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Federal Bureau of Investigation: History

Civil Rights And Vietnam

The F.B.I. had a prominent role in combating race-related violence in the 1960s. Particularly significant was the F.B.I. investigation into the disappearance of three civil rights workers in Mississippi. Bureau agents identified and interviewed Ku Klux Klan members in Mississippi and offered payment for information concerning the missing persons. The case finally broke in August 1964, and six people were convicted of violating the victims' civil rights. From this point on, F.B.I. agents throughout the South became increasingly involved in combating racist violence, but often did using techniques previously reserved for dealing with organized crime and Communists.

The F.B.I. became involved in matters relating to the Vietnam War protests. In June 1970, President Nixon created a working group of representatives from the F.B.I., the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency to consider the need for more extensive domestic intelligence activities in light of the disorders taking place across the United States. Although the Bureau was reluctant to get involved in this initiative, Hoover did agree to install seventeen telephone taps on newsmen and White House employees suspected of receiving and leaking secret information. When the details of the F.B.I.'s wiretaps were revealed, the damage to the bureau was far-reaching.

On 9 March 1971 a small F.B.I. office in Media, Pennsylvania, was burglarized by a group that called itself the Citizen Commission to Investigate the F.B.I. Hundreds of documents that cast light into the secret operations of the F.B.I. were taken. The documents told the story of widespread surveillance and wiretapping of various groups including the Black Panthers, the Jewish Defense League, and the Ku Klux Klan. Some of the documents made reference to COINTELPROs (Counter-Intelligence Programs), the code name given by the F.B.I. to operations aimed at disrupting or even destroying political and social protest groups identified as subversive; these programs were in operation from 1956 to 1971. The public learned that the F.B.I. was guilty of extensive invasion of privacy. The F.B.I. was under siege. Senator Edward Kennedy called for Hoover's resignation. Even President Nixon was growing cold to Hoover, as Hoover was viewed as unresponsive to many of Nixon's investigative requests (Powers, 1987). The legacy of J. Edgar Hoover came to an end with his death on 2 May 1972.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawFederal Bureau of Investigation: History - Before The Beginning Of The F.b.i., The Beginning Of The F.b.i.