Wall St. Journal: Strip J. Edgar Hoover's name from FBI headquarters

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In the course of an editorial about congressional opposition to the administration's eavesdropping program, the WSJ recommends that what congress really should be doing is renaming the FBI building.

J. Edgar Hoover, the editorial states, was the worst public servant in US history.

Quoting from the editorial:

Eternal vigilance, it's been rightly said, is the price of liberty. But Americans are not well served by politicians in Washington who keep crying wolf over imagined violations of their civil rights.

The latest hysteria surrounds the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping of terror suspects. Congress is planning hearings, and even many usually sound legislators continue to question the White House. But it's become clear in the weeks since the story broke that Administrations of both parties as well as the courts have always held that warrants are not required for such intelligence gathering.

We'd also have an easier time taking our solons seriously if they'd ever demonstrated they understand what the real abuse of surveillance powers looks like. A good place to start would be stripping J. Edgar Hoover's name from FBI headquarters.

For at least 30 years, Congress has known full well that Hoover didn't serve nearly five decades as FBI director because he was indispensable, but because he'd amassed potentially embarrassing information on the elected leaders who might have wanted to remove him from his post. Hoover was also willing to use the FBI illegitimately to spy on the politically difficult likes of Martin Luther King Jr. It has even been suggested that Hoover engineered Lyndon Johnson's nomination for the Vice Presidency by threatening JFK with the revelation of his extramarital affairs. That Hoover's name continues to adorn FBI headquarters needlessly shames every one of the honest civil servants who report for work there on a daily basis.

But don't just take our word about Hoover. Ask federal judge Laurence Silberman, who as acting Attorney General in the 1970s was one of the few Americans to examine Hoover's files after his death and who, having served as an appeals judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, knows a thing or two about the use and abuse of executive power. Judge Silberman has described Hoover as a "sewer" and "the worst public servant in our history." Last summer we published an op-ed in which the judge elaborated on what he'd seen in those files, though no one in Congress seemed to pick up on it.

Contrast Hoover's abuses with the program the Bush Administration's critics have described. No one has found any evidence of any spying recently on anybody's domestic political enemies. Instead, the "controversial" NSA surveillance has been directed at people with unambiguous al Qaeda connections. Nor was it a secret in the sense of being hidden from other parts of government.

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