1924 May 13

Attorney General Stone Orders J. Edgar Hoover to Clean up Bureau of Investigation


Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone, who had just appointed J. Edgar Hoover Director of the Bureau of Investigation on May 10, 1924, directed him to clean up the corruption and political spying in the Bureau. Under President Warren G. Harding, who had recently died, the Bureau was tainted by a number of scandals. The ACLU in 1924, for example, issued a report, Nationwide Spy System Centering in the Department of Justice, condemning political spying by the Justice Department (see the raid on a Communist Party meeting on August 22, 1922).

Hoover complied with Stone’s orders for about 12 years, and instituted a number of reforms in the Bureau, such as raising personnel standards. But he restarted political spying when asked to by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 24, 1936. From that point on, he conducted a secret program of spying and misconduct that is arguably the longest-running violation of civil liberties in American history.

Two of the Bureau’s most notorious activities under Hoover were the COINTELPRO program (approved on March 8, 1956), and its effort to “neutralize” Dr. Martin Luther King, which was launched on December 23, 1963.

The full extent of Hoover’s violations of the rights of Americans was not known until the Senate Church Committee investigation in 1975–1976 (created on January 27, 1975). The COINTELPRO program was exposed when a group of anti-Vietnam War activists burglarized the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, on March 8, 1971, and stole over 1,000 documents, which they released to the press.

Read about Hoover’s early career: Kenneth Ackerman, Young J. Edgar: Hoover, the Red Scare, and the Assault on Civil Liberties (2007)

Watch a documentary on Hoover: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWadpqT3Q5k

Learn more: Curt Gentry, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets (1991)

Read the Church Committee report on abuses by the FBI: http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/church/reports/book3/contents.htm

Learn more about Harlan Fiske Stone: http://uscivilliberties.org/biography/4542-stone-harlan-fiske-18721946.html

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