Hoover plans for mass arrests

December 25, 2007

On December 21st, the U.S. State Department released a raft of formerly classified documents, including a 1950 memorandum from FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to President Harry Truman. The Hoover memo was issued shortly after the beginning of the Korean War. In it, Hoover urged Truman to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, and to authorize the arrests over 12,000 U.S. citizens for internment in military prisons. The names of those to be arrested were to be culled from a list that Hoover had compiled.

This list of names was the product of a long-running FBI project known as the “Security Index.” For years, Hoover’s FBI meticulously compiled dossiers on U.S. citizens considered to be politically subversive or disloyal. Persons included on the Security Index list were to be arrested in the event of a national security emergency under a so-called “master warrant.”

Details of the Security Index program were first made public by the Pike and Church congressional committees, as well as by former FBI agent M. Wesley Swearingen. The “Non-Detention Act” passed by Congress in 1971 can be traced directly to concerns about executive detentions that were raised by the exposure of the “Security Index” program.

Many FBI dossiers bearing “Security Index” tags have been declassified in recent years, including documents held by Hunter College in New York City. The Hunter collection focuses on FBI surveillance of Puerto Rican political personalities. ETS Pictures interviewed the curator of the collection, Ramon Bosque-Perez, for inclusion in our documentary programs Security and the Constitution and Taking Liberties.