President," Director J. Edgar Hoover said to FDR sixty-seven
years ago, on August 24, 1936, "there is no government
agency compiling such general intelligence [about dangerous
organizations in the U.S. with international connections].
Of course, it is not a violation of law to be a member of
the Communist Party and we have had no specific authority
to make such general investigations."
said, "It seems to me there must be some way this could
be done, Edgar. Have you any suggestions?"
there is a way," Hoover said. "In the Appropriation
Act under which we operate, the FBI has authority to undertake
an investigation for the Department of State when requested
to do so by the Secretary of State. We could make the investigation
should the Secretary request it of the Attorney General."
frowned. He said it seemed rather odd to him that the President
couldn't make such a request himself
want you to come back tomorrow and talk this over with Cordell
[Secretary of State Hull] and me," Roosevelt said.
conversation, reconstructed by historian Don Whitehead in
The FBI Story: A Report to the People (New York: Random House,
1956), captures President Roosevelts response to potential
threats to national security posed by communist and fascist
groups in the U.S.each of which claimed more that a
million membersas well the activities of diplomats like
Constantin Oumansky, a Soviet Official.
returned the next day and received Secretary Hulls request
that the FBI investigate the foreign connections of domestic
communist and fascist groups. And on September 1, the President,
Secretary of State and Director reached final agreement on
the request and related matters. Hoover issued orders to make
such an investigation and, upon the Attorney Generals
return from vacation, informed him of the Presidents