Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement

Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement

Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement

Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement

Excerpt

In recent years, a campaign of falsehood and vilification has been directed against the FBI by some ignorant and subversive elements. In the world-wide struggle of free peoples, the truth is still one of the most potent weapons. And the record of the FBI speaks for itself.

-- J. Edgar Hoover, Introduction to The FBI Story

A persistent fiction remains fixed in the public mind that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a highly successful crime-fighting machine, composed of honest and brave individuals, utterly committed to the preservation, protection and embodiment of the lofty "American ideals" of liberty and justice for all. This myth was largely the creation of J. (John) Edgar Hoover, the Bureau's founder and director from the moment of its inception during the winter of 1918-19 until the moment of his death on the morning of May 2, 1972. More than any other individual, living or dead, it was Hoover who modeled "America's police force" after his own image, or, at any rate, after the public fantasy he elected to project for himself. And, more than any other, it is Hoover's strange legacy which continues to temper, not only the realities of the Bureau's functions, attitudes and existence, but public perceptions of these.

Much of the FBI's fabled reputation as the ultimate in crime-stopping organizations accrues from the so-called "national crime wave" of the early-to-mid 1930s. It is now known that much of the context involved in creating this impression was manufactured by Hoover. As Sanford Ungar observes in his benchmark study of the Bureau,

As early as 1932, Hoover was boasting in his congressional testimony about the value and usefulness of the [FBI's] Uniform Crime Report, launched in 1930 to meet the need for national crime statistics and compiled from figures submitted by local police departments. The purpose, the director said, was "to determine whether there is or is not a crime wave and whether crime is on the increase or decrease." From that time on, it was invariably on the increase, and the FBI took it upon itself to chart the nature and degree of the increase, any geographical variations in the rise, and other significant trends that seemed to emerge.

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