THE FBI: Inside J. Edgar's X-Rated Files

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One of the reasons why J. Edgar Hoover was able to hang on to power at the FBI for 48 years, until his death at 77 in 1972, was a collection of files he kept in cabinets in his private office. Known as Hoover's "O.C. files" (for official and confidential), they were crammed with salacious tidbits about the private manners and morals of politicians and other public figures, ready to be used or not used at the director's discretion. Every President was reluctant to tangle with Hoover, much less try to oust him, because he had such a strong popular following in the U.S. He could also retaliate with the ammunition he kept in his locked cabinets.

Last week Hoover's files were made available to the public—in a highly expurgated version. The Department of Justice agreed to release them as a result of a request submitted under the Freedom of Information Act by Morton Halperin, a former National Security Council aide who now heads a Washington project concerned with civil liberties. The FBI insisted on deleting all names and summarizing the reports, which, after all, may be more fiction than fact. The files perhaps tell more about Hoover than anyone else.

Sexual Obsession. In them, the longtime FBI chief appears almost obsessed with information about sexual habits, particularly homosexuality. In many of the 164 O.C. file folders, a deleted name is followed by the notation, "Alleged to be homosexual." In one memo, a man is reputed to be a homosexual and to be also having an affair with a woman. There is a report of a phone conversation between the director and Senator Joe McCarthy, who wondered whether somebody about to get an appointment was a homosexual. The folders even deal with allegations that Hoover himself was a homosexual. One three-page file is devoted to an FBI interview of a man claiming to have heard rumors that Hoover was "queer." A 1941 memo lists at least 23 people engaged in a "continuous whispering campaign" against the director.

Heterosexual escapades also intrigued Hoover. One file requires 50 pages to recount the affairs of a member of Congress—name deleted—between 1960 and 1963. Another report indicates that FBI agents stalked a Congressman one night as he "picked up a Negro female at a low-class night spot and tried to take her to a tourist home." On the way, the report continues, he was "followed by two Negro males who assaulted him." There is no indication that the agents tried to stop the assault.

Convention Services. A 1960 memo describes the arrest of four prostitutes who admitted that a name-deleted official procured their services at the Democratic National Convention that year. Hoover made sure his information about the arrest was passed on to the official. Wrote Hoover tersely: "He appreciated receiving allegations."

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