, has been deported. The reason was she spoke to the media about her boyfriend. The family and supporters of Todashev according to an article in the Guardian are suggesting that the FBI is “mounting a campaign of “intimidation and harassment” against his associates.”
The Guardian now quotes the FBI as stating: “The review [about the killing of Todashev] is still ongoing. Keep in mind it’s not just the FBI conducting a review. The Department of Justice and other outside entities are also reviewing. While that is still ongoing, we cannot discuss.” The reasons for the silence keep changing.
The answer is obvious that there is a government coverup which can only be accomplished when a secret police abuses its power. What can be a greater abuse of police power than to kill a man and then attempt to silence those who may know something about the facts by threats and intimidation such as having people deported.
Hoover used such tactics back in 1919. The American people rejected such abuses. Have we changed so much as a people that we now accept them?