The New York Times reports on a newly-declassified letter from J. Edgar Hoover to President Truman’s “Special Consultant” in July 1950, setting out the FBI’s plan, in the event of emergency, for detaining 12,000 Americans and aliens who were suspected of disloyalty. The letter is here.
As of 1950, the FBI had been working for a number of years on a list of citizens of dubious loyalty; one does get the impression that Hoover would have been glad of an opportunity to round them all up. The plan, as described by Hoover, could go into effect through Presidential and Congressional action in the event of “(1) attack upon the United States; (2) threatened invasion; (3) attack upon United States troops in legally occupied territory; and (4) rebellion.” It provided for suspension of habeas corpus, which, as Hoover must have known, would be constitutional in cases (1) (assuming the “attack” was an “invasion”) and (4), but not (2) and (3).
Hoover was too quick to judge people disloyal–it would be interesting to get a look at the list of 12,000–but some may feel nostalgic for a time when disloyalty was at least acknowledged to be a bad thing.
PAUL adds: Hoover did not favor the mass internment of Japanese-Americans that occurred after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.
JOHN responds: True. But if we had gone to war with the Soviet Union, I’ll bet he would have been champing at the bit to round up Communists and Communist sympathizers. Of course, there is a huge difference in principle between rounding up those who are believed to be disloyal and rounding up, or restricting the movements of, an entire ethnic group. And domestic Communists would have posed a far greater security risk than Japanese aliens and Japanese-Americans.
PAUL concurs: Without a doubt. The World War II example shows that, at least in some cases, Hoover was less quick than certain liberals to judge people potentially disloyal.
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