A Disregard of Personal Rights

In 1924, J. Edgar Hoover was appointed director of the FBI by the Attorney General, Harlan F. Stone.

By 1936 the FBI and U.S. Justice Department had secretly collected a list of names of people across the country who might be “dangerous and disloyal.” This program was created during peacetime and gave those so labeled no right to confront their accusers. Acquiring thousands of names was the personal passion of Hoover. He believe he had a mandate to intrude into peoples’ lives. He understood better than anyone else in this century that information was power.

In January 1934, a New York Congressman, Sam Dickstein, created a special committee to investigate Nazi propaganda activities in the United States. The American public grew increasingly anxious about the presence of a possible internal Fifth Column of enemies. As Americans read about Hitler’s successes in the daily news, their eyes began to turn toward the Germans and German-Americans living in their midst.

German-Americans were thought to be putting ground glass in America’s sausage, poisoning community water supplies and spreading defeatist or pacifist thoughts. Rumor had it that Kaiser’s agents were disguised as Bible salesmen. The imagination of the public had run amok. ‘The Day Book’, a monthly publication in Chicago, ran stories that they claimed did not pan out. There was a seizure of the German ships interned in American harbors. This story was followed up by another story of the official denial by the president of its truth.

The published article reluctantly said that “fact reporting is a long ways from being an exact science in the United States.”

It goes on, “There is too much peddling of rumor and opinion – too much public sentiment founded on false information.”

Arnold Krammer, Undue ProcessĀ (Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1997), 1,3.


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