The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seems to be the beneficiary of many coats of Teflon with even the criminal exposes of the 1970s and 1980s not leaving any enduring damage on its reputation. This is unfortunate since the agency was founded on absurd paranoid red menace fears which shift and shape to the present day to justify its ghastly growth.
Curt Gentry provides some early glimpses of the agency which became the FBI in his heavily researched book, J. Edgar Hoover – The Man and the Secrets. As a biography of Hoover (1895 – 1972), it also serves as a biography of the agency he headed for 48 years. Its excesses should serve as a warning to severely clip and limit its size and powers.
The Bureau of Investigation (BI) was established in 1919 as an agency of the Department of Justice as an outgrowth of World War I requirements although its seeds were planted earlier. During the war, the Justice Department partnered with the American Protective League to engage in mass dragnet raids attempting to round up spies and draft deserters. Although Hoover was a young attorney for the department, he learned these early tactics to apply them to his own operations in later years.
On June 2, 1919 a bomb exploded outside the home of Alexander Mitchell Palmer (1872 – 1936), the newly appointed Attorney General for Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924). The bomb did not harm the family or his famous neighbors on DuPont Circle, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. However, it caused quite a stir, especially for Mitchell who was determined to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
Mitchell had assembled a team of aggressive and close minded bigots to assist him in his war against crime and terror. Francis Garvan (1875 – 1937) was assistant attorney general in charge of prosecuting radicals whom he labeled along with other foreigners as “alien filth.” William Flynn was the assistant attorney general for the BI.
Following the dictum of Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff, to never waste a good crisis, Mitchell and his crew used the bombing episode to forestall the post war cuts which were affecting all government bureaucracies. On June 13, 1919 they attempted to persuade the House of Representatives for an emergency 500,000 dollars in additional funding. When this effort stalled, they approached the Senate, lobbying Senator Smoot of Utah and of Smoot-Hawley fame for the additional funds. Although he and his colleagues were not particularly receptive at first, Flynn declared on July 2, 1919, without a scintilla of evidence, that the bomb was the work of “Bolshevist and Hun money.”
The trio further claimed that they had reliable information that another imminent attack was planned for July 4, an attack which the BI could avert with sufficient funding. Flush with money gained under these false pretenses, the BI began planning for a massive round-up of radicals and communists in a 12 city sweep with the goal of deporting as many as possible.
Despite the money and effort spent on locating the perpetrators of the bombs, the bombing remained unsolved. Hoover was named head of the General Intelligence Division (GID) on August 1, 1919 and began working with Flynn and Garvan in targeting the Federation of the Union of Russian Workers, the American Communist Party, and the American Labor Communist Party. The Justice Department hysterically broadcast – particular to the Congress – that the nation was under imminent threat of a labor revolt headed by sickle wielding communists who had blanketed the nation like cock-roaches, which in turn required immediate and forceful action.
The facts of the matter were quite different regarding the size of the communist parties. The best estimates reveal that the party had 25,000 – 40,000 members, many of whom had been enrolled without their knowledge by various labor groups to which they belonged. When you distribute these numbers across the 12 cities which the BI targeted for its raids, you find that each of the large cities had an average of 2,000 – 3,000 members maximum.
The raids were scheduled purposefully for November 7, 1919, the two year anniversary of the Russian Revolution. They were excessively brutal and yielded no palpable results. Since the Department of Justice could not deport anyone, it had enlisted the Department of Labor under which the Department of Immigration operated to provide legal cover for its otherwise illegal operations.
The Department of Justice also worked feverishly to rescind Rule 22 which required that those aliens investigated for deportation be allowed legal representation. The Department of Immigration refused to rescind the rule, but Hoover declared that it did, proceeding to deport people without due process. Hoover would wield this terror on a large scale through his years as director of the FBI.
The main reason for rescinding the rule was that many victims retained legal counsel who advised their clients not to communicate with the BI on the grounds that it had absolutely no evidence against them.
The playbook is exactly the same today as with the fake War on Terror. George W. Bush claimed, without evidence or subsequently finding any, that Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass. The same lies are being spread about Iran to justify another war of aggression by the militaristic Obama administration.
The paranoia of these early World War I era BI men is the hallmark of a provincial troglodyte mind which the American people accept in its leaders. It is an embarrassment that a nation of so many people could not produce more enlightened minds. It is also proof that cream does not rise to the top. These men may have had higher than average IQs but they were clouded by the most venal and vicious bigotry and ignorance. Lust for power knows no limits or respect for Constitutional government.
J Edgar Hoover - the Man and the Secrets, Curt Gentry
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