Martin Luther King and the Secret Police
Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover at his desk, ca 1930s-1940s. Source: FBI.gov
Today (January 16, 2023) is the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday. It’s a good day to remember the man, his principles, and his courage. It’s a good day to celebrate his ideals of equality, peace, and justice.
This brings to mind one aspect of King’s life that should never be forgotten. It’s his relationship with America’s Secret Police, the Federal Bureau of the Inquisition, er, Investigation.
In the early 1960s, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover decided that Martin Luther King Jr. was an “enemy” of the United States. He persuaded President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy that one of King’s advisors was a communist. They gave Hoover permission to investigate King, and Hoover bugged King’s bedroom.
Hoover used the recordings, which contained evidence of adulterous sexual activity, to try to threaten King into withdrawing from public life if not drive him to suicide. King ignored this “anonymous” blackmail attempt even as Hoover sent the tapes to others in politics and the media. No one but Hoover was obsessed with King’s private life.
King had the courage to face down Hoover, who couldn’t go public himself and admit he surveilled King without a search warrant.
But how many others did Hoover succeed in blackmailing? In 1971, House Majority leader Hale Boggs said, “Our very fear of speaking out (against the FBI) … has watered the roots and hastened the growth of a vine of tyranny … which is ensnaring that Constitution and Bill of Rights which we are each sworn to uphold.”
Has the FBI and other federal police/spy agencies grown more enlightened since the days of Hoover, who died in 1972?
Is there any reason to believe that they are?
Some years later, Edward Snowden proved that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress about collecting data on…