-Caveat Lector-

Not too much new about FBI corruption. Hoover was very good at it, as the
following article demonstrates.


Copyright © 2000 Nando Media
Copyright © 2000 Nando Times


(October 4, 1999 3:20 p.m. EDT http://www.nandotimes.com) - For the past 25
years or so, J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) has been regarded as something of a
buffoonish figure. More often than not, he's thought of a martinet who
snooped into the private lives of everyone in order to increase his power
and to sate some bizarre sexual needs.

For the 40 years before that, the longtime director of the FBI was a
national hero. Here was a man who created a national system of law
enforcement, one that was regarded as thoroughly effective at doing battle
with bad guys. Here was a man whose Federal Bureau of Investigation was so
well-run that no politician would think of questioning him or his methods
for fear of being labeled unpatriotic.

The truth about Hoover lies somewhere in between. A good place to start
looking for it is in Fred J. Cook's "The FBI Nobody Knows," a 1964 book that
swam against the tide in presenting Hoover as a deeply flawed individual
whose long reign over the FBI was not all that it was cracked up to be.

A muckraker in the tradition of Upton Sinclair, Cook took a detailed look at
Hoover and the history of the FBI. He started his narrative before the FBI
was known as the FBI and covered quite a lot of ground, from the
anti-Communist raids that followed World War I to the Teapot Dome scandals
to the era of high-profile gangsters (John Dillinger, Ma Barker, Baby Face
Nelson) to the Red Scare years of the late 1940s and 1950s. In each
instance, Cook seemed concerned with two issues:
1) What was Hoover's role, good or bad?
2) Did the FBI act in good faith and do the right thing?

Cook gives Hoover credit for a number of accomplishments, from the science
of fingerprinting to creating an organization generally perceived to be
incorruptible to taking Louisiana back from the control of the Ku Klux Klan
during the 1920s. But the basic thrust of his narrative was that Hoover had
gone too far.

"The FBI is needed; it is, at its best, highly efficient," Cook wrote in his
conclusion. "And Hoover, had he been content to fulfill his duties as the
nation's No. 1 policeman in the pursuit of crime, could have won for himself
an untarnished place in history. That he was not content, that he had to
dominate ever more and more of the national scene is his tragedy - and the
nation's danger."

Cook chided Hoover for not doing enough to combat organized crime,
preferring to personally nab a high-profile criminal like Alvin Karpis than
take on the Mafia. He chided him for failing to do anything about racist
groups in the South that terrorized and killed blacks. And he challenged the
myth-building account of the killing of Dillinger outside Chicago's Biograph
Theater in 1934, saying that the FBI seriously erred throughout this manhunt
by stepping on the toes of local police.

The largest chunk of Cook's book dealt with political prosecutions,
particularly official abuses of power during anti-Communist witch-hunts.
Cook treated Hoover as someone with such a deep hatred of both liberalism
and communism that he would let the FBI do virtually anything - even
tolerating or encouraging perjury - to destroy these presumed enemies of the
Constitution. Reading this book, one is reminded of the image of U.S. troops
in the late 1960s destroying Vietnamese villages in order to "save" them.

This book was published at the zenith of Hoover's power, at a time when
those who were critical of Hoover tended to find themselves getting grief
from the powers that be. It took courage, as well as confidence in his
prodigious research, for Cook to write this. By doing so, Cook not only made
a dent in Hoover's myth but also earned himself a place among the great
investigative reporters of the century. The book is long out of print and
Cook is not particularly well-remembered today - if anyone, for instance,
knows whether he is still alive, I'd love to know that - but "The FBI Nobody
Knows" is an important work.

THE FBI NOBODY KNOWS, a 1964 book. By Fred J. Cook. Published first by
MacMillan in 1964, then by Pyramid in 1965. Out of print, though its
paperback edition can be found in used bookstores.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: After this article was first published, I received a letter
from Cook's son informing me that his father, age 88, was indeed alive and
reasonably well, living in New Jersey. He is the author of several dozen

Things to Remember the Century By, a series that looked at underappreciated
films, books and music of the 20th century, was written by members of the
Nando staff and initially published from February to July. David Cohen is
managing editor of The Nando Times and can be reached at

> http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2001/7/19/181249.shtml
> FBI Story: Inside Look at Agency in Need of Reform
> Charles R. Smith
> Thursday, July 19, 2001
> FOIA documents at: http://www.softwar.net/fbiapec.html
> This week the FBI proudly announced that an audit of its
> firearms revealed
> that more than 100 weapons were missing or stolen.

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