Hoover Planned Mass Jailing in 1950

R.A.Hettinga rah at shipwright.com
Sat Dec 22 18:01:21 PST 2007


December 23, 2007

Hoover Planned Mass Jailing in 1950
A newly declassified document shows that J. Edgar Hoover, the  
longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a plan  
to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans he  
suspected of disloyalty.
Hoover sent his plan to the White House on July 7, 1950, 12 days  
after the Korean War began. It envisioned putting suspect Americans  
in military prisons.
Hoover wanted President Harry S. Truman to proclaim the mass arrests  
necessary to protect the country against treason, espionage and  
sabotage. The F.B.I would apprehend all individuals potentially  
dangerous to national security, Hoovers proposal said. The arrests  
would be carried out under a master warrant attached to a list of  
names provided by the bureau.
The names were part of an index that Hoover had been compiling for  
years. The index now contains approximately twelve thousand  
individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven per cent are  
citizens of the United States, he wrote.
In order to make effective these apprehensions, the proclamation  
suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus, it said.
Habeas corpus, the right to seek relief from illegal detention, has  
been a fundamental principle of law for seven centuries. The Bush  
administrations decision to hold suspects for years at Guantanamo  
Bay, Cuba, has made habeas corpus a contentious issue for Congress  
and the Supreme Court today.
The Constitution says habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless  
when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require  
it. The plan proposed by Hoover, the head of the F.B.I. from 1924 to  
1972, stretched that clause to include threatened invasion or  
attack upon United States troops in legally occupied territory.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush issued  
an order that effectively allowed the United States to hold suspects  
indefinitely without a hearing, a lawyer, or formal charges. In  
September 2006, Congress passed a law suspending habeas corpus for  
anyone deemed an unlawful enemy combatant.
But the Supreme Court has reaffirmed the right of American citizens  
to seek a writ of habeas corpus. This month the court heard arguments  
on whether about 300 foreigners held at Guantanamo Bay had the same  
rights. It is expected to rule by next summer.
Hoovers plan was declassified Friday as part of a collection of cold- 
war documents concerning intelligence issues from 1950 to 1955. The  
collection makes up a new volume of The Foreign Relations of the  
United States, a series that by law has been published continuously  
by the State Department since the Civil War.
Hoovers plan called for the permanent detention of the roughly  
12,000 suspects at military bases as well as in federal prisons. The  
F.B.I., he said, had found that the arrests it proposed in New York  
and California would cause the prisons there to overflow.
So the bureau had arranged for detention in military facilities of  
the individuals apprehended in those states, he wrote.
The prisoners eventually would have had a right to a hearing under  
the Hoover plan. The hearing board would have been a panel made up of  
one judge and two citizens. But the hearings will not be bound by  
the rules of evidence, his letter noted.
The only modern precedent for Hoovers plan was the Palmer Raids of  
1920, named after the attorney general at the time. The raids,  
executed in large part by Hoovers intelligence division, swept up  
thousands of people suspected of being communists and radicals.
Previously declassified documents show that the F.B.I.s security  
index of suspect Americans predated the cold war. In March 1946,  
Hoover sought the authority to detain Americans who might be  
dangerous if the United States went to war. In August 1948, Attorney  
General Tom Clark gave the F.B.I. the power to make a master list of  
such people.
Hoovers July 1950 letter was addressed to Sidney W. Souers, who had  
served as the first director of central intelligence and was then a  
special national-security assistant to Truman. The plan also was sent  
to the executive secretary of the National Security Council, whose  
members were the president, the secretary of defense, the secretary  
of state and the military chiefs.
In September 1950, Congress passed and the president signed a law  
authorizing the detention of dangerous radicals if the president  
declared a national emergency. Truman did declare such an emergency  
in December 1950, after China entered the Korean War. But no known  
evidence suggests he or any other president approved any part of  
Hoovers proposal.

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