J. EDGAR HOOVER, “SPEECH BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON UN-AMERICAN ACTIVITIES” (26 MARCH 1947)
- Partisanship is commonly assumed to exist between parties. However, the boundaries of “partisanship” blurred in the 1940s when Republican and Democrat anti-communists alike worked together in opposition of civil liberties proponents. Anti-communism weakened the Democratic Party as many proponents were marginalized in the party or left the party to join Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party; himself a former leading Democrat. Can you think of other ways in which such divisions were evident within either the Democratic or Republican Parties, which produced more significant ruptures?
- How do the ideological markers of “liberal” and “conservative” fail to “fit” anti-communist ideology? In other words, by some markers, President Truman was considered politically left (e.g., his Twenty-One-Point Plan). However, by other markers he was far to the right of FDR (e.g., anti-communism). Was the president liberal, conservative, or somehow both simultaneously? FDR also exhibited an ideologically split persona. His economic policy was often perceived as more liberal. However, his position on illegal wiretapping was definitely has not been viewed in such light. Do the terms “liberal” and “conservative” help us understand these leaders? Do these markers mislead us away from understanding their political activities? Do these markers help us make sense of our political realities today? Or, do they oversimplify more nuanced political activity and beliefs?
- List the four major themes in the Speech Before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Discuss how they “work” together to push forward J. Edgar Hoover’s message before HUAC.
- The president of the United States is assumed to be the most powerful political leader in America. S/he appoints the attorney general, who in turn, appoints the FBI director. However, Presidents Kennedy and Nixon both tried but failed to fire J. Edgar Hoover, who amassed extra-constitutional power through collecting damaging information about these men, their friends, and their families. What larger implications does Hoover’s amassed power have for American Constitutional authority and hierarchy?
- J. Edgar Hoover directed the General Intelligence Division (GID) of the FBI during the red scare that followed World War I, and directed the FBI during the red scare that followed World War II. During both scares, the FBI warned of an upcoming communist revolution, coordinated by the Kremlin. In both scares, however, the threat never materialized. And, through both scares, the FBI maintained an expanded “wartime” budget after the national security exigency of world war had passed. What might history teach us about the nature of intelligence agencies, threat, and power?
- The FBI is a part of the executive branch, while HUAC and Senator Joseph McCarthy were parts of the legislative branch. Considering the working relationships these anti-communists forged in their pursuit of alleged communists, discuss how Constitutional checks and balances seemingly failed.
- Visit George Washington University’s on-line National Security Archive through the web address below. Examine the archive’s primary resources to develop a detailed overview of the early Cold War years: www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/documents/.
- Trace the history of wiretapping from the 1934 Federal Communications Act to the present. The legality and use of governmental wiretapping has undergone many stages. Explain these stages by Supreme Court rulings, presidential directives, congressional investigations and legislation.
- Read Winston Churchill’s “Sinews of Peace” and George Kennan’s “Long Telegram.” Both texts were presented shortly after the end of World War II. How did their warnings frame U.S./U.S.S.R. relations?=
- Richard Powers writes in G-Men: Hoover’s FBI in American Popular Culture that J. Edgar Hoover first publicized the FBI through hunting gangsters like John Dillinger in the 1930s, but when momentum for this “crusade slowed, Hoover tried to revive it by substituting new public enemies–Nazi spies, Communists, Black Panthers, the New Left, even Martin Luther King” (50). Research how the director publicized the bureau with his “crusade” against these other groups.
- Civil liberties proponents were often silenced in the early Cold War years by anti-communists who alleged that championing civil liberties was a marker of being communist or having communist sympathies. Similarly, in post-9/11 America, civil liberties proponents have been framed as unpatriotic when questioning the constitutionality of the USA Patriot Act. Review some of the arguments against civil liberties in relation to both the Cold War and the war on terrorism. Identify the similarities and differences between these arguments.
- Select one website that features persuasive texts devoted to the threat surrounding the war on terrorism. Identify the similarities between Hoover’s arguments in 1947 and those that are found on the more contemporary website.
- In contemporary U.S. society, what types of ideologies and associations constitute a national security threat? Is it a threat to express political dissent? Should intelligence agents be prosecuted for violating the law? And, under how much congressional oversight should intelligence agencies operate?
- The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” However, section 3 of the Sedition Act (1918) criminalized uttering, printing, writing, or publishing “any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States” during wartime. Review the characteristics of the USA Patriot Act to see how its provisions reflect or deviate from these constitutional prescriptions and historical precedents.
- Congress is supposed to pass no law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” Conduct an assessment of recent U.S. Supreme Court cases to determine what restrictions on free speech rights currently exist? Are there existing state or federal laws that likewise offer such free speech constraints?
- The fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury . . . nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” However, the USA Patriot Act allows indefinite detainment of suspected terrorists without indictment. Is this a discrepancy?
Last updated May 4, 2016