1972 May 2

J. Edgar Hoover, Long-Time FBI Director, Dies


J. Edgar Hoover was Director of the FBI (originally the Bureau of Investigation) from 1924 to 1972. In that position, he was arguably the most anti-civil libertarian public official in American history, conducting a massive illegal spying program against Americans, along with other abuses of power. He focused his attacks on leftists, liberals, and civil rights activists, who he equated with being left-wingers and Communist sympathizers.

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

Read the Senate Church Committee report on COINTELPRO and other FBI abuseshttp://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_book3.htm

Read about the burglary and the exposure of COINTELPRO: Betty Medsger, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI (2014)

Sample Hoover’s spying at the FBI Freedom of Information Act site:

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