Legacy of J. Edgar Hoover

1416 words 6 pages
Imagine, a time when law enforcement agents could only watch a criminal walk away. A time when they were unable to return fire in a gunfight. A time when no means for tracking criminals existed. A time when a state line stood as impassible as a great wall for law enforcement. There was a time, when men created legends with their criminal exploits, by name of John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Baby Face Nelson. They stood unopposed, taking what they wished on a whim. In 1924, a young man, years short of 30, was put in charge of an agency with no bite. By the end of his life, J. Edgar Hoover was the most powerful man in America, at the head of one of the most powerful organizations in America. He held more power than the very presidents of …show more content…

Franklin D. Roosevelt's attorney general pushed Hoover over the top, launching a campaign of epic proportions "to make law enforcement a national movement wholly dependent on public support for its success in dealing with the gangsters of the Depression era" (John Edgar Hoover). It was this great reliance on the public's support that began to corrupt the agency's objectives. Order to live up to the expectations that he had fostered, Hoover essentially abandoned law enforcement, instead seeking out any public enemies of the state he could find, enemies whose well known public profile would lead to increased exposure and support for the FBI after their defeat. These public enemies would include Nazi spies, Communists, Black Panthers, the New Left, the Students for a Democratic Society and more (John Edgar Hoover). Hoover even used "the FBI's huge surveillance network to collect information on Martin Luther King, Jr... while failing to investigate the Mafia" (O'Brien, Patrick K.). Targets were chosen not because of their threat to America, but because of their notoriety or usefulness to Hoover himself. Sometimes those values matched up well, allowing the FBI to tackle legitimate threats. Other times however, these interests diverged. The FBI's assault upon the Communists following World War II, siding with men like Richard M. Nixon and Senator Joseph McCarthy led to increased popularity. However, it also set a