Saturday, December 22, 2007


Ah, 'tis the season. That jolly old elf is making a list and checking it twice. That's not such a bad list, I guess, especially if one falls into the "nice" rather than the "naughty" side of the ledger.

Not all lists are so benign, however. It turns out that J. Edgar Hoover, the former FBI Director had a list, quite an extensive one, according to this AP article, and once the Korean War started, he wanted to use it.

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. ...

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."

Apparently Mr. Hoover never got to use his list in this fashion, but the fact that he developed it is telling. It's also very familiar sounding, right down to the suspension of habeas corpus. Oh, folks apprehended would eventually get a hearing, but it would be by a commission composed of one judge and two citizens and the rules of evidence would be thrown out. That's sounds pretty familiar as well.

Just an interesting bit of history? Personally, I think it's much more than that. I think it more like an instructive bit of history. And I don't think my tin foil hat is all that tight when I suggest that the current administration has its own list, one developed with the cooperation of the telecommunications industry and the complicity of the last two Congresses.

Will the government use it? It's hard to tell right now, but they certainly have the power to do so.

Just a little something else to worry about this season.

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