WASHINGTON - Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had a plan to suspend the rules against illegal detention and arrest up to 12,000 Americans he suspected of being disloyal, according to a newly declassified document.
Hoover sent his plan to the White House on July 7, 1950, less than two weeks after the Korean War began. But there is no evidence to suggest that President Truman or any subsequent president approved any part of Hoover's proposal to house suspect Americans in military and federal prisons.
Hoover had wanted Truman to declare the mass arrests necessary to "protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage," The New York Times reported Saturday in a story posted on its Web site.
The plan called for the FBI to apprehend all potentially dangerous individuals whose names were on a list Hoover had been compiling for years.
"The index now contains approximately twelve thousand individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven percent are citizens of the United States," Hoover wrote in the now-declassified document. "In order to make effective these apprehensions, the proclamation suspends the writ of habeas corpus."
Habeas corpus is the right to seek relief from illegal detention, and is a bedrock legal principle.
All apprehended individuals eventually would have had the right to a hearing under Hoover's plan, but hearing boards comprised of one judge and two citizens would not have been bound by the rules of evidence.
The details of Hoover's plan was among a collection of Cold War-era documents related to intelligence issues from 1950-1955. The State Department declassified the documents on Friday.
We can learn from the Hoover era and how to avoid such dangerous pitfalls because of the paper trail. Will we be able to learn anything from the Bush administration?
Fire in Cheney's offices? Never mind....