Magazine article Insight on the News

Why FBI Faltered without Hoover

Magazine article Insight on the News

Why FBI Faltered without Hoover

Article excerpt

When J. Edgar Hoover took over what 11 years later, in 1935, became the Federal Bureau of Investigation, it was a corrupt outfit given to blackmail, staffed by suspicious characters and led by incompetent political hacks. From this beginning Hoover made it what it continued to be under his leadership: the world's finest investigative and law-enforcement agency.

Hoover got rid of the deadwood, hired young lawyers and accountants, then trained and disciplined them to meet the high professional and moral standards he demanded. Local police forces, at first suspicious of the "Feds," increasingly turned to the FBI and its modern methods and superlative crime labs. It was admired and trusted.

At the height of Soviet penetration of every Cabinet department and sensitive agency of the U.S. government, it was discovered that only two groups had maintained their security and resisted infiltration -- the FBI and the Office of Naval Intelligence.

There is no need to recite the. achievements of the FBI. It became a symbol of excellence despite the running attacks of liberals and the left who complained through media allies that J. Edgar was throughout his tenure unkind to subversives and other criminal elements. They resented, too, that Hoover was shrewd enough to match excellent administration with superlative public relations. The FBI was untouched by scandal and had the confidence of the Congress and the public, which also rankled the liberal establishment.

It was only toward the end of Hoover's life and the retirement of Louis Nichols, his de facto second in command, that he allowed the glad-handing Cartha (Deke) DeLoach to affect the day-to-day running of the bureau. But this was relatively minor stuff and manifested itself mostly in petty acts so long as J. Edgar was at the helm.

When Hoover died in 1972, something of the FBI died with him. The establishment was gleeful, but as we have seen the FBI and the country suffered. Discipline that had been rigorous and brooked no violation of strict rules, regulations and guidelines for professional conduct became lax. Security went by the board as bureau operations became sloppy and its high standards wilted into political correctness and bureaucracy.

Without Hoover, senior officials began to set up little fiefdoms that considered their own perks and prerogatives of greater importance than those of the bureau or the public. Mediocre or politicized directors tried to keep a low profile and not make waves within the FBI. The aim was to be popular with the agents and with the staff as the FBI lost its sense of mission. …

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