February 27, 2008

J. Edgar Hoover, Enemy of the People

By David A. Love
Published by The Black Commentator
February 28, 2008

The New York Times reported that according to a newly declassified document, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, in 1950, planned to suspend habeas corpus and permanently imprison 12,000 “disloyal” American citizens in military prisons. Under Hoover’s proposal, the mass arrests of “all individuals potentially dangerous to national security” would be carried out under “a master warrant attached to a list of names” provided by the FBI. Hoover saw the arrests necessary to “protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage.”

Hoover was guilty of projection when he called Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “the most dangerous man in America, and a moral degenerate.” With his one-man war on progressive social movements, the civil rights movement and African American leadership, antiwar activists, and radical groups, he had been the greatest threat to democracy until the current occupants of the White House came to power. Under his COINTELPRO program, devised to “prevent the rise of a black messiah,” Dr. King, Malcolm X and other leaders were assassinated or otherwise neutralized, members of leftwing political groups framed and imprisoned, and their causes denigrated and defamed. Even today, the appalling COINTELPRO legacy lives on, as eight former Black Panthers were arrested for the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer, trumped up charges based on evidence obtained through torture. Perhaps we will never know how much better America would have been without J. Edgar Hoover.

Clearly, Hoover and his ilk represent the worst in America - an aversion to the rule of law, secret government, spying on citizens, condoning torture, squelching democratic movements and other fascistic tendencies. So, why do we allow a federal building to take the name of such a loathsome individual?

Of course, I speak of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, the headquarters of the FBI in Washington, DC. Perhaps it can be argued that it really doesn’t matter, Hoover left us a long time ago and can no longer harm us, and having a building named after him is mere symbolism in any case.

But it does matter, primarily because the U.S. has not learned lessons from its past. Although Hoover died in 1972, he lives on in an antidemocratic mindset that pushes the nation towards fascistic behavior. “Enhanced interrogation techniques,” or torture, is viewed as an acceptable weapon in America’s war on terror. Terror suspects are kidnapped and imprisoned indefinitely, without charges, without evidence and without trial. Citizens are secretly monitored. That we have allowed the Bush administration to engage in these activities is proof that we have not come to terms with the shameful Hoover legacy. Once we erase Hoover’s name from the building, and revoke all posthumous honors bestowed upon him, then we can begin to repair the damage done by this petty American dictator and his ideological heirs.

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