As a retired FBI agent, I read with particular interest Jack Kelly’s article “’The Most Dangerous Institution’” (August/ September 2002), an eye-catching title, but as the story unfolds, we see another attempt to defame J. Edgar Hoover and to some degree the FBI. Yes, there were some balanced attempts to portray the Agency’s work, but too much of the emphasis was negative.
I served under J. Edgar Hoover for 10 years before he died in 1972, and I did not see in the man the shortcomings that have been publicized since his death. He was a disciplinarian, no doubt, and he expected the highest loyalty and performance from his agents. He was also human and could make mistakes, but never at the expense of this country. In the 1920s he took over an organization that was corrupt and incompetent. He built it into one of the finest law-enforcement agencies in the world.
The crime wave of the 1930s was real, and Hoover stopped it. America suffered no significant acts of espionage or sabotage during World War II, thanks to the FBI. Yes, we were late in coming to grips with organized crime, but when we did, you can see what happened to the Mafia. Who destroyed the Ku Klux Klan? The FBI. I note that even the FBI’s critics do not hesitate to call upon it when they need to—as they should.
I believe that the FBI understands and respects the expectations of the American people, and I think that it has learned the lessons of its past—both the bad parts and the good. A strong, disciplined FBI is what the American people want and deserve, and I do not believe the FBI will let them down.