John Edgar Hoover was born in Washington on 1st January, 1895. His father, Dickerson Hoover, was a printmaker, but he had a mental breakdown he spent his last eight years in Laurel Asylum.
The death of his father dramatically reduced the family income and Hoover had to leave school and seek employment. Hoover found work as a messenger boy in the Library of Congress, but highly ambitious, spent his evenings studying for a law degree at George Washington University.
After graduating in 1917, Hoover's uncle, a judge, helped him find work in the Justice Department. After only two years in the organisation, Alexander M. Palmer, the attorney general, made Hoover his special assistant. Hoover was given responsibility of heading a new section that had been formed to gather evidence on "revolutionary and ultra-revolutionary groups". Over the next couple of years Hoover had the task of organizing the arrest and deportation of suspected communists in America.
Hoover, influenced by his work at the Library of Congress, decided to create a massive card index of people with left-wing political views. Over the next few years 450,000 names were indexed and detailed biographical notes were written up on the 60,000 that Hoover considered the most dangerous. Hoover then advised Palmer to have these people rounded up and deported.
On 7th November, 1919, the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution, over 10,000 suspected communists and anarchists were arrested in twenty-three different cities. However, the vast majority of these people were American citizens and had to be eventually released. However, Hoover now had the names of hundreds of lawyers who were willing to represent radicals in court. These were now added to his growing list of names in his indexed database.
Hoover decided he needed a high profile case to help his campaign against subversives. He selected Emma Goldman, as he had been particularly upset by her views on birth control, free love and religion. Goldman had also been imprisoned for two years for opposing America's involvement in the First World War. This was a subject that Hoover felt very strongly about, even though it was never willing to discuss how he had managed to avoid being drafted.
Hoover knew it would be a difficult task having Goldman deported. She had been living in the country for thirty-four years and both her father and husband were both citizens of the United States. In court Hoover argued that Goldman's speeches had inspired Leon Czolgosz to assassinate President William McKinley. Hoover won his case and Goldman, along with 247 other people, were deported to Russia.
Hoover's persecution of people with left-wing views had the desired effect and membership of the American Communist Party, estimated to have been 80,000 before the raids, fell to less that 6,000.
In 1921 Hoover was rewarded by being promoted to the post of assistant director of the Bureau of Investigation. The function of the FBI at that time was the investigation of violations of federal law and assisting the police and other criminal investigation agencies in the United States.
Hoover was appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation in 1924. The three years that he had spent in the organization had convinced Hoover that the organization needed to improve the quality of its staff. Great care was spent in recruiting and training agents. In 1926 Hoover established a fingerprint file that eventually became the largest in the world.
The power of the bureau was limited. Law enforcement was a stare activity, not a federal one. Hoover's agents were not allowed to carry guns, nor did they have the right to arrest suspects. Hoover complained about this situation and in 1935 Congress agreed to establish the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Agents were now armed and could act against crimes of violence throughout the United States.
Hoover now set about establishing a world-class crime fighting organization. Innovations introduced by Hoover included the formation of a scientific crime-detention laboratory and the highly regarded FBI National Academy. Hoover appointed Clyde Tolson as Assistant Director of the FBI. In his book, The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1993), Anthony Summers claims that Hoover and Tolson became lovers. For the next forty years the two men were constant companions. In the FBI the couple were known as "J. Edna and Mother Tolson". Mafia boss, Meyer Lansky, obtained photographic evidence of Hoover's homosexuality and was able to use this to stop the FBI from looking too closely into his own criminal activities.
During the Spanish Civil War Hoover arranged for FBI agents to report on those Americans that fought for the Abraham Lincoln Battalion and George Washington Battalion. Hoover later wrote: "When a civil war broke out in that country in 1936, the Communists acted in line with the theory that the Soviet Union should be used as the base for the extension of Communist control over other countries. Soviet intervention in the Spanish civil war was twofold in nature. First, in response to directions from the Comintern, the international Communist movement organized International Brigades to fight in Spain. A typical unit was the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, organized in the United States... Many Communists throughout the world who answered the Comintern's call to fight in Spain were repaid subsequently by Soviet assistance in their attempts to seize power in their respective countries."
When the journalist, Ray Tucker, hinted at Hoover's homosexuality in an article for Collier's Magazine, he was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Information about Tucker's private life was leaked to the media and when this became known, other journalists were frightened off from writing about this aspect of Hoover's life.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt enjoyed a good relationship with Hoover. Roosevelt's attorney general, Robert Jackson commented, "The two men liked and understood each other." Roosevelt asked Hoover to investigate Charles Lindbergh, one of the leaders of the American First Committee. He willingly did so for he had been upset by Lindbergh's critical comments about the failures of the FBI investigation into the kidnapping and murder of his infant son. He also provided detailed reports on isolationists such as Burton K. Wheeler, Gerald Nye and Hamilton Fish.
Roosevelt wrote to Hoover thanking him for this information. "I have intended writing you for some time to thank you for the many interesting and valuable reports that you have made to me regarding the fast moving situations of the last few months." Hoover replied on 14th June, 1940: "The letter is one of the most inspiring messages which I have ever been privileged to receive; and, indeed, I look upon it as rather a symbol of the principles for which our Nation stands. When the President of our country, bearing the weight of untold burdens, takes the time to express himself to one of his Bureau heads, there is implanted in the hearts of the recipients a renewed strength and vigor to carry on their tasks."
Hoover persuaded Franklin D. Roosevelt to give the FBI the task of investigating both foreign espionage in the United States. This included the collection of information on those with radical political beliefs. After Elizabeth Bentley, a former member of the American Communist Party, provided the FBI with information about a Soviet spy ring in 1945, Hoover became convinced that that their was a communist conspiracy to overthrow the United States government.
When checked, much of the information provided by Elizabeth Bentley was found to be untrue. However, by intimidating the people that Bentley had named, the FBI were able to obtain the information needed to convict Harry Gold, David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg of spying.
Hoover believed that several senior officials in the government were secret members of the Communist Party. Unhappy with the way Harry S. Truman, responded to this news, Hoover began leaking information about officials such as Alger Hiss to those politicians that shared his anti-communist views. This included Joseph McCarthy, John S. Wood, John Parnell Thomas, John Rankin and Richard Nixon. Hoover was a great supporter of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), an organisation that relieved heavily on information provided by the FBI.
Hoover was particularly concerned with the political influence that television and the cinema was having on the people of the United States. He encouraged the House of Un-American Activities Committee investigation into the entertainment industry and the decision by the major media networks to blacklist artists who were known to hold left of centre political views.
In June, 1950, three former FBI agents published Red Channels, a pamphlet listing the names of 151 writers, directors and performers who they claimed had been members of subversive organizations before the Second World War but had not so far been blacklisted. The names had been compiled from FBI files and a detailed analysis of the Daily Worker, a newspaper published by the American Communist Party.
A free copy of Red Channels was sent to those involved in employing people in the entertainment industry. All those people named in the pamphlet were blacklisted until they appeared in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and convinced its members they had completely renounced their radical past. By the late 1950s it was estimated that over 320 artists had been blacklisted and were unable to find work in television and the cinema.
Hoover became friends with Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson, became friends of J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was the start of a long friendship. According to Anthony Summers, the author of The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1993): "Recognizing Edgar's influence as a national figure, the oilmen had started cultivating him in the late forties-inviting him to Texas as a houseguest, taking him on hunting expeditions. Edgar's relations with them were to go far beyond what was proper for a Director of the FBI."
Hoover and Clyde Tolson were regular visitors to Murchison's Del Charro Hotel in La Jolla, California. The three men would visit the local racetrack, Del Mar. Allan Witwer, the manager of the hotel at the time, later recalled: "It came to the end of the summer and Hoover had made no attempt to pay his bill. So I went to Murchison and asked him what he wanted me to do." Murchison told him to put it on his bill. Witwer estimates that over the next 18 summers Murchison's hospitality was worth nearly $300,000. Other visitors to the hotel included Richard Nixon, John Connally, Lyndon B. Johnson, Meyer Lansky, Santos Trafficante, Johnny Rosselli, Sam Giancana and Carlos Marcello.
In 1952 Hoover and Murchison worked together to mount a smear campaign against Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic Party candidate for the presidency. Hoover and Tolson, also invested heavily in Murchison's oil business. In 1954 Murchison joined forces with Sid Richardson and Robert Ralph Young to gain control of the New York Central Railroad. This involved buying 800,000 shares worth $20 million.
In 1953 Hoover asked one of his senior agents, Cartha DeLoach to join the American Legion to "straighten it out". According to the journalist, Sanford J. Ungar, he took the assignment so seriously that he became national vice-commander of the organization: "DeLoach became chairman of the Legion's national public relations commission in 1958 and in that position and in his other Legion offices over the years, he exercised a great deal of influence over the organization's internal policies as well as its public positions."
DeLoach became an important figure in Hoover's FBI. This included working closely with Lyndon B. Johnson. It was DeLoach who arranged with Johnson, who was the Senate majority leader, to push through legislation guaranteeing Hoover a salary for life. DeLoach later recalled: “There was political distrust between the two of them, but they both needed each other." However, he denied that the two men worked together to blackmail politicians. In his book, Hoover's FBI (1995), DeLoach argued: "The popular myth, fostered of late by would-be historians and sensationalists with their eyes on the bestseller list, has it that in his day J. Edgar Hoover all but ran Washington, using dirty tricks to intimidate congressmen and presidents, and phone taps, bugs, and informants to build secret files with which to blackmail lawmakers." According to DeLoach this was not true.
In 1958 Clint Murchison purchased the publishers, Henry Holt and Company. He told the New York Post: "Before I got them, they published some books that were badly pro-Communist. They had some bad people there.... We just cleared them all out and put some good men in. Sure there were casualties but now we've got a good operation." One of the first book's he published was by his old friend, J. Edgar Hoover. The book, Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism in America (1958), was an account of the Communist menace and sold over 250,000 copies in hardcover and over 2,000,000 in paperback. It was on the best-seller lists for thirty-one weeks, three of them as the number one non-fiction choice.
William Sullivan was ordered to oversee the project, claimed that as many as eight agents worked full-time on the book for nearly six months. Curt Gentry, the author of J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets (1991) points out Hoover claimed that he intended to give all royalties to the FBI Recreational Association (FBIRA). However, he claims that the "FBIRA was a slush fund, maintained for the use of Hoover, Tolson, and their key aides. It was also a money-laundering operation, so the director would not have to9 pay taxes on his book royalties." Gentry quotes Sullivan as saying that Hoover "put many thousands of dollars of that book.... into his own pocket, and so did Tolson."
Ronald Kessler, the author of The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI (2002) DeLoach was involved in blackmailing Senator Carl T. Hayden, chair of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, into following the instructions of Hoover. In April 1962, Roy L. Elson, Hayden's administrative assistant, questioned Hayden's decision to approve the $60 million cost of the FBI building. When he discovered what Elson was saying, DeLoach "hinted" that he had "information that was unflattering and detrimental to my marital situation... I was certainly vulnerable that way... There was more than one girl... The implication was there was information about my sex life... I interpreted it as attempted blackmail."
FBI Special Agent Arthur Murtagh also testified that Cartha DeLoach was involved in the blackmail of politicians on government committees. He claimed that DeLoach told him: "The other night, we picked up a siuation where this senator was seen drunk, in a hit-and-run accident, and some good-looking broad was with him. We got the information, reported it in a memorandum, and by noon the next day, the senator was aware that we had the information, and we never had trouble with him on appropriations since."
Hoover and the FBI carried out detailed investigations into any prominent person who he thought held dangerous political views. This included leaders of the civil rights movement and those opposed to the Vietnam War. At the same time Hoover virtual ignored organized crime and his investigations into political corruption was mainly used as a means of gaining control over politicians in powerful positions. In 1959 Hoover had 489 agents spying on communists but only 4 investigating the Mafia. As early as 1945 Harry S. Truman complained how Hoover and his agents were "dabbling in sex life scandals and plain blackmail when they should be catching criminals".
J. Edgar Hoover received information that President John F. Kennedy was having a relationship with Ellen Rometsch. In July 1963 Federal Bureau of Investigation agents questioned Romesch about her past. They came to the conclusion that she was probably a Soviet spy. Hoover actually leaked information to the journalist, Courtney Evans, that Romesch worked for Walter Ulbricht, the communist leader of East Germany. When Robert Kennedy was told about this information, he ordered her to be deported.
The FBI had discovered that there were several women at the Quorum Club who had been involved in relationships with leading politicians. This included both John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. It was particularly worrying that this included Mariella Novotny and Suzy Chang. This was a problem because they both had connections to communist countries and had been named as part of the spy ring that had trapped John Profumo, the British war minister, a few months earlier. President Kennedy told J. Edgar Hoover that he "personally interested in having this story killed".
Hoover refused and leaked the information to Clark Mollenhoff. On 26th October he wrote an article in The Des Moines Register claiming that the FBI had "established that the beautiful brunette had been attending parties with congressional leaders and some prominent New Frontiersmen from the executive branch of Government... The possibility that her activity might be connected with espionage was of some concern, because of the high rank of her male companions". Mollenhoff claimed that John Williams "had obtained an account" of Rometsch's activity and planned to pass this information to the Senate Rules Committee.
Hoover developed a close relationship with Lyndon B. Johnson. The two men shared information that they had on senior politicians. After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Hoover helped Johnson to cover-up the assassination and the Bobby Baker scandal. In an interview Cartha DeLoach gave in 1991 he claimed: "Mr. Hoover was anxious to retain his job and to stay on as director. He knew that the best way for the F.B.I. to operate fully and to get some cooperation of the White House was for him to be cooperative with President Johnson... President Johnson, on the other hand, knew of Mr. Hoover’s image in the United States, particularly among the middle-of-the-road conservative elements, and knew it was vast. He knew of the potential strength of the F.B.I. - insofar as being of assistance to the government and the White House is concerned. As a result it was a marriage, not altogether of necessity, but it was a definite friendship caused by necessity.”
William Sullivan was the FBI's third-ranking official behind Hoover and Clyde A. Tolson. Sullivan was placed in charge of FBI's Division Five. This involved smearing leaders of left-wing organizations. Sullivan was a strong opponent of the leadership of Martin Luther King. In January, 1964, Sullivan sent a memo to Hoover: "It should be clear to all of us that King must, at some propitious point in the future, be revealed to the people of this country and to his Negro followers as being what he actually is - a fraud, demagogue and scoundrel. When the true facts concerning his activities are presented, such should be enough, if handled properly, to take him off his pedestal and to reduce him completely in influence." Sullivan's suggested replacement for King was Samuel Pierce, a conservative lawyer who was later to serve as Secretary of Housing under President Ronald Reagan.
FBI agent Arthur Murtagh was involved in the campaign against the civil rights movement: "He was brought up in a culture... in that society there was a real sense of belief, a religious belief, political belief, that there was no such thing as equality between blacks and whites, and that's the way he viewed them... Hoover did so many things to discredit the civil rights movement that I hardly know where to start. In the first place, he put about the same emphasis... much more of the facilities of the Bureau toward keeping the Klan... keeping the blacks in place and let the Klan run wild. He was friendly with people in the South, and ... when a situation came up, he would always make his decisions in favor of the local people."
William Sullivan disagreed with J. Edgar Hoover about the threat to national security posed by the American Communist Party and felt that the FBI was wasting too much money investigating this group. On 28th August, 1971, Sullivan sent Hoover a long letter pointing out their differences. Sullivan also suggested that Hoover should consider retirement. Hoover refused and it was Sullivan who had to leave the organization.
The FBI under Hoover collected information on all America's leading politicians. Known as Hoover's secret files, this material was used to influence their actions. It was later claimed that Hoover used this incriminating material to make sure that the eight presidents that he served under, would be too frightened to sack him as director of the FBI. This strategy worked and Hoover was still in office when he died, aged seventy-seven, on 2nd May, 1972.
Clyde Tolson arranged for the destruction of all Hoover's private files. A senate report in 1976 was highly critical of Hoover and accused him of using the organization to harass political dissidents in the United States.
At the heart of Hoover’s massive public relations operation were fifty-nine FBI field offices whose territory took in every village, town, city, and county in America. Each day, out of these field offices streamed eight thousand agents going into every state, city, and town, talking to and becoming friendly with ordinary citizens from all walks of life.
Because of his network of field offices, and thanks to the scores of contacts made and maintained by the special agents in charge, Hoover was able to place "news" stories - invented and written in the bureau, really nothing more than press releases, puff pieces for the FBI - in newspapers all over the country. Our strength was in the small dailies and weeklies; and with hundreds of these papers behind him, Hoover didn’t give a damn about papers like the New York Times or the Washington Post. Most of the men who run small local papers are used to printing stories about grange suppers on the front page; imagine how grateful they are for a story from the FBI. Of course, scores of Washington-based reporters printed stories we gave them too, and they usually printed them under their own bylines. Some of them lived off us. It was an easy way to make a living. They were our press prostitutes.
When I hear people talk about a "new" FBI, I know that the changes they talk about are only paper changes. This public relations operation of Hoover’s, this massive attempt to control public opinion, continues to this day, and it is at the very heart of what is wrong with the bureau. Unless it is exposed, until every editor of every little weekly newspaper who ever printed an FBI press handout realizes how he was used, the FBI will do business in the same old way.
A massive, pervasive public relations operation is no substitute for the job of investigating crimes. The FBI should conduct its business quietly and it should earn its respect from the citizens of the United States by the results of its work, not from the results of its propaganda.
One of the first opportunities to exploit political and social upheaval abroad arose in Spain. When a civil war broke out in that country in 1936, the Communists acted in line with the theory that the Soviet Union should be used as the base for the extension of Communist control over other countries. Soviet intervention in the Spanish civil war was twofold in nature. First, in response to directions from the Comintern, the international Communist movement organized International Brigades to fight in Spain. A typical unit was the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, organized in the United States. It succeeded in recruiting about 3,000 men. In all, the Communist parties of 53 countries were represented in the International Brigades with a total fighting strength of approximately 18,000, the first of whom arrived in Spain during the latter part of 1936. Second, the Soviet Union furnished direct military assistance in the form of tanks, artillery, and aircraft flown by Soviet pilots. For two years, Moscow pursued its objectives in the Spanish struggle. However, Soviet intervention ended in the fall of 1938, when the national interest of the Soviet Union forced it to turn its attention elsewhere. In Europe, Hitler's strength was steadily increasing. In addition, Japan's armed invasion of Manchuria posed a direct threat to Soviet territory in the Far East. At the end of 1938, the International Brigades withdrew from Spain.
Many Communists throughout the world who answered the Comintern's call to fight in Spain were repaid subsequently by Soviet assistance in their attempts to seize power in their respective countries. Among those identified with Communist efforts in connection with the Spanish civil war who subsequently gained prominence in the Communist movement were Tito (Yugoslavia), Palmiro Togliatti (Italy), Jacques Duclos (France), Klement Gottwald (Czechoslovakia), Erno Gero and Laszlo Rajk (Hungary), and Walter Ulbricht (East Germany).
At the press conference held when I quit the Communist Party, I made a prediction that the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities and the FBI would claim the death of the Daily Worker and my resignation only meant that the party was stronger than ever. Two months later J. Edgar Hoover published a book making this very claim. To those of us who left the Communist Party in the recent period, this talk about the organization growing stronger, is sheer fantasy. So little still remains of the party and of its influence, that at best it can be called a living corpse.
If J. Edgar Hoover really has the inside information which he claims, then he knows better than what he writes. Why does he persist in perpetuating a myth? Perhaps appropriations for his department have something to do with it. A growing number of Washington correspondents have begun to notice a rash of "communist menace" reports breaks out whenever government agencies are scheduled to request additional funds from Congress. Where upon a duly frightened legislature proceeds to shell out and no questions asked.
There is a legitimate body of opinion which seeks to counter many of the ideas and methods of communism with what it holds to be superior ideas and practices; but there is also a spurious anti-communist racket which is financially lucrative, politically deceitful and a weapon against progress and freedom. Perhaps this too explains why some persons are so reluctant to give up the ghost of the "communist menace" in this country.
The title of Mr. Hoover's book Masters of Deceit is, in my opinion, a misnomer. The Communist Party here never mastered the art of persuading very large numbers of Americans, deceptively or otherwise. The only deception at which it proved adept was self-deception - the basic cause of its demise as an effective political trend. Persecution and prosecutions undoubtedly harmed the Communist Party, but the greatest injury was done to it by the party itself. The party was in some ways a continuation of American radicalism, and in some ways its negation. The party fell apart because it would not think for itself, would not face reality; it tried to ride two horses at one time, refused to change when changes became necessary, and finally insisted on committing suicide.
Hoover was already the scourge of liberals that he would remain for the rest of his life. His wiretapping, bugging of rooms, surreptitious break-ins, "black bag jobs" in bureau parlance, outraged champions of civil liberties in Congress. None of the disapproval hurt him at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. On May 16, 1940, FDR was guest of honor at the annual black-tie White House Correspondents dinner. Spotting Hoover among the guests, Roosevelt called out from the dais, "Edgar, what are they trying to do to you on the Hill?" "I don't know, Mr. President," Hoover answered. FDR made a thumbs-down gesture, and added with a voice loud enough for all to hear, "That's for them." Of course, the two men were using each other. But, there was more to it than mutual exploitation. Francis Biddle, who by then had succeeded Robert Jackson as attorney general, and who had known Roosevelt at Groton as the most patrician of Grotonians, commented, almost in disbelief, "The two men liked and understood each other."
Why should the President not have appreciated his federal police chief? Hoover appeared to be doing a splendid job, particularly at spy catching. German intelligence agents in the United States had been communicating with the Abwehr through a shortwave radio station on Long Island. Hoover's men uncovered the operation and, instead of shutting it down, took it over. Their informant had been William Sebold, a German-born naturalized American citizen. During a visit to Germany, Sebold had been contacted by Abwehr agents who threatened the lives of his family still living in Germany if he did not spy for them. He agreed, but immediately upon his return to the United States reported the contact to the FBI, which took him on as a double agent at fifty dollars per week. He was to pretend to be working loyally for the Fatherland by radioing intelligence via the Long Island station. Sebold's phony messages were exploited by the Departments of State, War, and Navy to feed false information to the Nazi regime. The flow of traffic coming from Germany tipped off the FBI to Abwehr intelligence targets and revealed new agents who had been recruited in America.
So complete was the President's confidence in Hoover that the relationship began to move into areas testing legitimacy. Earlier on the day that he had attended the White House Correspondents dinner, FDR had addressed a joint session of Congress hammering at his pet theme, "the treacherous use of the fifth column" and the necessity for America to strengthen its national defense. The speech was blatantly interventionist, and its isolationist critics were swift in counterattacking. Two days after addressing Congress, FDR brandished a sheaf of telegrams before his press secretary, Steve Early. The senders, he told Early, were opponents of a strong national defense. He wanted Early to give the telegrams to J. Edgar Hoover to "go over" the names and addresses... By the end of May, Hoover had checked out 131 of the President's critics, including two senators, Burton K. Wheeler and Gerald Nye, and America's aviator hero, Charles Lindbergh....
Lindbergh said, it lay in Roosevelt's belligerence. After hearing the speech (made by Lindbergh on 19th May, 1940), FDR told Henry Morgenthau, "If I should die tomorrow, I want you to know this. I am absolutely convinced that Lindbergh is a Nazi." He wrote Henry Stimson, who was about to join his cabinet, "When I read Lindbergh's speech, I felt that it could not have been better put if it had been written by Goebbels himself. What a pity that this youngster has completely abandoned his belief in our form of government and has accepted Nazi methods because apparently they are efficient." Lindbergh's name entered the President's list of foes. J. Edgar Hoover was only too ready to maintain a watch on him for FDR, but not necessarily because of Lindbergh's politics. The FBI director already had a thick file on the flier hero, started after Lindbergh supposedly credited the Treasury Department, rather than the FBI, with solving the kidnapping and murder of his infant son.
FDR was sufficiently pleased with Hoover's zeal in monitoring Lindbergh and other administration critics that he sent the director an artfully vague note of gratitude. "Dear Edgar," it began, "I have intended writing you for some time to thank you for the many interesting and valuable reports that you have made to me regarding the fast moving situations of the last few months." Hoovers response bordered on the mawkish. "The personal note which you directed to me on June 14, 1940," he wrote back, "is one of the most inspiring messages which I have ever been privileged to receive; and, indeed, I look upon it as rather a symbol of the principles for which our Nation stands. When the President of our country, bearing the weight of untold burdens, takes the time to express himself to one of his Bureau heads, there is implanted in the hearts of the recipients a renewed strength and vigor to carry on their tasks." The letter contained an enclosure, the latest information on FDR's enemies.
The Communist movement in the United States began to manifest itself in 1919. Since then it has changed its name and its party line whenever expedient and tactical. But always it comes back to fundamentals and bills itself as the party of Marxism-Lenninism. As such, it stands for the destruction of our American form of government; it stands for the destruction of American democracy; it stands for the destruction of free enterprise; and it stands for the creation of a "Soviet of the United States" and ultimate world revolution.
The preamble of the latest constitution of the Communist Party of the United States, filled with Marxian "double talk," proclaims that the party "educates the working class, in the course of its day-to-day struggles, for its historic mission, the establishment of socialism." The phrase "historic mission" has a sinister meaning. To the uninformed person it bespeaks tradition, but to the Communist, using his own words, it is "achieving the dictatorship of the proletariat"; "to throw off the yoke of imperialism and establish the proletarian dictatorship"; "to raise these revolutionary forces to the surface and hurl them like a devastating avalanche upon the united forces of bourgeois reaction, frenzied at the presentment of their rapidly approaching doom."
In recent years, the Communists have been very cautious about using such phrases as "force and violence"; nevertheless, it is the subject of much discussion in their schools and in party caucus where they readily admit that the only way in which they can defeat the present ruling class is by world revolution.
The Communist, once he is fully trained and indoctrinated, realizes that he can create his order in the United States only by "bloody revolution." Their chief textbook, The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, is used as a basis for planning their revolution. Their tactics require that to be successful they must have: (1) The will and sympathy of the people. (2) Military aid and assistance. (3) Plenty of guns and ammunition. (4) A program for extermination of the police as they are the most important enemy and are termed "trained Fascists." (5) Seizure of all communications, buses, railroads, radio stations, and other forms of communications and transportation.
They evade the question of force and violence publicly. They hold that when Marxists speak of force and violence they will not be responsible - that force and violence will be the responsibility of their enemies. They adopt the novel premise that they do not advocate force and violence publicly but that when their class resists to defend themselves then they are thus accused of using force and violence. A lot of double talk.
In establishing the party's illegal character in 1942, the then Attorney General Biddle based his findings on the contents of the same Communist publications which today are being sold and circulated in party circles in the United States. The American Communist, like the leopard, cannot change his spots. The Communist Party line changes from day to day. The one cardinal rule that can always be applied to what the party line is or will be is found in the fundamental principle of Communist teachings that the support of Soviet Russia is the duty of Communists of all countries.
One thing is certain. The American progress which all good citizens seek, such as old-age security, houses for veterans, child assistance, and a host of others, is being adopted as window dressing by the Communists to conceal their true aims and entrap gullible followers.
The Communist propaganda technique is designed to promote emotional response with the hope that the victim will be attracted by what he is told the Communist way of life holds in store for him. The objective, of course, is to develop discontent and hasten the day when the Communists can gather sufficient support and following to overthrow the American way of life.
Communist propaganda is always slanted in the hope that the Communist may be aligned with liberal progressive causes. The honest liberal and progressive should be alert to this, and I believe the Communists' most effective foes can be the real liberals and progressives who understand their devious machinations.
Communists and their followers are prolific letter writers, and some of the more energetic ones follow the practice of directing numerous letters of protest to editors but signing a different name to each. Members of Congress are well aware of Communists starting their pressure campaigns by an avalanche of mail which follows the party line.
The party has departed from depending upon the printed word as its medium of propaganda and has taken to the air. Its members and sympathizers have not only infiltrated the airways but they are now persistently seeking radio channels. The American Communists launched a furtive attack on Hollywood in 1935 by the issuance of a directive calling for a concentration in Hollywood. The orders called for action on two fronts: (1) an effort to infiltrate the labor unions; (2) infiltrate the so-called intellectual and creative fields.
In movie circles, Communists developed an effective defense a few years ago in meeting criticism. They would counter with the question, "After all, what is the matter with communism?" It was effective because many persons did not possess adequate knowledge of the subject to give an intelligent answer.
Some producers and studio heads realized the possibility that the entire industry faces serious embarrassment because it could become a springboard for Communist activities. Communist activity in Hollywood is effective and is furthered by Communists and sympathizers using the prestige of prominent persons to serve, often unwittingly, the Communist cause. The party is content and highly pleased if it is possible to have inserted in a picture a line, a scene, a sequence conveying the Communist lesson and, more particularly, if they can keep out anti-Communist lessons.
The Communist tactic of infiltrating labor unions stems from the earliest teachings of Marx, which have been reiterated by party spokesmen down through the years. They resort to all means to gain their point and often succeed in penetrating and literally taking over labor unions before the rank and file of members are aware of what has occurred.
I am convinced that the great masses of union men and women are patriotic American citizens interested chiefly in security for their families and themselves. They have no use for the American Communists, but in those instances where Communists have taken control of unions, it has been because too many union men and women have been outwitted, outmaneuvered, and outwaited by Communists.
The numerical strength of the party's enrolled membership its insignificant. The Daily Worker boasts of 74,000 members on the rolls. But it is well known that there are many actual members who because of their position are not carried on party rolls. What is important is the claim of the Communists themselves that for every party member there are 10 others ready, willing, and able to do the party's work. Herein lies the greatest menace of communism. For these are the people who infiltrate and corrupt various spheres of American life. So rather than the size of the Communist Party, the way to weigh its true importance is by testing its influence, its ability to infiltrate.
The size of the party is relatively unimportant because of the enthusiasm and iron-clad discipline under which they operate. In this connection, it might be of interest to observe that in 1917 when the Communists overthrew the Russian Government there was one Communist for every 2,277 persons in Russia. In the United States today there is is one Communist for every 1,814 persons in the country.
I certainly do not want to indicate that Hoover did not have some unusual ability in structuring an organization designed to perpetuate a sort of dictatorial control of both the FBI and, so far as he could manage it, the minds of the American citizens: but so did Adolf Hitler.
Mr. Hoover is short, fat, businesslike, and walks with a mincing step. He dresses fastidiously, with Eleanor blue as the favourite colour for the matched shades of tie, handkerchief and socks. A little pompous, he rides in a limousine even if only to a nearby self-service cafeteria.
Hoover's room was the last of four interconnecting offices. Belmont knocked, and entered the room. Hoover stood behind his desk, dressed in a piercing blue suit. He was taller and slimmer than he appeared in photographs, with wrinkled flesh which hung off his face in small drapes. He greeted me with a firm and joyless handshake.
Belmont began to describe the reason for my visit, but Hoover cut him off sharply.
"I've read the report, Al. I want to hear Mr. Wright tell me about it."
Hoover fixed me with coal-black eyes, and I began to outline the discovery of RAFTER. Almost at once, he interrupted me.
"I gather your Service is now satisfied about the intelligence provided by our Czech source?"
I began to answer, but he swept me aside.
"Your security organizations enjoy many facilities here in Washington, Mr. Wright."
There was more than a hint of a threat in his voice.
"I have to advise the President of the United States when those facilities raise questions about our national security. I have to take a close personal interest in a case like this, particularly in view of the recent problems the United Kingdom has suffered in this area. I need to know I am on firm ground. Do I make myself clear?"
"Of course, sir, I understand perfectly ..."
Harry Stone busily studied his shoelaces. Al Belmont and Bill Sullivan sat to one side of Hoover's desk, half hidden in shadow. I was on my own.
"I think you will find in my report ..."
"My staff have digested your report, Mr. Wright. I am interested in the lessons you have learned."
Before I could answer, Hoover launched into a passionate diatribe about Western inadequacy in the face of the Communist onslaught. I agreed with many of the sentiments; it was just the manner of the telling that was objectionable. Inevitably the subject of Burgess and Maclean came up, Hoover sounding each syllable of their names with almost prurient venom.
"Now in the Bureau here, Mr. Wright, that sort of thing could not happen. My officers are thoroughly screened. There are lessons to be learned. Do I make myself clear?"
A further allegation came from Jimmy G. C. Corcoran, who had become Edgar's trusted associate while working as an FBI Inspector in the twenties.
"After he left the Bureau," said Shimon, "Jimmy became very powerful politically. During World War II he was a lobbyist, and he was retained by a business group to get congressional help for them to open up a factory- for a $75,000 fee. That was illegal during the war, and we got a tip-off from the Attorney General's office that the FBI were going to set Jimmy up when he went to pick up his $75,000 at the Mayflower Hotel.
"Jimmy was really mad. He went to Harvey's Restaurant and sent word to Hoover that Jimmy Corcoran wanted him to come out right now or he was going to create a scene.
"Hoover came out in the end, and said, 'What's the matter, Jimmy?' and Jimmy called him a lot of dirty words and said, 'What d'you mean trying to set me up?' Hoover said, 'Gee, Jimmy, I didn't know it was you.' And Jimmy said, 'For Chrissake, how many J. G. C. Corcorans do you know? . . . This is what I get for doing you a favor, you dirty S.O.B. . . .' And the outcome was that Jimmy went and collected his $75,000. And he wasn't arrested."
After the incident Corcoran confided to Joseph Shimon, and to Washington lobbyist Henry Grunewald, what the "favor" had been. While he was at the Bureau, Corcoran said, Edgar used him to deal with a "problem." He said Edgar had been arrested in the late twenties in New Orleans, on sex charges involving a young man. Corcoran, who had by then left the FBI and had powerful contacts in Louisiana, said he had intervened to prevent a prosecution.
Corcoran was to die in a mysterious plane crash in 1956 near Spanish Cay, a Caribbean island owned by a close associate of Edgar's, oil millionaire Clint Murchison. Most of the documents in his FBI file have since been destroyed. While Corcoran's account may never be proven, it does not stand alone. Joe Pasternak, the veteran film producer remembered for his relaunch of Marlene Dietrich in the late thirties, told of another close call. He knew Edgar, and claimed personal knowledge of a sordid episode that occurred in California. "He was a homosexual," Pasternak said. "Every year he used to come down to the Del Mar racetrack with a different boy. He was caught in a bathroom by a newspaperman. They made sure he didn't speak. . . . Nobody dared say anything because he was so powerful."
We want to Gestapo or Secret Police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex life scandals and plain blackmail when they should be catching criminals. They also have a habit of sneering at local law enforcement officers. This must stop. Cooperation is what we must have.
Hoover was always gathering damaging material on Jack Kennedy, which the president, with his active social life, seemed more than willing to provide. We never put any technical surveillance on JFK, but whatever came up was automatically funnelled directly to Hoover. I was sure he was saving everything he had on Kennedy, and on Martin Luther King, Jr., too, until he could unload it all and destroy them both. He kept this kind of explosive material in his personal files, which filled four rooms on the fifth floor of headquarters.
Kennedy was aware that Hoover was an enemy, of course, and he kept his distance. He never asked Hoover for any gossip or any favors. If he heard that Hoover was leaking anti-Kennedy stories, JFK would call the director right away and ask him to put the statement on the record. Hoover always did, but somehow, between Kennedy's phone call and Hoover's official statement, the director's remarks softened considerably. Kennedy couldn't stop Hoover from talking behind his back, but he could do something about Hoover's public statements, and he did. Kennedy would also call Hoover over to the White House two or three times just to remind him who was boss. Kennedy didn't say it that bluntly, but Hoover got the message.
I shouldn't have been surprised then at Hoover's cold-blooded attitude when Kennedy was murdered, but it was unsettling nonetheless.
J. Edgar Hoover: I just want to let you know of a development which I think is very important in connection with this case. This man in Dallas (Lee Harvey Oswald). We, of course, charged him with the murder of the President. The evidence that they have at the present time is not very strong.... We have the gun and we have the bullet. There was only one and that was found on the stretcher that the President was on...
Lyndon B. Johnson: Have you established any more about the visit to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico in September?
J. Edgar Hoover: No, that's one angle that is very confusing. We have up here the tape and this photograph of the man who was at this Soviet Embassy, using Oswald's name. That picture and the tape do not correspond to this man's voice, nor to his appearance. In other words, it appears that there is a second person who was at the Soviet Embassy down there.
The thing I am concerned about, and so is Katzenbach (Deputy Attorney General), is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.
Lyndon B. Johnson: Are you familiar with this proposed group that they're trying to put together on this study of your report...
J. Edgar Hoover: I think it would be very very bad to have a rash of investigations on this thing.
Lyndon B. Johnson: Well, the only way we can stop them is probably to appoint a high-level one to evaluate your report and put somebody that's pretty good on it... that I can select... and tell the House of Representatives and the Senate not to go ahead with their investigations...
J. Edgar Hoover: This fellow Rubenstein (Jack Ruby) is a very shady character, has a bad record - street brawler, fighter, and that sort of thing - and in the place in Dallas, if a fellow came in there and couldn't pay his bill completely, Rubenstein would beat the very devil out of him and throw him out of the place... He didn't drink, didn't smoke, boasted about that. He is what I would put in a category of one of these "egomaniacs." Likes to be in the limelight. He knew all the police in that white-light district.... and he also let them come in, see the show, get food, liquor, and so forth. That's how, I think, he got into police headquarters. Because they accepted him as kind of a police character, hanging around police headquarters... They never made any moves, as the pictures show, even when they saw him approaching this fellow and got up right to him and pressed his pistol against Oswald's stomach. Neither of the police officers on either side made any move to push him away or grab him. It wasn't until after the gun was fired that they then moved... The Chief of Police admits that he moved him in the morning as a convenience and at the request of motion-picture people, who wanted to have daylight. He should have moved him at night... But so far as tying Rubenstein and Oswald together we haven't as yet done. So there have been a number of stories come in, we've tied Oswald into the Civil Liberties Union in New York, membership into that and, of course, this Cuban Fair Play Committee, which is pro-Castro, and dominated by Communism and financed, to some extent, by the Castro government.
Lyndon Johnson: How many shots were fired? Three?
J. Edgar Hoover: Three.
Lyndon Johnson: Any of them fired at me?
J. Edgar Hoover: No.
Lyndon Johnson: All three at the President?
J. Edgar Hoover: All three at the President and we have them. Two of the shots fired at the President were splintered but they had characteristics on them so that our ballistics expert was able to prove that they were fired by this gun... The President - he was hit by the first and third. The second shot hit the Governor. The third shot is a complete bullet and that rolled out of the President's head. It tore a large part of the President's head off and, in trying to massage his heart at the
hospital on the way to the hospital, they apparently loosened that and it fell off onto the stretcher. And we recovered that... And we have the gun here also.
Lyndon Johnson: Were they aiming at the President?
J. Edgar Hoover: They were aiming directly at the President. There is no question about that. This telescopic lens, which I've looked through - it brings a person as close to you as if they were sitting right beside you.
On December 3, 1963, the UPI wire carried a story ... under the following lead: "An exhaustive FBI report now nearly ready for the White House will indicate that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone and unaided assassin of President Kennedy, Government sources said today." When he was informed of these news articles. Director Hoover wrote, "I thought no one knew this outside the FBI." According to (Assistant FBI Director) William Sullivan, Hoover himself ordered the report "leaked" to the press, in an attempt to "blunt the drive for an independent investigation of the assassination."
If there had been a Mr. Hoover in the first half of the first century, A.D., can you imagine what he would have put into his files about a certain trouble-maker from Nazareth, his moral attitudes and the people he consorted with.
It was a relief to have this man silenced who had no understanding of the underlying philosophy of our government or of our Bill of Rights, a man who had such enormous power, and used it to harass individuals with whom he disagreed politically and who had done so much as anyone to intimidate millions of Americans out of their right to hear and judge for themselves all political opinions.
J. Edgar Hoover was like a sewer that collected dirt. I now believe he was the worst public servant in our history.
When it comes to the real J. Edgar Hoover, separating fact from conjecture is challenging because he had so many enemies. Post-Cold War Soviet Union archives reveal that the KGB employed a decades-long systematic campaign of character assassination and disinformation against him. One wonders how much of that may have been inadvertently mainlined into the more sordid accounts of Hoover "history," perhaps even in this picture. Some dramatic license is permitted for films "based on a true story," but there's one important plot line of the picture that's flat-out fictional and not open to guesswork: Hoover's tumultuous relationship with King.
Moviegoers who see J. Edgar will leave the theater with the impression that Hoover drove the surveillance of the young civil rights leader - ordering agents to bug his hotel room and wiretap his telephone calls - because he considered the minister a threat to national security. According to the movie, Hoover persuades his reluctant boss, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to sign off on such procedures. But records from Freedom of Information Act disclosures and the pioneering research of civil rights historian David J. Garrow tell a far different, and more insightful, story.
In the summer of 1963, Hoover wasn't the only one preoccupied with King. So was the Kennedy White House. That was because one of King's closest advisers, Stanley David Levison, and another man who ran one of King's offices, Jack O'Dell, were secret Communist Party operatives. For at least a year, the president and his attorney general brother had been receiving classified data, transcripts of wiretapped telephone calls (which they sanctioned), and intelligence reports confirming the men's affiliation with the Soviet-controlled Party. This information also chronicled the work they were then doing for King.
President Kennedy didn't worry about an espionage leak, or that the men would necessarily insert propaganda into King's speeches - although some King advisers apparently did see to it that King's plans to criticize communism ("that it was an alien philosophy contrary to us," is how King said he intended to describe it) were scrapped. Rather, the president feared the political fall-out that would come if it were revealed that the nation's foremost civil rights leader had advisers with ties to the Soviet Union. In May, President Kennedy told his brother he didn't want the minister anywhere near him. "King is so hot that it's like Marx coming to the White House," he says on a White House tape.
During the publicity campaign for the launch of the new Clint Eastwood movie J. EDGAR, there have been critical references to the account in my biography of J. Edgar Hoover - shortly to be republished. The criticism concerns the allegations I reported that Hoover, apparently a more or less repressed homosexual, also on occasion cross-dressed. I’ll here respond to such criticism.
The person principally cited on the cross-dressing is Susan Rosenstiel, a former wife of Lewis Rosenstiel, a millionaire distiller with close links to organized crime – and a longtime Hoover associate who contributed $1,000,000 to the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation. Those who suggest his former wife’s cross-dressing claim is not credible raise the fact that she had pled guilty in 1971 to an attempted perjury charge. I was aware of that, reported it in the original edition of my book Official and Confidential - and explained the circumstances. The charge was brought in connection with a civil suit and – I was told by New York State Legislative Committee on Crime interviewees – was thought by them to be unprecedented and bizarre. Noting that the charge was brought the very week the Committee intended to produce Susan Rosenstiel as a witness to her former husband’s Mafia links, the Committee sources said they believed the charge was instigated by Lewis, in an effort to discredit his former wife and thus obstruct the Committee’s inquiry. Court records showed that Lewis Rosentiel had used similar tactics to obstruct the course of justice in the past.
During six years’ work on Official and Confidential, which included repeated interviews with Susan Rosenstiel, her account on various areas – including the sex allegation – remained consistent. She signed an affidavit asserting that the information she provided was true. I asked Mrs. Rosenstiel to agree to a television interview and to grant me exclusivity for a matter of years, and paid her a fee in that connection. I emphasize, however, that the matter of a fee came only after she had given me her lengthy initial interview, which was therefore not tainted by any payment.
New York Judge Edward McLaughlin, former Chief Counsel of the Crime Committee, and Committee investigator William Gallinaro, told me Mrs Rosentiel had been an excellent witness. “I thought her absolutely truthful,” Judge McLauglin said. That too, was in my Hoover biography, and more – but was not quoted by any of those who assailed the passage on Susan Rosentiel in the book. Almost none of them noted, moreover, that a similar account of alleged cross-dressing came to me from two other interviewees, referring to a different location and a different timeframe. On the basis of all of this, and after discussion with my publishers, we included her account – which was broader than the cross-dressing allegation – in the book.
I would note, finally, that the cross-dressing allegation is one passage in a biography of some 600 pages. The overall reporting on his sexuality is pertinent to any study of the man, not least in the context of his insistence on the ruthless pursuit of homosexuals. It is one element in the evidence of Director Hoover’s overall abuse of Americans’ rights and freedoms.