Wednesday, December 26, 2007

J. Edgar Hoover and The Aborted Mass Arrests

Over the holidays there was a little noticed story published about recently declassified papers showing that in July 1950, only a few days after the beginning of the Korean War, J. Edgar Hoover wanted President Truman to round up and detain 12,000 American citizens.

Admittedly, I don’t know much about that period of American history. What J. Edgar Hoover’s relative power vis-a-vie Truman’s at the time. FYI, while Hoover submitted this plan to the White House in July, it was only on February 9 of that year that Joseph McCarthy made his famous Lincoln Day speech in Wheeling, West Virginia that began his Communist witch-hunts.

I’m curious what is the story behind that order and why, exactly, wasn’t it put into play. There must be a story there.

The names were part of an index that Hoover had been compiling for years. “The index now contains approximately twelve thousand individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven per cent are citizens of the United States,” he wrote.
Years...Hoover had been collecting those names for years. I’m curious who some of the names were. Koreans Americans? Your typical line-up of '40s lefties? Were there any “famous” names? (It’s an interesting question because if the quality of the targets was perhaps too famous it could be a reason that arrests never happened.)

I’m wondering if Truman balked because, unlike the Japanese internments, the majority were citizens. (A significant percentage of the Japanese-Americans who were interned happened to be citizens, but I’m certain the backlash was lessened because of outright racism. White Americans probably simply didn’t think that Japanese-Americans were or could be “citizens.”)

Perhaps though, the memory of the internment though kept Hoover’s plans at bay? Or maybe there was no way Truman was going to follow Hoover’s plan.

I’m curious because I feel like there’s a story here that begs to be told.


Anonymous said...

I would be curious as well. This seems like a good story. I am not a fan of the way the NYT reports it, though. To equate Hoover's plan, there not having been any internal attack on the US, with Bush's detention of about 350 suspected terrorists following 911 is like comparing apples and roast beef. Typical smear from the "Paper of Record."

I always liked what LBJ said about Hoover: Better to have him in the tent pissing out of it than to have him out of the tent pissing into it.

Recommended reading: Athan Theoharis's "From the Secret Files of J. Edgar Hoover."

Jim in Cleveland

Anonymous said...

you know...Slate wrote about this story...
Posted Thursday, Dec. 27, 2007, at 4:08 PM ET

Yup, 32 hours after you posted the story.

Dang, I have got to make this site where I get up-to-the-minute news. Twice now you've been ahead of my usual sources. Congrats!