Future of the FBI

June 25, 1971

Report Outline
Criticism of the Fbi and Its Chief
Origins and Manifold Duties of Fbi
Directions of Bureau After Hoover
Special Focus

Criticism of the Fbi and Its Chief

For the second time in its 62-year history, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is under widespread attack. The bureau was tainted half a century ago by the scandals of the Harding administration, but it soon surmounted them and built a reputation for incorruptibility under J. Edgar Hoover, its director since 1924. Today the FBI stands accused of overzealousness. Critics contend that it has exceeded its authority by monitoring the activities of persons—including members of Congress—not involved in or suspected of any federal crime.

The controversy centers on Hoover himself. The director, after 47 years at the job, is the very embodiment of the bureau he has molded in his image. Numerous persons argue that Hoover, at the age of 76, is long overdue for retirement. They assert also that he has grown autocratic and vindictive and thereby has impaired the FBI's morale and efficiency. The bureau's next director, critics say, should have fewer powers and more limited tenure than Hoover has enjoyed for almost half a century.

Hoover has made it clear that he will not resign under pressure. “I have no thought of leaving my present position,” he stated in a recent letter, “and intend to remain as director of the FBI as long as I can be of service to the country and my health permits.” There is little question that the reputations of Hoover and the FBI, while tarnished somewhat, are greater than those of almost any other public official or institution. A Gallup Poll published in August 1970 stated that the proportion of respondents expressing a “highly favorable” opinion of the FBI had declined by 13 percentage points since 1965—but the decline was from 84 to 71 per cent. In a Gallup survey published in May 1971, 70 per cent of those interviewed rated the job Hoover has done as either “excellent” or “good.” At the same time, 51 per cent thought he should retire.

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