War Era: 1960's - 1970's
Kennedy's assassination introduced the violent aspect
of the era known as the "Sixties." This
period, which actually lasted into the mid-1970s,
was characterized by idealism, but also by increased
urban crime and a propensity for some groups to resort
to violence in challenging the "establishment."
Americans objecting to involvement in Vietnam or
to other policies wrote to Congress or carried peace
signs in orderly demonstrations. Nevertheless, in
1970 alone, an estimated 3,000 bombings and 50,000
bomb threats occurred in the United States.
to the war in Vietnam brought together numerous anti-establishment
groups and gave them a common goal. The convergence
of crime, violence, civil rights issues, and potential
national security issues ensured that the FBI played
a significant role during this troubled period.
Johnson and Nixon and Director Hoover shared with
many Americans a perception of the potential dangers
to this country from some who opposed its policies
in Vietnam. As Hoover observed in a 1966 PTA Magazine
article, the United States was confronted with "a
new style in conspiracy--conspiracy that is extremely
subtle and devious and hence difficult to understand...a
conspiracy reflected by questionable moods and attitudes,
by unrestrained individualism, by nonconformism in
dress and speech, even by obscene language, rather
than by formal membership in specific organizations."
New Left movement's "romance with violence" involved,
among others, four young men living in Madison, Wisconsin.
Antiwar sentiment was widespread at the University
of Wisconsin (UW), where two of them were students.
During the very early morning of August 24, 1970,
the four used a powerful homemade bomb to blow up
Sterling Hall, which housed the Army Math Research
Center at UW. A graduate student was killed and three
others were injured.
crime occurred a few months after National Guardsmen
killed four students and wounded several others during
an antiwar demonstration at Kent State University.
The FBI investigated both incidents. Together, these
events helped end the "romance with violence" for
all but a handful of hardcore New Left revolutionaries.
Draft dodging and property damage had been tolerable
to many antiwar sympathizers. Deaths were not.
1971, with few exceptions, the most extreme members
of the antiwar movement concentrated on more peaceable,
yet still radical tactics, such as the clandestine
publication of The Pentagon Papers. However, the
violent Weathermen and its successor groups continued
to challenge the FBI into the 1980s.
specific guidelines for FBI Agents covering national
security investigations had been developed by the
Administration or Congress; these, in fact, were
not issued until 1976. Therefore, the FBI addressed
the threats from the militant "New Left" as
it had those from Communists in the 1950s and the
KKK in the 1960s. It used both traditional investigative
techniques and counterintelligence programs ("Cointelpro")
to counteract domestic terrorism and conduct investigations
of individuals and organizations who threatened terroristic
violence. Wiretapping and other intrusive techniques
were discouraged by Hoover in the mid-1960s and eventually
were forbidden completely unless they conformed to
the Omnibus Crime Control Act. Hoover formally terminated
all "Cointelpro" operations on April 28,
Director J. Edgar Hoover died on May 2, 1972, just
shy of 48 years as the FBI Director. He was 77. The
next day his body lay in state in the Rotunda of
the Capitol, an honor accorded only 21 other Americans.
successor would have to contend with the complex
turmoil of that troubled time. In 1972, unlike 1924
when Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone selected
Hoover, the President appointed the FBI Director
with confirmation by the Senate. President Nixon
appointed L. Patrick Gray as Acting Director the
day after Hoover's death. After retiring from a distinguished
Naval career, Gray had continued in public service
as the Department of Justice's Assistant Attorney
General for the Civil Division. As Acting Director,
Gray appointed the first women as Special Agents
since the 1920s.
after Gray became Acting Director, five men were
arrested photographing documents at the Democratic
National Headquarters in the Watergate Office Building
in Washington, D.C. The break-in had been authorized
by Republican Party officials. Within hours, the
White House began its effort to cover up its role,
and the new Acting FBI Director was inadvertently
drawn into it. FBI Agents undertook a thorough investigation
of the break-in and related events. However, when
Gray's questionable personal role was revealed, he
withdrew his name from the Senate's consideration
to be Director. He was replaced hours after he resigned
on April 27, 1973, by William Ruckleshaus, a former
Congressman and the first head of the Environmental
Protection Agency, who remained until Clarence Kelley's
appointment as Director on July 9, 1973. Kelley (pictured
left), who was Kansas City Police Chief when he received
the appointment, had been an FBI Agent from 1940