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As director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover had rabid anti-Communist and anti-subversive views and used unconventional tactics to monitor related activity.
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Watch a short video about J. Edgar Hoover and how this secretive man created an organization that would uncover the secrets of millions.
J. Edgar Hoover faced many challenges from President Harry S. Truman, the greets of which was Truman's creation of the CIA to diminish the FBI.
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Under the COINTELPRO label, Hoover attempted to disband any organizations that were considered subversive, including the Black Panthers, the Socialist Workers Party and the Ku Klux Klan.
Hoover was renowned for his vendettas, particularly against Martin Luther King, Jr. Naming him "the most dangerous Negro in the future of this nation," Hoover used COINTELPRO to initiate around the clock surveillance on King, hoping to find evidence of communism or sexual deviance. Using an illegal wiretap, Hoover was convinced he had proof of King's infidelitous behavior, and attempted to push reporters into publicizing the recording. The media refused. Instead, Hoover sent the tape directly to King's office, suggesting he commit suicide or face exposure.
COINTELPRO and its tactics remained a secret until it was revealed to the public in 1971. Its exposure resulted in some of the harshest criticism of Hoover and the FBI. Reports revealed that COINTELPRO's methods included infiltration, burglaries, illegal wiretaps, planted evidence, and false rumors. At its worst, some experts say the group also arranged the murders of certain suspects.
Though it is said that Presidents Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson each considered firing Hoover during their terms as President, it is also believed that Hoover had so much sensitive information about each leader that they were unable to remove him from office. Hoover also maintained strong support in Congress, possibly due to the intelligence he had gathered about individual politicians, and he remained director under every president from Coolidge to Nixon until his death, on May 2, 1972, in Washington, D.C. The FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. were named after Hoover, but because of the controversial nature of his legacy, there have been several proposals to rename it.
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