President Richard M. Nixon, left, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1971. (Associated Press)

It was with confusion and incongruity that I read “The FBI defends Americans’ rights,” the Jan. 5 letter from retired FBI agent David A. Espie extolling the virtues of the bureau and longtime director J. Edgar Hoover in preserving and protecting lives and the public’s safety, and “Trump’s reluctant apologists,” Richard Cohen’s op-ed.

Mr. Cohen, in drawing an analogy to the contemporary tactics of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, decried former senator Joseph McCarthy’s bullying, destructive and loutish behavior, noting that much of McCarthy’s inflated post-World War II information about communists and communist activity in the United States came from Hoover, as Mr. Cohen wrote, “whose files were fodder for right-wing journalists.”

With all due respect for Mr. Espie’s service and Hoover’s early improvements in FBI demeanor and professionalism, reviews of Hoover’s FBI suggest the director was not beyond intimidating — some might call it blackmailing — public figures and others with salacious material his agents generated and pursuing his own conservative social and political agenda.

William R. Maloni, Chevy Chase