J Edgar Files


Laurel King, Contributor

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j edgar filesThe infamous J. Edgar Hoover files have been the source of a great deal of controversy, which still holds true, decades after his death. During his time as director of the Bureau of Investigation (later renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in 1935) J. Edgar Hoover conducted an untold number of illegal, covert, and primarily unnecessary surveillance investigations on countless numbers of people. At times, Hoover would randomly choose people to investigate, according to his whim or aligned with problems that were plaguing him and his bureau. Whatever his motivations, Hoover and his team generated hundreds of thousands of pages of information and secret documents on all of the people he chose to investigate, which were purportedly assembled and collected into his own private (hidden) library of knowledge. As the story goes, these files were kept a secret by those closest to Hoover, for use against those who did (or might) go against his plans. The end of the story, on the day of Hoover's death (May 2, 1972) includes a claim that all of these private files were destroyed, and their contents will forever remain a mystery.

As part of his plan to collect all of this secretive information, during prohibition times, Hoover chose to go after the notorious gangsters of the day (such as John Dillinger) while simultaneously claiming there was no Mafia. He also focused his efforts on Pan-African leader Marcus Garvey, who was attempting to establish a shipping line between Africa and the Caribbean to black Americans. Thanks to the illegal, undercover sabotage ordered by Hoover, Garvey's Black Star Line went bankrupt before it ever became solvent.

In the 1940s and 50s, Hoover focused his secret files collection efforts on purported Communist entities, including American citizens he suspected of radical notions. In 1946, acting on the authority of Attorney General Tom C. Clark, Hoover compiled a list of 'potentially disloyal Americans' who should be detained during a national emergency. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, Hoover gave the list to President Truman and asked to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, detaining the list of more than 12,000 Americans he had compiled. Fortunately, Truman did not act on it.

There were some successes in his claims, including the Venona Project, which produced evidence of Soviet spies in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. However, the proof for this project was kept under lock and key in Hoover's office, with the information never being revealed to President Truman. Hoover finally informed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the project in 1952, years after the information would have been helpful.

"The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover" is a 1977 movie directed by Larry Cohen, starring Broderick Crawford as Hoover and others such as James Wainwright, Jose Ferrer, Rip Torn, and Dan Dailey. The film follows Hoover's career as FBI director from Prohibition through organized crime, the Red Scare, the Martin Luther King, Jr. debacle, and Hoover's death in 1972. The film also takes on the controversial allegation that Hoover led an 'abnormal' sex life as a homosexual man as well as his unnatural obsession with his deceased mother.