1971 October 29

First-Ever Conference on the FBI


The first-ever conference on the FBI, where critical interpretations of the Bureau were presented and debated, was held at Princeton University on this day. The conference was sponsored by the Committee for Public Justice, which was chaired by the noted playwright Lillian Hellman. (See her famous rebuke to HUAC on May 21, 1952.) J. Edgar Hoover denounced the conference, and, in a letter to Princeton University, said he would refuse the invitation to send an FBI official to speak. Articles drawn from the conference were published in the book, Investigating the FBI, cited below.

The conference called for a Congressional National Commission of Inquiry on the FBI, which eventually occurred with the Senate Church Committee in 1975–1976 (created January 27, 1975). The conference and the book predated the Church Committee investigation by several years and, therefore, the understanding of the abuses of the Bureau at that time was very incomplete by later standards. Nonetheless, the conference has a historic breakthrough in terms of a critical view of the FBI.

Read the book inspired by the conference: Pat Watters and Stephen Gillers, eds., Investigating the FBI (1973)

Examine FBI spying files: http://www.fbi.gov/foia/

Read the Church Committee report on abuses by the FBI (pp. 1–558): http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_book3.htm

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

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