World War II brought concentrated efforts, once again, on espionage and secret agents in the United States, and the Cold War put communist infiltrators front and center on the FBI targets list. The agency was supposed to just gather information and allow the criminal justice system to take over from there, but accusations of overstepping jurisdiction and selective enforcement constantly plagued the agency. Through wire-tapping the Rev. Martin Luther King, Hoover tried to discredit the NAACP as a potential threat to the United States. The intelligence gathered on Dr. King is still under lock and key, sealed in the FBI files, although the agency has promised to release the information on several occasions. Although under pressure to fire the zealous, (and some would say, out of control) law enforcer, Presidents Johnson and Nixon both made exceptions to the retirement age precedents for federal employees, and kept Hoover on well into his seventies, until he died in office in 1972. The political left hated him, the politicians feared to cross him, and the American people generally loved J. Edgar Hoover’s diligence in protecting the nation and pursuing those who would damage or destroy it. Some wish that he was still in office today, given the apparent perfidy of recent leadership.
J. Edgar Hoover (standing second from the left) and other officials meet in the Oval Office with President Lyndon B. Johnson to discuss a response to the Detroit Riots, July 24, 1967
A few of his sayings reveal Hoover’s philosophy:
“A child who has been taught the laws of God, should have little trouble respecting the laws of men.”
“What we need in America today is a vigorous return to the God of our Fathers, and a most vigorous defense against the minion of godlessness and atheism.”
“No amount of law enforcement can solve a problem that goes back to the family. The Communist threat from without must not blind us to the Communist threat from within. The latter is reaching into the very heart of America through its espionage agents and a cunning, defiant, and lawless communist party, which is fanatically dedicated to the Marxist cause of world enslavement and destruction of the foundations of our republic.”