J. Edgar Hoover (1895–1972) was the controversial director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 1924 to 1972. After studying law, Hoover worked for the Department of Justice and the attorney general. At just twenty-nine years old, he was named director of the FBI. Hoover reorganized the FBI and instituted new policies and training to transform the bureau into a respected and specialized organization. In the 1930s, Hoover led the FBI in investigating cases of espionage, communism, and fascism, as well as well-known criminals. After the war, the FBI focused on organizations and individuals that it deemed “radical” on both the left and the right. During the 1960s, Hoover led a major investigation and smear campaign against Martin Luther King Jr. that included harassing King about his private life. He implemented various Counter Intelligence Programs (COINTELPRO), several of which involved legally questionable actions. A few years after Hoover’s death, an investigation by the Senate found that the FBI under Hoover had “conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and associations.”

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