The Words That So Offended Hoover

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Words That So Offended Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover (left) with FBI associate and
suspected paramour Clyde Tolson

Before he became director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), J. Edgar Hoover made a name for himself by relentlessly pursuing a host of communists, anarchists and other U.S. residents whose activities or associations left them open to the label of "radical." I came upon an amusingly ironic passage about Hoover in a book I'm reading ("Reds," written a few years ago by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ted Morgan.)

During World War I, Morgan writes:

... (the 22-year-old) Hoover was assigned to the Alien Enemy Bureau, where he handled the case files of German aliens, writing reports on which ones [the government should] intern.

... he sent men and women twice his age behind barbed wire with the stroke of a pen.

When an eighteen-year-old German was arrested in El Paso as he tried to enter the country, he said under questioning that he would help the Kaiser if he could. Hoover recommended detention for the duration (of the war).

When another German, Otto Mueller, called President Wilson "a cock-sucker and a thief," Hoover again recommended internment, but [the] head of the Alien Enemy Bureau ... ruled that "his offense is no more than a failure to keep his mouth shut, and I feel that internment for the (duration of the) war for mere talk is rather severe. Three or four months in jail will be equally effective."

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