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Hoover’s Secret Files

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Hoover's Secret Files

The FBI director kept famous files on everything from Martin Luther

King's sex life to never-before-reported secret meetings between RFK and

Marilyn Monroe, as a new book reveals. An exclusive excerpt from Ronald

Kessler's 'The Secrets of the FBI.'

Aug 2, 2011 1:54 PM EDT

Complex man that he was, J. Edgar Hoover left nothing to chance. The

director shrewdly recognized that building what became known as the

world's greatest law enforcement agency would not necessarily keep him

in office. So after Hoover became director, he began to maintain a special

Official and Confidential file in his office. The "secret files," as they

became widely known, would guarantee that Hoover would remain

director as long as he wished.

Defenders of Hoover— a dwindling number of older former agents who

still refer to him as "Mr. Hoover"—have claimed his Official and

Confidential files were not used to blackmail members of Congress or

presidents. They say Hoover kept the files with sensitive information

about political leaders in his suite so that young file clerks would not

peruse them and spread gossip. The files were no more secret than any

other bureau files, Hoover supporters say.

While the files may well have been kept in Hoover's office to protect them

from curious clerks, it was also true that far more sensitive files

containing top-secret information on pending espionage cases were kept

in the central files. If Hoover truly was concerned about information

getting out, he should have been more worried about the highly classified

information in those files.

Moreover, the Official and Confidential files were secret in the sense that

Hoover never referred to them publicly, as he did the rest of the bureau's

files. He distinguished them from other bureau files by calling them

"confidential," denoting secrecy. But whether they were secret or not and

where they were kept was irrelevant. What was important was how

Hoover used the information from those files and from other bureau files.

"The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator," said William

Sullivan, who became the number three official in the bureau under

Hoover, "he'd send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that

'we're in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to

come up with this data on your daughter. But we wanted you to know this.

We realize you'd want to know it.' Well, Jesus, what does that tell the

senator? From that time on, the senator's right in his pocket."

Lawrence J. Heim, who was in the Crime Records Division, confirmed to

me that the bureau sent agents to tell members of Congress that Hoover

had picked up derogatory information on them.

"He [Hoover] would send someone over on a very confidential basis,"

Heim said. As an example, if the Metropolitan Police in Washington had

picked up evidence of homosexuality, "he [Hoover] would have him say,

'This activity is known by the Metropolitan Police Department and some of

our informants, and it is in your best interests to know this.' But nobody

has ever claimed to have been blackmailed. You can deduce what you

want from that."

Of course, the reason no one publicly claimed to have been blackmailed is

that blackmail, by definition, entails collecting embarrassing information

that people do not want public. But not everyone was intimidated.

Roy L. Elson, the administrative assistant to Senator Carl T. Hayden, will

never forget an encounter he had with Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, the FBI's

liaison with Congress. For twenty years, Hayden headed the Senate Rules

and Administration Committee and later the Senate Appropriations

Committee, which had jurisdiction over the FBI's budget. He was one of

the most powerful members of Congress. As Hayden, an Arizona

Democrat, suffered hearing loss and some dementia in his later years,

Elson became known as the "101st senator" because he made many of

the senator's decisions for him.

In the early 1960s, DeLoach wanted an additional appropriation for the

new FBI headquarters building, which Congress approved in April 1962.

"The senator supported the building," Elson said. "He always gave the

bureau more money than they needed. This was a request for an

additional appropriation. I had reservations about it. DeLoach was


DeLoach "hinted" that he had "information that was unflattering and

detrimental to my marital situation and that the senator might be

disturbed," said Elson, who was then married to his second wife. "I was

certainly vulnerable that way," Elson said. "There was more than one girl

[he was seeing]. . . . The implication was there was information about my

sex life. There was no doubt in my mind what he was talking about."

Elson said to DeLoach: "Let's talk to him [the senator] about it. I think

he's heard about everything there is to hear about me. Bring the photos if

you have them." At that point, Elson said, "He started backing off. . . . He

said, 'I'm only joking.' Bullxxxx," Elson said. "I interpreted it as attempted


Commenting on Elson's allegation, DeLoach says, "It never happened."

Reading the Official and Confidential files that survived makes it clear

they could have been gathered for no other purpose than blackmail. For

example, on June 13, 1958, the head of the Washington field office

informed Hoover that, prior to marrying a member of Congress, the

member's wife had been "having an affair with a Negro [and] also at one

time carried on an affair with a House Post Office employee." More

recently, the report said, the congressman's wife "endeavored to have an

affair with [an] Indonesian, who declined."

In response to this tidbit, Hoover wrote back on June 25 that it was

"certainly thoughtful of you to advise me of matters of current interest,

and I am glad to have the benefit of this information."

"This was a way of putting congressmen on notice that we had something

on them and therefore they would be more disposed to meeting the

bureau's needs and keeping Hoover in power," says John J. McDermott,

who headed the Washington field office and eventually became deputy

associate FBI director.

Hoover let presidents know that he had dirt on them as well. For example,

on March 22, 1962, Hoover had lunch with President Kennedy. Hoover told

him that through bugs and wiretaps, the FBI had learned that Jack was

having an affair with Judith Campbell Exner, a twenty five-year-old

divorcée. Hoover informed the president that Exner was also having an

affair with Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana. Because Hoover knew such

tidbits, no president would fire him.

As President Lyndon B. Johnson said, "I would rather have him [Hoover]

inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in."

Many of the confidential files were destroyed after Hoover's death. One

such item that never came out previously was a teletype sent to

headquarters from William Simon, who headed the Los Angeles field

office, just after the August 5, 1962, death of Marilyn Monroe at her

Brentwood, California home. According to DeLoach, who saw the teletype,

it said that then Attorney General Robert Kennedy had borrowed Simon's

personal car to see Monroe just before her death.

Confirming this, Simon's son Greg says, "My father said Robert Kennedy

would borrow his white Lincoln convertible. That's why we didn't have it on

many weekends." Simon's daughter Stephanie Branon also confirmed that

her father lent his car to Kennedy and remembered that the attorney

general once left his Ray-Ban sunglasses in the glove compartment.

As attorney general, Kennedy was entitled to be driven by an FBI security

detail. The fact that he chose to use Simon's personal car is consistent

with William Simon's report to headquarters that he lent his car to

Kennedy for the purpose of clandestine meetings with Monroe. Whether

his last meeting with her, possibly to break up with her, may have

contributed to her suicide is legitimate speculation.

While there is ample evidence that Hoover used the information in his files

for blackmail, there was usually no need for it. Simply the perception that

he had such information was enough to keep politicians in line.

In the end, the answer to why Hoover did not go after organized crime

until he was forced into it is the same reason he maintained files on

members of Congress. Above all, Hoover wanted to keep his job. Many

members of Congress—not to mention powerful local politicians—had ties

to organized crime and might try to unseat him if he went after the Mafia.

The Mafia was as powerful as the president. Moreover, as a perfectionist,

Hoover did not want to risk losing a case against a powerful figure.

For the same reasons, for purposes of prosecution, Hoover would not

investigate corrupt politicians. As FBI director, Hoover had an obligation to

go after both Mafia figures and corrupt politicians. Yet until he was

pressured into investigating organized crime, those two targets were


On May 1, 1972, Helen Gandy, Hoover's personal secretary, handed him

the first in a series of exposés by ++Jack Anderson++[http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/09/15/nixon-white-house-plot-to-kill-journalist-jack-anderson.html], whose column appeared in The

Washington Post. Previously, Anderson had enraged Hoover by assigning

a reporter to rummage through his trash at home. The resulting column

revealed that on Sundays, Hoover ate a hearty breakfast of poached eggs

and hotcakes. It also revealed that he brushed his teeth with Ultra Brite,

washed with Palmolive, and shaved with Noxzema shaving cream. Now, in

his latest column, Anderson revealed that the FBI had conducted

surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s sex life.

Besides attending sex orgies, King was having an affair with a young

woman in his office, says an agent who monitored wiretaps on King's

office and home phones.

"Besides his home, King had an apartment," the former agent says. "On

Tuesdays, he'd go to the apartment, ostensibly to meditate and write

sermons." In fact, King's girlfriend would meet him there for sex.

For a man whose lifelong mantra had been "Don't embarrass the bureau,"

the continuing stream of unfavorable disclosures had to be unnerving. Yet

Hoover rarely revealed his true personal feelings. Sphinx-like, he

projected the same persona to his friends and family as he did to the

general public. The only difference was that in person, he showed a sense

of humor.

Occasionally Hoover cracked a smile or played a prank. James H. Geer,

who would later head the Intelligence Division, recalled the time when a

nervous new agent went to shake Hoover's hand after graduating from

training, and mistakenly introduced himself as "Mr. Hoover."

"Very nice to meet you, Mr. Hoover," the director responded, smiling.

Shortly before six in the afternoon of May 1, 1972, Tom Moton, Hoover's

FBI chauffeur, drove him to Associate Director Clyde Tolson's apartment,

where the two had dinner. Moton drove Hoover home at 10:15 p.m.

By 8:15 the next morning, Annie Fields, Hoover's housekeeper, became

concerned. By then, she should have heard the sound of the shower.

Hoover's toast, soft- boiled eggs, and coffee were getting cold. James

Crawford, Hoover's previous FBI chauffeur, had come over to plant some

roses. Checking on him, he found Hoover's body sprawled on the oriental

rug next to his bed. He touched one of his hands; it was cold.

After examining Hoover's nude body and consulting with his doctor, the

District of Columbia medical examiner, Dr. James L. Luke, attributed the

director's death to "hypertensive cardiovascular disease." As part of the

speculation about his love life, a rumor had gone around that Hoover had

an underdeveloped sex organ. That was not true, Dr. Luke tells me.

When Hoover's will was probated, it turned out that Tolson received his

estate, estimated at $560,000, including his home. It was the equivalent

of $2.9 million today. Gandy received $5,000, Annie Fields $3,000, and

James Crawford $2,000. The bequest to Tolson was the final word on the

closeness of their relationship.

Hoover preached that even the appearance of impropriety must be

avoided. He disciplined agents for losing their handcuffs. Yet after the

death of the imperious FBI director, a Justice Department and FBI

investigation found that over the years, Hoover had FBI employees build

a front portico and a rear deck on his home at 4936 30th Place, NW, in

Washington. They installed a fish pond, equipped with water pump and

lights, and they constructed shelves and other conveniences for him. They

painted his house, maintained his yard, replaced the sod, installed

artificial turf, and planted and moved shrubbery. They built a redwood

garden fence and installed a flagstone court and sidewalks.

FBI employees also reset Hoover's clocks, retouched his wallpaper, and

prepared his tax returns. Many of the gifts Hoover received from FBI

employees, such as cabinets and bars, had been built by them on

government time. Hoover also ordered FBI employees to write Masters of

Deceit for him under his name. He pocketed part of the proceeds.

When the FBI and Justice Department finally investigated the abuses in

the mid- 1970s at the direction of FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley, "a

number of these agents had already retired from the bureau, and we

were running all over the country interviewing them," says Richard H. Ash,

who headed the FBI task force. "The agent being interviewed would say,

'Wait a minute.' And he would go over to his files, pull out a log about all

these things they had done, because it was eating at them that they were

being used that way."

"Hoover [and some of his aides] would be prosecuted under today's

standards. No question of it. And should have been," Buck Revell,

formerly the bureau's associate deputy director over investigations, says.

"Hoover for the money he kept from the books he supposedly wrote but

didn't write. Using government funds and resources for personal gain. And

use of government employees to maintain his residence. Again, that is

fraud against the government. Taking vacations and putting in vouchers

for expenses. Agents have been prosecuted for that. Those things that

were somewhat taken for granted back then would be prosecuted today."

"Hoover did a good job for many years," says John McDermott, the former

Washington field office special agent in charge who became deputy

associate FBI director. "He went wrong along the way. He became a

martinet. In seeking to prevent embarrassment to the bureau, he equated

the bureau with himself. Everyone told him how good he was. He came to

believe the exorbitant praise he was receiving. Anybody who can be

conned by a flatterer has a character weakness."

Hoover ran the FBI for forty-eight years. Never again would one man so

dominate the bureau.

In 1975 and 1976, the Select Committee to Study Governmental

Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, headed by Senator

Frank Church, held hearings on FBI and CIA abuses. These included

surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr., illegal wiretapping and mail

openings, and surreptitious entries or "black-bag jobs."

Prior to that, members of Congress took the position they did not want to

know what the FBI and CIA were doing. The Church Committee hearings,

as they became known, exposed real abuses and a lack of focus that

undercut the mission of those agencies. The hearings ultimately improved

both agencies and established an effective oversight mechanism.

When creating the FBI on June 29, 1908, as an unnamed investigative

bureau of thirty-four special agents within the Justice Department,

Congress had been leery of creating a national police force. Because of

that, agents initially were not even empowered to carry weapons.

Despite limitations on its power, questions arose very quickly about the

extent of the bureau's authority and methods. Yet whenever a new threat

arose, those questions would be set aside, and Congress would entrust

the bureau with new powers.

Reproduced with permission from Crown Publishers.

Like The Daily Beast on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates all

day long.

Ronald Kessler is the New York Times bestselling author of eighteen

nonfiction books, including In the President's Secret Service, The Terrorist

Watch, Inside the White House, and The CIA at War. A former Washington

Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, Kessler has won

seventeen journalism awards including the George Polk Award for

national reporting and for community service. He is chief Washington

correspondent of Newsmax.com Kessler lives in Potomac, Maryland, with

his wife, Pamela.

For inquiries, please contact The Daily Beast at editorial@thedailybeast.com.


Best Regards in Research,


Donald Roberdeau

U.S.S. John F. Kennedy, CV-67, plank walker

Sooner, or later, The Truth emerges Clearly

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T ogether

E veryone

A chieves

M ore

For the United States:



Edited by Don Roberdeau
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