FBI Sought Authority To Detain Thousands
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had a plan to suspend the rules against illegal detention shortly after the Korean War began and arrest as many as 12,000 Americans he suspected of being disloyal, according to a newly declassified document.
Hoover sent his plan to detain suspect Americans in military and federal prisons to the White House on July 7, 1950, but there is no evidence to suggest that President Harry S. Truman or any subsequent president approved any part of the proposal.
Hoover had wanted Truman to declare the mass arrests necessary to "protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage," the New York Times reported yesterday in a story posted on its Web site.
The plan called for the FBI to apprehend all potentially dangerous individuals whose names were on a list that Hoover had been compiling for years.
"The index now contains approximately twelve thousand individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven percent are citizens of the United States," Hoover wrote in the now-declassified document. "In order to make effective these apprehensions, the proclamation suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus."
Habeas corpus, the right to seek relief from illegal detention, is a bedrock legal principle.
All apprehended individuals eventually would have had the right to a hearing under Hoover's plan, but hearing boards composed of one judge and two citizens "will not be bound by the rules of evidence," he wrote.
The details of Hoover's plan was among a collection of Cold War-era documents related to intelligence issues from 1950 to 1955. The State Department declassified the documents Friday.