FBI in Transition

September 30, 1977

Report Outline
Need to Rebuild FBI Reputation
Hoover's Leadership and Legacy
Proposals for Stronger Controls
Special Focus

Need to Rebuild FBI Reputation

Tasks Facing the Prospective New Director

When President Carter nominated U.S. District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. as the new director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Aug. 17, there was a sigh of relief in much of the nation. The 58-year-old Alabama judge, a staunch defender of civil rights and a hard-liner on law and order had been Carter's first choice to head the troubled FBI but had refused the post last December. After he learned that the President and Attorney General Griffin B. Bell were not entirely satisfied with the recommendations of a nine-member search committee for a new FBI director, Johnson let it be known that he had changed his mind and was willing to accept the job.

Under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, Senate confirmation is needed for the President's nominee for director. While Johnson is expected to meet some opposition from southern conservatives because of his civil rights record, he is considered almost certain to win approval before the current director, Clarence M. Kelley, retires on Jan. 15, 1978. Senate confirmation may be the easiest task facing Judge Johnson. He will confront a host of problems that seem as pressing as those encountered by J. Edgar Hoover, who took over a corrupt, politicized and demoralized Bureau of Investigation in 1924 and ran it unchallenged for 48 years until his death in May 1972.

The Hoover legacy is one of the problems Johnson will face. Many officials who served under Hoover remain in high positions and have thwarted or slowed some of the changes sought by Kelley and the two acting directors who preceded him—L. Patrick Gray and William D. Ruckelshaus. But there have been significant changes since Hoover's death. These included recruitment of women and members of racial minorities, relaxation of strict dress and behavior regulations, a shifting of bureau priorities to combat organized and white-collar crime and official corruption, and the termination of improper or illegal action against political dissidents.

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