Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Bush Outdoes J. Edgar Hoover

This is an article from last December that a commenter pointed me to. It details a plan presented by J. Edgar Hoover to Harry Truman (and not acted upon) for rounding up 12,000 citizens and putting them into military detention.

In the summer of 1950, 12 days after the outbreak of the Korean war, FBI director J Edgar Hoover presented a plan to arrest 12,000 people and detain them permanently in military facilities and prisons. The names would come from a list compiled over years by Hoover, who was director of the bureau from 1924 to 1972.

The arrests, Hoover wrote in a plan presented to President Harry Truman, would be made under “a master warrant attached to a list of names”.


The use of general warrants allowing the executive branch to go after a whole range of people rather than getting a specific warrant after showing probable cause? This is sounding eerily familiar. Wait, there’s more:

“In order to make effective these apprehensions, the proclamation suspends the writ of habeas corpus.”

While the US constitution says habeas corpus shall only be suspended “when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it”, Hoover proposed to broaden the clause to include “threatened invasion” or “attack upon United States troops in legally occupied territory”.

Suspension of habeas corpus and the ahistorical reinterpretation of the constitution to allow for vastly expanded executive authority? I think I’ve heard this somewhere before…

Those detained would eventually be given the right to a hearing by a panel made up of a judge and two members of the public. But the hearings “will not be bound by the rules of evidence”, he wrote.

Setting up sham tribunals with no protections for due process to ensure that the evidence presented is legitimate? Ah, but here is the one difference that actually makes George Bush worse than J. Edgar Hoover: Hoover proposed such tribunals right up front, while Bush had to be forced by the Supreme Court even to offer that puny level of protection. Prior to that, Bush was claiming the authority to hold even American citizens in solitary confinement, without any right to a trial or to have the evidence presented against them or any contact with an attorney…forever. Feel better now? I don’t.