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Eastwood's 'J. Edgar' explores psychology of FBI icon

By Claudia Puig, USA TODAY

'J. Edgar' paints complex portrait of an icon – USATODAY.com

With his seemingly unquenchable appetite for power, former

FBI director J. Edgar Hooveris a challenge to deconstruct and a complex subject for a standard biopic.

But director

Clint Eastwood never makes standard fare. With J. Edgar, he and screenwriter Dustin Lance Blackavoid the predictable, approaching the subject from an unexpected angle. While the FBI director is held accountable for his paranoia and megalomania, he's also portrayed as a victim of his time and the cruelties of an overbearing mother.

Hoover served for 37 years as head of the FBI, and the film jumps back and forth in time. Eastwood illuminates what drove Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) by examining his relationships with his longtime partner, bureau deputy Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer); his mother, Annie (Judi Dench); and his dedicated secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts).

Black, who won an Oscar for his screenplay of Milk, has crafted a complex portrayal of Hoover and Tolson, framed within the context of a love story.

Consequently, audiences get a nuanced portrait. Eastwood certainly focuses on what Hoover is known best for — his wiretaps and secret files. Yet by seeing his interactions with those closest to him, audiences get a glimpse into Hoover's tortured psyche. What emerges is a portrait of a man often selfish and childish in his insistence on absolute loyalty, whose moral outrage was largely built on baseless fears.

About the movie

J. Edgar

*** out of four

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, Josh Lucas

Director: Clint Eastwood

Distributor: Warner Bros.Pictures

Rating: R for brief strong language

Running time: 2 hours and 17 minutes

Opens Wednesday in Los Angeles and Friday in New York

Dench is superb as the emotionally corrosive mother who prodded him to distinguish himself, but also taunted him with tales of a man nicknamed "Daffy" because he liked to dress up in women's clothes.

The film ages DiCaprio convincingly, Hammer less so. Still, Hammer almost steals the show. While DiCaprio has some noteworthy scenes, it's tough to forget it's the actor playing Hoover. In contrast, Hammer and Watts disappear into more subtle roles.

J. Edgar shines a probing beam of light on a man who was widely feared, often disliked, but rarely understood.

BK: Wait a minute! "In the context of a love story"? Between who? Hover and Tolson?

Edited by William Kelly
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Eastwood's 'J. Edgar' explores psychology of FBI icon

By Claudia Puig, USA TODAY

'J. Edgar' paints complex portrait of an icon – USATODAY.com

With his seemingly unquenchable appetite for power, former

FBI director J. Edgar Hooveris a challenge to deconstruct and a complex subject for a standard biopic.

But director

Clint Eastwood never makes standard fare. With J. Edgar, he and screenwriter Dustin Lance Blackavoid the predictable, approaching the subject from an unexpected angle. While the FBI director is held accountable for his paranoia and megalomania, he's also portrayed as a victim of his time and the cruelties of an overbearing mother.

Hoover served for 37 years as head of the FBI, and the film jumps back and forth in time. Eastwood illuminates what drove Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) by examining his relationships with his longtime partner, bureau deputy Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer); his mother, Annie (Judi Dench); and his dedicated secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts).

Black, who won an Oscar for his screenplay of Milk, has crafted a complex portrayal of Hoover and Tolson, framed within the context of a love story.

Consequently, audiences get a nuanced portrait. Eastwood certainly focuses on what Hoover is known best for — his wiretaps and secret files. Yet by seeing his interactions with those closest to him, audiences get a glimpse into Hoover's tortured psyche. What emerges is a portrait of a man often selfish and childish in his insistence on absolute loyalty, whose moral outrage was largely built on baseless fears.

About the movie

J. Edgar

*** out of four

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, Josh Lucas

Director: Clint Eastwood

Distributor: Warner Bros.Pictures

Rating: R for brief strong language

Running time: 2 hours and 17 minutes

Opens Wednesday in Los Angeles and Friday in New York

Dench is superb as the emotionally corrosive mother who prodded him to distinguish himself, but also taunted him with tales of a man nicknamed "Daffy" because he liked to dress up in women's clothes.

The film ages DiCaprio convincingly, Hammer less so. Still, Hammer almost steals the show. While DiCaprio has some noteworthy scenes, it's tough to forget it's the actor playing Hoover. In contrast, Hammer and Watts disappear into more subtle roles.

J. Edgar shines a probing beam of light on a man who was widely feared, often disliked, but rarely understood.

BK: Wait a minute! "In the context of a love story"? Between who? Hover and Tolson?

Eastwood was on Jon Stewart last night and explained that the film deals with Hoover's love for both Tolson and Gandy. It even has a scene in which Hoover proposes to Gandy. Apparently, Black stuck to the facts as seen by those closest to Hoover, in that, while it SEEMED he and Tolson were lovers, their love was quite possibly never consummated in a sexual act. Apparently, the theme is repression, fear and loyalty. This is from the same guy who wrote Milk, which dealt with some of these same themes. Presumably, Hoover was so filled with fear of his inner queer that he couldn't help but love those who were intensely loyal to him and his secret. This weakness--which we are supposed to believe was a symptom of his time--then, led him to replace normal human relationships with the quasi-fascistic structure of his life. The FBI was a fortress built to protect a scared sister boy.

This was a law enforcement officer, after all, at least as interested in the physical appearance of his agents as in their actual performance.

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Eastwood's 'J. Edgar' explores psychology of FBI icon

By Claudia Puig, USA TODAY

'J. Edgar' paints complex portrait of an icon – USATODAY.com

With his seemingly unquenchable appetite for power, former

FBI director J. Edgar Hooveris a challenge to deconstruct and a complex subject for a standard biopic.

But director

Clint Eastwood never makes standard fare. With J. Edgar, he and screenwriter Dustin Lance Blackavoid the predictable, approaching the subject from an unexpected angle. While the FBI director is held accountable for his paranoia and megalomania, he's also portrayed as a victim of his time and the cruelties of an overbearing mother.

Hoover served for 37 years as head of the FBI, and the film jumps back and forth in time. Eastwood illuminates what drove Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) by examining his relationships with his longtime partner, bureau deputy Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer); his mother, Annie (Judi Dench); and his dedicated secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts).

Black, who won an Oscar for his screenplay of Milk, has crafted a complex portrayal of Hoover and Tolson, framed within the context of a love story.

Consequently, audiences get a nuanced portrait. Eastwood certainly focuses on what Hoover is known best for — his wiretaps and secret files. Yet by seeing his interactions with those closest to him, audiences get a glimpse into Hoover's tortured psyche. What emerges is a portrait of a man often selfish and childish in his insistence on absolute loyalty, whose moral outrage was largely built on baseless fears.

About the movie

J. Edgar

*** out of four

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, Josh Lucas

Director: Clint Eastwood

Distributor: Warner Bros.Pictures

Rating: R for brief strong language

Running time: 2 hours and 17 minutes

Opens Wednesday in Los Angeles and Friday in New York

Dench is superb as the emotionally corrosive mother who prodded him to distinguish himself, but also taunted him with tales of a man nicknamed "Daffy" because he liked to dress up in women's clothes.

The film ages DiCaprio convincingly, Hammer less so. Still, Hammer almost steals the show. While DiCaprio has some noteworthy scenes, it's tough to forget it's the actor playing Hoover. In contrast, Hammer and Watts disappear into more subtle roles.

J. Edgar shines a probing beam of light on a man who was widely feared, often disliked, but rarely understood.

BK: Wait a minute! "In the context of a love story"? Between who? Hover and Tolson?

Eastwood was on Jon Stewart last night and explained that the film deals with Hoover's love for both Tolson and Gandy. It even has a scene in which Hoover proposes to Gandy. Apparently, Black stuck to the facts as seen by those closest to Hoover, in that, while it SEEMED he and Tolson were lovers, their love was quite possibly never consummated in a sexual act. Apparently, the theme is repression, fear and loyalty. This is from the same guy who wrote Milk, which dealt with some of these same themes. Presumably, Hoover was so filled with fear of his inner queer that he couldn't help but love those who were intensely loyal to him and his secret. This weakness--which we are supposed to believe was a symptom of his time--then, led him to replace normal human relationships with the quasi-fascistic structure of his life. The FBI was a fortress built to protect a scared sister boy.

This was a law enforcement officer, after all, at least as interested in the physical appearance of his agents as in their actual performance.

There was an excellent film out in the early 70's that covers all this brilliantly. "The Secret Files Of J Edgar Hoover".

Dawn

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Eastwood's 'J. Edgar' explores psychology of FBI icon

By Claudia Puig, USA TODAY

'J. Edgar' paints complex portrait of an icon – USATODAY.com

With his seemingly unquenchable appetite for power, former

FBI director J. Edgar Hooveris a challenge to deconstruct and a complex subject for a standard biopic.

But director

Clint Eastwood never makes standard fare. With J. Edgar, he and screenwriter Dustin Lance Blackavoid the predictable, approaching the subject from an unexpected angle. While the FBI director is held accountable for his paranoia and megalomania, he's also portrayed as a victim of his time and the cruelties of an overbearing mother.

Hoover served for 37 years as head of the FBI, and the film jumps back and forth in time. Eastwood illuminates what drove Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) by examining his relationships with his longtime partner, bureau deputy Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer); his mother, Annie (Judi Dench); and his dedicated secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts).

Black, who won an Oscar for his screenplay of Milk, has crafted a complex portrayal of Hoover and Tolson, framed within the context of a love story.

Consequently, audiences get a nuanced portrait. Eastwood certainly focuses on what Hoover is known best for — his wiretaps and secret files. Yet by seeing his interactions with those closest to him, audiences get a glimpse into Hoover's tortured psyche. What emerges is a portrait of a man often selfish and childish in his insistence on absolute loyalty, whose moral outrage was largely built on baseless fears.

About the movie

J. Edgar

*** out of four

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, Josh Lucas

Director: Clint Eastwood

Distributor: Warner Bros.Pictures

Rating: R for brief strong language

Running time: 2 hours and 17 minutes

Opens Wednesday in Los Angeles and Friday in New York

Dench is superb as the emotionally corrosive mother who prodded him to distinguish himself, but also taunted him with tales of a man nicknamed "Daffy" because he liked to dress up in women's clothes.

The film ages DiCaprio convincingly, Hammer less so. Still, Hammer almost steals the show. While DiCaprio has some noteworthy scenes, it's tough to forget it's the actor playing Hoover. In contrast, Hammer and Watts disappear into more subtle roles.

J. Edgar shines a probing beam of light on a man who was widely feared, often disliked, but rarely understood.

BK: Wait a minute! "In the context of a love story"? Between who? Hover and Tolson?

Eastwood was on Jon Stewart last night and explained that the film deals with Hoover's love for both Tolson and Gandy. It even has a scene in which Hoover proposes to Gandy. Apparently, Black stuck to the facts as seen by those closest to Hoover, in that, while it SEEMED he and Tolson were lovers, their love was quite possibly never consummated in a sexual act. Apparently, the theme is repression, fear and loyalty. This is from the same guy who wrote Milk, which dealt with some of these same themes. Presumably, Hoover was so filled with fear of his inner queer that he couldn't help but love those who were intensely loyal to him and his secret. This weakness--which we are supposed to believe was a symptom of his time--then, led him to replace normal human relationships with the quasi-fascistic structure of his life. The FBI was a fortress built to protect a scared sister boy.

This was a law enforcement officer, after all, at least as interested in the physical appearance of his agents as in their actual performance.

There was an excellent film out in the early 70's that covers all this brilliantly. "The Secret Files Of J Edgar Hoover".

Dawn

Actually I think the title was "private" not "secret" files. I saw it once at the theatre and it made quite an impression. The stuff abut his mother especially.

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Guest Tom Scully

Sounds like the screenplay used poetic license. The movie is for an American audience. KISS is the best way to steer the narrative. Sorry, I just read the details of the riots in response to news of the firing of the nearly 85 years old coach Joe Paterno in State College, PA. As a country, we have the leaders, the culture, and the divide, and the violence, we, the people deserve.

http://www.google.com/search?tbm=bks&tbo=1&q=%22when+he+was+twenty-four%2C*%22&btnG=#ds=bo&pq=%22when+he+was+twenty-four%2C*%22&hl=en&sugexp=ppwl&cp=41&gs_id=4o&xhr=t&q=%22when+he+was+twenty-four,+said+the+former*%22&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&safe=off&tbo=1&tbm=bks&source=hp&pbx=1&oq=%22when+he+was+twenty-four,+said+the+former*%22&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=&gs_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=8ee6adb96009b707&biw=811&bih=493

Official and confidential: the secret life of J. Edgar Hoover

books.google.comAnthony Summers - 1993 - 528 pages - Snippet view

When he was twenty-four, said the former secretary, Edgar saw a good deal of a young woman named Alice. She, too, worked in the War Emergency Division, and she was apparently the attractive daughter of a prominent Washington attorney— a factor that increased Edgar's interest. Should the end of the war bring the end of his job at the Justice Department, Edgar hoped for a job in his law firm. On Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, Edgar was visited at his office by a friend named Sidney Kaufman. Kaufman was bursting to tell his news — he and his girlfriend planned to announce their engagement that very evening at Harvey's Restaurant, the Washington watering hole Edgar would patronize all his life. Edgar and Alice were invited to celebrate with them. According to Gandy, Edgar decided he and Alice would also get engaged that evening. He sent her a note, asking her to meet him en route to the restaurant, at the Lafayette Hotel. Alice, however, did not turn up. She soon became engaged to another man, a young officer who — unlike Edgar — had gone to war.

Helen Gandy did not divulge the full name of Edgar's lost love. There is no reason, though, to doubt the story.

Gandy talked about aspects of that evening in 1918 with two FBI officials, and she was a firsthand witness to Edgar's humiliation. She herself had been present at Harvey's that night, as the partner of one of the men at the party, and it was then that Edgar, in his loneliness, first took notice of her. "Miss Gandy told me they had several dates," Edgar's future aide Cartha DeLoach recalled. "They had a good time, but they weren't attracted to each other in that way. ..

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Yeah, I got it here and was going to post re that part of the book. And soon after she became his secretary.

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What Really Happened Between J. Edgar Hoover and MLK Jr.

By John Meroney

Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar presents an understandably fictionalized portrait of the notorious FBI director. The real history, though, is more interesting

The Atlantic Magazine

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/11/what-really-happened-between-j-edgar-hoover-and-mlk-jr/248319/

J. Edgar is the biographical drama one would expect Hollywood to make.

It trots out all the familiar lore and long-standing gossip about the man who ran the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1924 until he died in 1972: He was fixated with anti-communism, maintained confidential files on prominent Americans, and perhaps was a closet homosexual.

But the film misses the opportunity to tell a story that most of America hasn't heard—probably because it's easier to digest the accepted wisdom that J. Edgar Hoover is "diabolical" (as producer Brian Grazer recently called him) than tarnish the mythology of 1960s-era heroes, the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I have been seriously misquoted in the matter of slurs against the FBI," King told Hoover in 1964.

If there is anything surprising about the film it's how even-handed the picture is, especially given the script by Dustin Lance Black, which reads like an indictment of Hoover. Credit for the restraint goes to director Clint Eastwood. For example, in a scene where Hoover tries on his mother's dress, moviegoers are left wondering whether the character does this because he's a latent cross-dresser or merely longs to be close to her.

When it comes to the real J. Edgar Hoover, separating fact from conjecture is challenging because he had so many enemies. Post-Cold War Soviet Union archives reveal that the KGB employed a decades-long systematic campaign of character assassination and disinformation against him. One wonders how much of that may have been inadvertently mainlined into the more sordid accounts of Hoover "history," perhaps even in this picture. Some dramatic license is permitted for films "based on a true story," but there's one important plot line of the picture that's flat-out fictional and not open to guesswork: Hoover's tumultuous relationship with King.

Moviegoers who see J. Edgar will leave the theater with the impression that Hoover drove the surveillance of the young civil rights leader - ordering agents to bug his hotel room and wiretap his telephone calls - because he considered the minister a threat to national security. According to the movie, Hoover persuades his reluctant boss, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to sign off on such procedures. But records from Freedom of Information Act disclosures and the pioneering research of civil rights historian David J. Garrow tell a far different, and more insightful, story.

In the summer of 1963, Hoover wasn't the only one preoccupied with King. So was the Kennedy White House. That was because one of King's closest advisers, Stanley David Levison, and another man who ran one of King's offices, Jack O'Dell, were secret Communist Party operatives. For at least a year, the president and his attorney general brother had been receiving classified data, transcripts of wiretapped telephone calls (which they sanctioned), and intelligence reports confirming the men's affiliation with the Soviet-controlled Party. This information also chronicled the work they were then doing for King.

President Kennedy didn't worry about an espionage leak, or that the men would necessarily insert propaganda into King's speeches—although some King advisers apparently did see to it that King's plans to criticize communism ("that it was an alien philosophy contrary to us," is how King said he intended to describe it) were scrapped. Rather, the president feared the political fall-out that would come if it were revealed that the nation's foremost civil rights leader had advisers with ties to the Soviet Union. In May, President Kennedy told his brother he didn't want the minister anywhere near him. "King is so hot that it's like Marx coming to the White House," he says on a White House tape.

But by June, the president had grown weary of the risks King was causing him and decided to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with the minister in Washington. In the Rose Garden, he exhorted King that Levison, was, as Kennedy described him, a "Kremlin agent." Get rid of him, demanded the president.

King looked the Kennedy in the eye and promised he would. But King merely pretended to break off contact with Levison while actually continuing to confer with him through intermediaries. The president, however, was aware of King's back-channel communication arrangement with Levison—because his brother had already authorized wiretaps and bugs on Levison himself. Distressed, the Kennedy wondered what else King was hiding.

Later that summer, because of White House-authorized surveillance on at least one King associate, the Kennedys learned the minister was having extra-marital affairs. When tape recordings of King's "bedroom activities" surfaced, J. Edgar Hoover apparently listened. Leonardo DiCaprio deftly plays the curious old man hearing these tapes. (What Eastwood finessed is an improvement from Black's screenplay that reads, "Hoover is listening, his forehead is misty, he may even be masturbating.") In fact, the recordings revolted Hoover.

J. Edgar leads us to believe that all of this voyeurism came at the instigation of Hoover. But the date of October 10, 1963, offers a different narrative: that was when Attorney General Robert Kennedy, angered by King's recalcitrance to comply with the president's demand to oust Levison, ordered Hoover to have bureau agents wiretap King's telephones, including the one in the preacher's Atlanta home.

"I asked the FBI to make an intensive investigation of Martin Luther King," Robert Kennedy later privately acknowledged to journalist Anthony Lewis, "to see who his companions were and, also, to see what other activities he was involved in. This is also the reason that President Kennedy and I and the Department of Justice were so reserved about him, which I'm sure he felt. We never wanted to get close to him just because of these contacts and connections that he had, which we felt were damaging to the civil rights movement and because we were so intimately involved in the struggle for civil rights, it also damaged us. It damaged what we were trying to do."

Of course, the assassination of John F. Kennedy later that fall cast a pall over the future of civil rights until Lyndon Johnson began pushing it again the following year. Nevertheless, the new president—now recipient of the results from the bugs and wiretaps that were capturing Martin Luther King's every move—was watchful of the minister, though apparently for additional reasons. Johnson seemed to consume the King surveillance with gusto, especially the personal stuff. "He listened to the tapes that even had the noises of the bedsprings," Time correspondent Hugh Sidey reported in 1975. Johnson would say, "Goddammit, if you could only hear what that hypocritical preacher does sexually."

J. Edgar also leaves one to conclude that Hoover's disapproval of King was all-encompassing. At one point in the picture, the supposedly repressed Hoover comes unhinged, fulminating against King, and - in a risible fictionalization - he even crafts a poison-pen letter to the minister pretending that he's black. "You know you are a complete fraud and a great liability to all us Negroes," dictates the movie's Hoover. "White people in this country have enough frauds of their own but I am sure they don't have one at this time that is anywhere near your equal."

The filmmakers, of course, want viewers to recognize that Hoover is ironically describing himself. The truth is, Hoover never sent such a letter to King. Most of Hoover's animus toward the civil rights leader can be traced to a statement King made to the press that implied that FBI agents in Southern states were too "friendly" with segregationists and local police. "Dr. Martin Luther King is the most notorious xxxx in the country," Hoover replied to reporters in November 1964.

Seeking to clarify his remarks to the FBI director, King met with Hoover in Washington a few weeks later. "I want to assure you that I have been seriously misquoted in the matter of slurs against the FBI," King told him.

In the meeting, Hoover defended his agents, saying that they were only interacting with Southern policemen because they needed information that could be used to build legal cases to combat federal civil rights violations. "I would like to give you some advice, Dr. King," Hoover told him. "One of the greatest things you could accomplish for your people would be to encourage them to register and vote. Registrars in the South now have to be much more careful than in the past, and there are fewer attempts to prevent Negroes from registering. We're monitoring registration and voting procedures very carefully." This from the "monstrous" FBI director, as J. Edgar's screenwriter recently called Hoover.

Despite the rift between Hoover and King, Hoover remained a real FBI man—he was no Joe McCarthy, whom the movie character Hoover insults as an "opportunist." Still, most people who see J. Edgar would never know that when segregationist governors such as Ross Barnett (Mississippi) and George Wallace (Alabama) campaigned against civil rights legislation by smearing Martin Luther King for supposedly being part of a "communist training school" in Tennessee and claiming that King "belonged to more communist organizations than any man in the U.S," it was Hoover's bureau that produced information refuting such lies.

As author Taylor Branch reveals in his history of the civil rights movement, during the "freedom summer" of 1964, Hoover received information indicating that it was likely white supremacists would kill Martin Luther King at any moment. Hoover authorized FBI agents to accompany the unaware King on a flight through the South to secure his protection—that's just what an FBI man would do. Because most people now seem to learn history from the movies, it's unfortunate that a rather telling scene like that wasn't in this script.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/11/what-really-happened-between-j-edgar-hoover-and-mlk-jr/248319/

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What Really Happened Between J. Edgar Hoover and MLK Jr.

By John Meroney

Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar presents an understandably fictionalized portrait of the notorious FBI director. The real history, though, is more interesting

The Atlantic Magazine

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/11/what-really-happened-between-j-edgar-hoover-and-mlk-jr/248319/

J. Edgar is the biographical drama one would expect Hollywood to make.

It trots out all the familiar lore and long-standing gossip about the man who ran the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1924 until he died in 1972: He was fixated with anti-communism, maintained confidential files on prominent Americans, and perhaps was a closet homosexual.

But the film misses the opportunity to tell a story that most of America hasn't heard—probably because it's easier to digest the accepted wisdom that J. Edgar Hoover is "diabolical" (as producer Brian Grazer recently called him) than tarnish the mythology of 1960s-era heroes, the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I have been seriously misquoted in the matter of slurs against the FBI," King told Hoover in 1964.

If there is anything surprising about the film it's how even-handed the picture is, especially given the script by Dustin Lance Black, which reads like an indictment of Hoover. Credit for the restraint goes to director Clint Eastwood. For example, in a scene where Hoover tries on his mother's dress, moviegoers are left wondering whether the character does this because he's a latent cross-dresser or merely longs to be close to her.

When it comes to the real J. Edgar Hoover, separating fact from conjecture is challenging because he had so many enemies. Post-Cold War Soviet Union archives reveal that the KGB employed a decades-long systematic campaign of character assassination and disinformation against him. One wonders how much of that may have been inadvertently mainlined into the more sordid accounts of Hoover "history," perhaps even in this picture. Some dramatic license is permitted for films "based on a true story," but there's one important plot line of the picture that's flat-out fictional and not open to guesswork: Hoover's tumultuous relationship with King.

Moviegoers who see J. Edgar will leave the theater with the impression that Hoover drove the surveillance of the young civil rights leader - ordering agents to bug his hotel room and wiretap his telephone calls - because he considered the minister a threat to national security. According to the movie, Hoover persuades his reluctant boss, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to sign off on such procedures. But records from Freedom of Information Act disclosures and the pioneering research of civil rights historian David J. Garrow tell a far different, and more insightful, story.

In the summer of 1963, Hoover wasn't the only one preoccupied with King. So was the Kennedy White House. That was because one of King's closest advisers, Stanley David Levison, and another man who ran one of King's offices, Jack O'Dell, were secret Communist Party operatives. For at least a year, the president and his attorney general brother had been receiving classified data, transcripts of wiretapped telephone calls (which they sanctioned), and intelligence reports confirming the men's affiliation with the Soviet-controlled Party. This information also chronicled the work they were then doing for King.

President Kennedy didn't worry about an espionage leak, or that the men would necessarily insert propaganda into King's speeches—although some King advisers apparently did see to it that King's plans to criticize communism ("that it was an alien philosophy contrary to us," is how King said he intended to describe it) were scrapped. Rather, the president feared the political fall-out that would come if it were revealed that the nation's foremost civil rights leader had advisers with ties to the Soviet Union. In May, President Kennedy told his brother he didn't want the minister anywhere near him. "King is so hot that it's like Marx coming to the White House," he says on a White House tape.

But by June, the president had grown weary of the risks King was causing him and decided to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with the minister in Washington. In the Rose Garden, he exhorted King that Levison, was, as Kennedy described him, a "Kremlin agent." Get rid of him, demanded the president.

King looked the Kennedy in the eye and promised he would. But King merely pretended to break off contact with Levison while actually continuing to confer with him through intermediaries. The president, however, was aware of King's back-channel communication arrangement with Levison—because his brother had already authorized wiretaps and bugs on Levison himself. Distressed, the Kennedy wondered what else King was hiding.

Later that summer, because of White House-authorized surveillance on at least one King associate, the Kennedys learned the minister was having extra-marital affairs. When tape recordings of King's "bedroom activities" surfaced, J. Edgar Hoover apparently listened. Leonardo DiCaprio deftly plays the curious old man hearing these tapes. (What Eastwood finessed is an improvement from Black's screenplay that reads, "Hoover is listening, his forehead is misty, he may even be masturbating.") In fact, the recordings revolted Hoover.

J. Edgar leads us to believe that all of this voyeurism came at the instigation of Hoover. But the date of October 10, 1963, offers a different narrative: that was when Attorney General Robert Kennedy, angered by King's recalcitrance to comply with the president's demand to oust Levison, ordered Hoover to have bureau agents wiretap King's telephones, including the one in the preacher's Atlanta home.

"I asked the FBI to make an intensive investigation of Martin Luther King," Robert Kennedy later privately acknowledged to journalist Anthony Lewis, "to see who his companions were and, also, to see what other activities he was involved in. This is also the reason that President Kennedy and I and the Department of Justice were so reserved about him, which I'm sure he felt. We never wanted to get close to him just because of these contacts and connections that he had, which we felt were damaging to the civil rights movement and because we were so intimately involved in the struggle for civil rights, it also damaged us. It damaged what we were trying to do."

Of course, the assassination of John F. Kennedy later that fall cast a pall over the future of civil rights until Lyndon Johnson began pushing it again the following year. Nevertheless, the new president—now recipient of the results from the bugs and wiretaps that were capturing Martin Luther King's every move—was watchful of the minister, though apparently for additional reasons. Johnson seemed to consume the King surveillance with gusto, especially the personal stuff. "He listened to the tapes that even had the noises of the bedsprings," Time correspondent Hugh Sidey reported in 1975. Johnson would say, "Goddammit, if you could only hear what that hypocritical preacher does sexually."

J. Edgar also leaves one to conclude that Hoover's disapproval of King was all-encompassing. At one point in the picture, the supposedly repressed Hoover comes unhinged, fulminating against King, and - in a risible fictionalization - he even crafts a poison-pen letter to the minister pretending that he's black. "You know you are a complete fraud and a great liability to all us Negroes," dictates the movie's Hoover. "White people in this country have enough frauds of their own but I am sure they don't have one at this time that is anywhere near your equal."

The filmmakers, of course, want viewers to recognize that Hoover is ironically describing himself. The truth is, Hoover never sent such a letter to King. Most of Hoover's animus toward the civil rights leader can be traced to a statement King made to the press that implied that FBI agents in Southern states were too "friendly" with segregationists and local police. "Dr. Martin Luther King is the most notorious xxxx in the country," Hoover replied to reporters in November 1964.

Seeking to clarify his remarks to the FBI director, King met with Hoover in Washington a few weeks later. "I want to assure you that I have been seriously misquoted in the matter of slurs against the FBI," King told him.

In the meeting, Hoover defended his agents, saying that they were only interacting with Southern policemen because they needed information that could be used to build legal cases to combat federal civil rights violations. "I would like to give you some advice, Dr. King," Hoover told him. "One of the greatest things you could accomplish for your people would be to encourage them to register and vote. Registrars in the South now have to be much more careful than in the past, and there are fewer attempts to prevent Negroes from registering. We're monitoring registration and voting procedures very carefully." This from the "monstrous" FBI director, as J. Edgar's screenwriter recently called Hoover.

Despite the rift between Hoover and King, Hoover remained a real FBI man—he was no Joe McCarthy, whom the movie character Hoover insults as an "opportunist." Still, most people who see J. Edgar would never know that when segregationist governors such as Ross Barnett (Mississippi) and George Wallace (Alabama) campaigned against civil rights legislation by smearing Martin Luther King for supposedly being part of a "communist training school" in Tennessee and claiming that King "belonged to more communist organizations than any man in the U.S," it was Hoover's bureau that produced information refuting such lies.

As author Taylor Branch reveals in his history of the civil rights movement, during the "freedom summer" of 1964, Hoover received information indicating that it was likely white supremacists would kill Martin Luther King at any moment. Hoover authorized FBI agents to accompany the unaware King on a flight through the South to secure his protection—that's just what an FBI man would do. Because most people now seem to learn history from the movies, it's unfortunate that a rather telling scene like that wasn't in this script.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/11/what-really-happened-between-j-edgar-hoover-and-mlk-jr/248319/

Oh my! Not a word on the FBI-drafted letter telling King he should kill himself or else his wife will be given copies of his sex tapes. Oops. Is Meroney a fool for the FBI?

Edited by Pat Speer
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“J. EDGAR”, from Clint Eastwood, and that cross dressing story…

November 8, 2011

“J. EDGAR”, from Clint Eastwood, and that cross dressing story… | Anthony Summers & Robbyn Swan

During the publicity campaign for the launch of the new Clint Eastwood movie J. EDGAR, there have been critical references to the account in my biography of J. Edgar Hoover - shortly to be republished. The criticism concerns the allegations I reported that Hoover, apparently a more or less repressed homosexual, also on occasion cross-dressed.

["J. Edgar Hoover's mystique lies in the fact that while he kept meticulous files with compromising details on some of America's most powerful figures, nobody knew the man's own secrets. Therefore, any movie in which the longtime FBI honcho features as the central character must supply some insight into what made him tick, or suffer from the reality that the Bureau's exploits were far more interesting than the bureaucrat who ran it -- a dilemma "J. Edgar" never rises above. With Leonardo DiCaprio bringing empathy to the controversial Washington power-monger, Clint Eastwood's old-school biopic should do solid midrange business.""In 1993, Anthony Summers published a tawdry expose titled "Official and Confidential, the Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover," which aired Susan Rosenstiel's claim that she had witnessed Hoover, a lifelong bachelor who was seldom seen without trusted deputy Clyde Tolson, wearing a cocktail dress at a gay orgy in New York. Though never corroborated, the claim stuck, and the legacy of this much-feared public figure -- who served as FBI director under eight presidents, across 48 years and through some of the most trying cases of the 20th century -- is now dominated by associations with cross-dressing...."]

I’ll here respond to such criticism.

The person principally cited on the cross-dressing is Susan Rosenstiel, a former wife of Lewis Rosenstiel, a millionaire distiller with close links to organized crime – and a longtime Hoover associate who contributed $1,000,000 to the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation. Those who suggest his former wife’s cross-dressing claim is not credible raise the fact that she had pled guilty in 1971 to an attempted perjury charge. I was aware of that, reported it in the original edition of my book Official and Confidential - and explained the circumstances. The charge was brought in connection with a civil suit and – I was told by New York State Legislative Committee on Crime interviewees – was thought by them to be unprecedented and bizarre. Noting that the charge was brought the very week the Committee intended to produce Susan Rosenstiel as a witness to her former husband’s Mafia links, the Committee sources said they believed the charge was instigated by Lewis, in an effort to discredit his former wife and thus obstruct the Committee’s inquiry. Court records showed that Lewis Rosentiel had used similar tactics to obstruct the course of justice in the past.

During six years’ work on Official and Confidential, which included repeated interviews with Susan Rosenstiel, her account on various areas – including the sex allegation – remained consistent. She signed an affidavit asserting that the information she provided was true. I asked Mrs. Rosenstiel to agree to a television interview and to grant me exclusivity for a matter of years, and paid her a fee in that connection. I emphasize, however, that the matter of a fee came only after she had given me her lengthy initial interview, which was therefore not tainted by any payment.

New York Judge Edward McLaughlin, former Chief Counsel of the Crime Committee, and Committee investigator William Gallinaro, told me Mrs Rosentiel had been an excellent witness. “I thought her absolutely truthful,” Judge McLauglin said. That too, was in my Hoover biography, and more – but was not quoted by any of those who assailed the passage on Susan Rosentiel in the book. Almost none of them noted, moreover, that a similar account of alleged cross-dressing came to me from two other interviewees, referring to a different location and a different timeframe. On the basis of all of this, and after discussion with my publishers, we included her account – which was broader than the cross-dressing allegation – in the book.

I would note, finally, that the cross-dressing allegation is one passage in a biography of some 600 pages. The overall reporting on his sexuality is pertinent to any study of the man, not least in the context of his insistence on the ruthless pursuit of homosexuals. It is one element in the evidence of Director Hoover’s overall abuse of Americans’ rights and freedoms.

A.S.

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Five myths about J. Edgar Hoover

Washington Post

By Kenneth D. Ackerman,

Published: November 9

1Hoover was a gay cross-dresser

Despite rampant speculation — that Hoover was gay, a cross-dresser or had no sex life — the truth about his sex life is nearly impossible to pin down. Hoover was married to his job and zealously protective of his public image. He lived in an era when being outed as gay would cost anyone his career and reputation, and he was not one to risk such consequences.

The story that Hoover, a lifelong bachelor, participated in cross-dressing, all-male sex parties in New York hotel rooms, as reported by British writer Anthony Summers in a 1993 biography, has been widely debunked by historians. The story’s source, the wife of a businessman and Hoover confidante, had a grudge from a contested divorce, and other investigations of the story came up empty.

If Hoover did have a gay relationship, most likely it was with his longtime FBI associate director, Clyde Tolson, another lifelong bachelor — but even this is disputed. Hoover and Tolson worked together more than 40 years. They traveled on vacation and official business, rode to work together, shared lunch nearly every day at Washington’s Mayflower hotel and sometimes even wore matching suits. Hoover, at his death, left Tolson most of his estate. Their relationship, by all appearances, was stable, discreet and long-lasting. But what they did physically behind closed doors, if anything, they kept between them.

Hoover did have some high-profile female friendships, including with actress Dorothy Lamour. In his 2004 biography of Hoover, Richard Hack cites sources claiming that he was discovered spending the night with Lamour in a Washington hotel — an isolated incident — and that when she was asked later about a sexual relationship between them, she said, “I cannot deny it.”

2 Hoover’s secret files kept presidents from firing him.

Hoover had particularly good relationships with at least two presidents he served under: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Of the others, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon all considered sacking him, but, files aside, they had good political reasons for keeping Hoover. Even in the 1960s, he had a strong public image as an honest, competent law enforcement technocrat. While his relationship with John and Robert Kennedy was often tense — yes, it was Hoover who, through wiretaps of Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, discovered President Kennedy’s affair with mob-connected socialite Judith Campbell Exner — Hoover also could have been covering up embarrassing secrets for Camelot.

Still, Hoover built his FBI files into an intimidating weapon, not just for fighting crime but also for bullying government officials and critics and destroying careers. The files covered a dizzying kaleidoscope — Supreme Court justices such as Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, movie stars Mary Pickford and Marilyn Monroe, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, physicist Albert EinsteinZionist leader Chaim Weizmann and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller III, among others — often replete with unconfirmed gossip about private sex lives and radical ties.

By 1960, the FBI had open, “subversive” files on some 432,000 Americans. Hoover deemed the most sensitive files as “personal and confidential” and kept them in his office, where his secretary, Helen Gandy, could watch them. Today, with few exceptions, Hoover’s FBI files are open for any American to see at the National Archives. They make fascinating reading and paint a stark portrait of power run amok.

3 Hoover was a coward.

Critics often accused Hoover of cowardice, pointing, for instance, to the fact that he didn’t join the military in June 1917, when he finished law school and the country was entering World War I. Instead, he took a draft-exempt job at the Justice Department.

Hoover, by most signs, would have preferred to join his contemporaries going “over there” to fight the Germans. At Central High School in Northwest Washington, he joined the cadet corps and was its captain during his senior year. He relished the pomp and ceremony, marching in uniform and palling around with his fellow cadets.Later, at the Justice Department’s Radical Division, Hoover’s craving for action led him to participate in a raid in February 1920 against one of the most dangerous leftist groups of that period, the L’Era Nuova gang in Paterson, N.J. The agents carried guns and confiscated plenty of weapons and explosives. Hoover interrogated the group’s leader and extracted the only direct evidence about the 1919 anarchist bombings that prompted that year’s Red Scare.

Rather than fleeing the draft, the more likely reason that Hoover took the Justice Department job in 1917 was that his 61-year-old father, Dickerson Naylor Hoover, who suffered from mental illness, had been forced to leave his job as a government clerk without a pension, making young J. Edgar financially responsible for the family. If anything, Hoover’s guilt over staying behind probably added to his later zeal against subversives at home.

4 Hoover was African American.

There are two theories that Hoover had African American heritage. One has it that he was born to an African American mother and secretly adopted by the Hoover family, a theory based on discrepancies in certain birth and census records. However, genealogist George Ott investigated the claim, failed to substantiate it and said he believes it to be false.

More plausible are stories like that told by writer Millie McGhee in her 2000 book “Secrets Uncovered: J. Edgar Hoover — Passing for White?” McGhee, an African American, claims that, based on family stories and genealogical records, she and Hoover had a common ancestor, a great-grandfather, making him a distant cousin. Hoover’s father’s family had roots in Virginia and Mississippi in the antebellum South, where interracial liaisons were not uncommon. Some mixing in his family tree is a possibility but remains unproven.

Hoover’s attitudes on race reflected those in the old Washington, where he grew up, a largely segregated Southern city. As FBI director, he repeatedly refused to involve the bureau in investigating anti-black race riots or protecting black civil rights workers in the South, insisting that these were matters for local police, even after the Supreme Court’s 1954Brown v. Board of Education decision.

5 Hoover’s legacy is a stain on the FBI’s reputation.

Hoover leaves a bipolar legacy. For better or worse, he built the FBI into a modern, national organization stressing professionalism and scientific crime-fighting. For most of his life, Americans considered him a hero. He made the G-Man brand so popular that, at its height, it was harder to become an FBI agent than to be accepted into an Ivy League college.

But he also stands as a reminder that 48 years of power concentrated in one person is a recipe for abuse. It was mostly after his death that Hoover’s dark side became common knowledge — the covert black-bag jobs, the warrantless surveillance of civil rights leaders and Vietnam-era peace activists, the use of secret files to bully government officials, the snooping on movie stars and senators, and the rest. Hoover’s name, carved in stone at the FBI headquarters on Pennsyl­vania Avenue, should serve as a caution to the public and the dedicated professionals who work inside. The FBI’s license to intrude into people’s lives gives it a special public trust. If the daily reminder of Hoover’s excesses can help impart that message, it will be the best safeguard for the positive side of his legacy: a modern, professional, science-based and accountable detective force serving the public interest.

Kenneth D. Ackerman, a D.C.-based lawyer at OFW Law, is the author of “Young J. Edgar: Hoover and the Red Scare, 1919-1920.”

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There goes Caddy again, doing his EHH impersonation.

The Atlantic has always been terrible on the JFK and RFK and MLK cases. I mean forever.

So now we get this piece of whitewash tripe about one of the worst people in 20th century American history. And Caddy is there to deliver it to us firsthand. With no qualifications.

Curt Gentry's fine book on Hoover is quite evenhanded. It does not at all favor King over Hoover.

But to do as this hack Meroney does, and say the awful letter was not mailed is complete BS. Here is Gentry:

"Sometimes in mid November, the long vile letter...was enclosed with a tape and mailed to King at the SCLC office in Atlanta." (p. 572) What was the intent of the letter? To get King to take his own life before he was exposed as a fraud. (ibid)

Further, a package of the tapes was then sent to Coretta King herself. (Gentry p. 573)

Now why did Hoover take such a high risk gamble? Gentry then notes: "[Hoover] had been shopping this stuff around all over Washington for months, but no newspaper reporter would touch it. "

So in reality, the facts are even worse than what Eastwood and his writer depict. For instance, Ben Bradlee--who Hoover tried to sell the tapes on-- states that the recording was so bad and inaudible he could not really make anything out. This has given suspicion to many that they were not kosher. SInce the technical facilities the FBI had were good.

And to soften Hoover's mania about King is just dishonest. Here is one quote: "He is one of the lowest characters in the country." (p. 573)

He also called him "one of the most notorious liars in the country" to a group of reporters and then stated the comment was on the record. (ibid)

Further it was not Hoover who tried to repair the damage, but King. (ibid)

As per RFK and the taps: Michael Beschloss commented on this per the ABC special on the Jackie Kennedy book. Hoover had fed RFK so much BS about King and the commie influence that some of it stuck. So RFK said he would authorize the taps for a month. If nothing came up, the matter would be dropped. The problem was that JFK was killed the next month. Hoover now realized that he did not have to answer to RFK anymore. Therefore he started ignoring his calls and then had RFK's private line removed form his office. But before this, Hoover had circulated an ugly dossier on MLK around Washington which RFK had forced him to withdraw.

As many authors have noted, who apparently Caddy has not read, Hoover's good pal LBJ was much more interested in the King sex and commie angle than the Kennedys. He actually listened to the tapes. And whereas RFK was going to fire King after the 1964 election, LBJ waived the mandatory retirement age so the blackmailing adder could stay on. Caddy and this writer did not know that?

[Jim, I think you meant to say JFK was going to fire Hoover, and not RFK was going to fire King.]

I saw the film today. It is what one would expect from someone like Eastwood and Ron Howard's company. The film is very mild and incomplete about the terrible crimes committed by this abomination of a person. If you can believe it, there is no mention of his COINTELPRO operation against the Black Panthers--which resulted in the deaths of many members. And the unlawful jailing of many others, like Geronimo Pratt. There is no mention of the famous internal memo about his fear of a Black Messiah who could rise up in the place of Malcolm X. There is no mention of the hiring of professional lying witnesses to convict innocent people. And there is no mention of course on how Hoover covered up the true circumstances of the murder of JFK.

What makes it worse is that the two episodes that Eastwood details--the Lindbergh kidnapping and the Palmer raids--are both inaccurate and incomplete. For instance, according to both Summers and Gentry (p. 91), unlike what Eastwood depicts, Hoover was not in the field during the Palmer raids; and he was not, as DiCaprio says, just following orders. Hoover was at HQ that night overseeing the operations which were nationwide. (Gentry, ibid) Further, he was in on the planning and the legal hanky panky to get around the illegality of the operations. (Ibid p. 89) Further, the film ignores the fact that the illegality of what Hoover supervised was so unique that it gave birth to the ACLU. And then Hoover targeted the lawyers who started this, while he tried to conceal his true role in the operation. A cover up it seems that Eastwood bought into.

There are other things the film gets wrong, like how and why Hoover got Emma Goldman. But here is my point: When Oliver Stone uses dramatic license, he gets jumped all over and tarred and feathered. When Eastwood uses it, what happens? Almost nothing. Or some FBI hack for Atlantic actually says he is too hard on poor Hoover. When in fact, its the opposite.

I am waiting for Aynesworth, the Post, NY TImes, LA Times, Dave Reitzes, DVP, Bugliosi, Gary Mack, Dave Perry, and McAdams to now chronicle all the uses of dramatic license in this film. Come on, let us be fair.

(Sound of crickets)

They won't of course. Why? Maybe because Hoover was the chief investigator for the Warren Commission? Therefore to show all the times he phonied up evidence to frame people would bring into question what he did for the Commission. And to show what a despicable fraud he really was--instead of the muddled and hazy view the film takes--would explain why he did what he did for them.

Nice going fellas. Your colors are really showing.

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One of the consequences of the internet is that it is not possible for the mainstream media to dominate our thinking about past events. If you type in "J. Edgar Hoover" into Google, you get the following results:

(1) Wikipedia

(2) Google Images of J. Edgar Hoover.

(3) J. Edgar Hoover (Character)Internet Movie Data Base

(4) J. Edgar Hoover (Spartacus Educational)

I would have thought that a large percentage of people who see the movie will use the internet to discover more about J. Edgar Hoover. If they do they will probably arrive on my page. Some of these will follow the link to this debate and others we have had on the forum about Hoover.

For example, this morning I had this email from Leigh Shirley:

I went to see the movie today "J. Edgar" which was relatively hard to follow due to all the information about events which took place when he was director of the FBI. The bio in this article as well as the interviews are extremely helpful in recalling events and remembering events in the order which they are revealed in the movie. The bio in this article explains much and is very helpful in trying to follow the movie. I will certainly comprehend the movie better now that I have refreshed my memory using the well explained events in this bio. Thank you for making it available.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAhooverE.htm

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Guest Tom Scully

....There are other things the film gets wrong, like how and why Hoover got Emma Goldman. But here is my point: When Oliver Stone uses dramatic license, he gets jumped all over and tarred and feathered. When Eastwood uses it, what happens? Almost nothing. Or some FBI hack for Atlantic actually says he is too hard on poor Hoover. When in fact, its the opposite.

I am waiting for Aynesworth, the Post, NY TImes, LA Times, Dave Reitzes, DVP, Bugliosi, Gary Mack, Dave Perry, and McAdams to now chronicle all the uses of dramatic license in this film. Come on, let us be fair.

(Sound of crickets)

They won't of course. Why? Maybe because Hoover was the chief investigator for the Warren Commission? Therefore to show all the times he phonied up evidence to frame people would bring into question what he did for the Commission. And to show what a despicable fraud he really was--instead of the muddled and hazy view the film takes--would explain why he did what he did for them.

Nice going fellas. Your colors are really showing.

There was a time when distinguished people in the U.S., especially those as committed to maintaining the integrity of the American judicial system as Hoover, Warren, and Jenner, Jr. represented themselves publicly to be, knew who was who and what was what. Fine men, doing their best in selfless service to the American people during a time of crisis, swiftly issuing a historic report of their official findings.

We are either forever in their debt, or if we've researched the details of who they were and what they did, the greater we appreciate how cynical and malevolent they really had to be.

http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=61488&relPageId=64

6339236069_17b20f1542_b.jpg

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