1919: The Palmer Raids- Facilitated by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Justice Department’s Radical Division, carried out massive multi-day raids across the nation. When the raids ended, somewhere in between 6,000 and 10,000 radicals or suspected radicals where in jail, many of which were arrested and held without warrants. Although considered a success at the time, the offensive received heavy criticism for its unconstitutional nature.
1920: The Bombing of Wall Street- In September of 1920, Marxist-Anarchists exploded a large car bomb parked outside of the J.P. Morgan bank on Wall Street in New York City. Dozens were wounded or killed and buildings sustained damages for blocks in either direction. In the mind of J. Edgar Hoover, the attack re-confirmed the the threat of subversive terrorism in the U.S., a threat that would stay with him his whole life.
1924: J. Edgar Hoover made the Director of the Bureau of Investigation- After only a few years serving as the head of the Justice Department’s Radical Division, J. Edgar Hoover is made the Director of the Bureau of Investigation. He retained that title when in 1935, the organization was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He remained in that post until 1972.
1934: The Killing of John Dillinger- After the wave of backlash the Bureau sustained after the Palmer Raids and the hysteria of the first Red Scare, J. Edgar Hoover diverted his attention to fighting the crime that emerged with the rise of The Great Depression. One of his most notable accomplishments from this era is the Bureau’s killing of infamous bank robber John Dillinger.
1940: The Smith Act- Purposed by Virginia Congressman Howard Smith, the Smith Act made it illegal to advocate for any ideology that would support the violent overthrow of the American government. This was the precedent needed by the U.S. government to arrest confirmed Communists, Anarchists, or Nazi Sympathizers because of the violent rhetoric contained the prominent literature of the three respective ideologies.
1941: William Sullivan Joins the FBI- In light of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entrance into World War II, a young William Sullivan joins the FBI. Sullivan rises through the ranks of the FBI, creating the COINTELPRO system and eventually rising to the third highest rank in the Bureau.
1942: 8-Man Nazi Spy Ring Exposed in the U.S.- In 1942, eight Nazi spies land in the United States with a mission of embedding themselves in the country and sending information about industrial production and war procedure back to Germany. Four land on Long Island and four land in Florida. After one of them came forward and confessed to the FBI, the rest of the ring were tracked down and exposed.
1947: J. Edgar Hoover Testifies before the House Un-American Activities Committee- Seated before congressional members of the committee, Hoover claimed to have evidence of an incredible amount of Communist and Soviet infiltration in the United States. The speech would scare the HUAC into action kicking off the darkest era of the Second Red Scare.
1948: The Accusation of Alger Hiss- Called before the HUAC, former Communist Party member Whittaker Chambers accuses State Department official Alger Hiss of being a Soviet spy. Although at the time they could not convict Hiss of espionage, he was sentenced to jail for perjury.
1951: The Cinematic Release of I Was a Communist For the FBI– Matt Cvetic, a Pittsburgh resident, was contracted into the FBI as a professional informant in 1941. Under orders from the FBI he infiltrated the Communist Party and worked his was up the ranks. By the early 1950s he had testified at HUAC hearing for some of the country’s most notable communist leaders. However, by this time his alcoholism and history of domestic abuse was becoming a serious problem for the FBI. As a way to cash in on his experiences, he co-wrote a serious of magazine serials entitled I Was a Communist for the FBI. By 1951, the stories were made into a film that was ironically nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary.
1953: The Execution of the Rosenbergs- In exchange for amnesty, Ethel Rosenberg’s brother accused the couple of supplying secrets about military technology to the Soviet Union. The pair was executed for espionage in 1953 and the event is considered the height of the Second Red Scare.
1956: The Founding of COINTELPRO- In an effort to become more proactive in their intelligence gathering techniques and systems, William Sullivan founds COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program). The program secretly compiled hundreds of thousands of files containing illegally and unconstitutionally acquired intelligence on surveyed individuals and organizations.
1958: The Publishing of Masters of Deceit– As part of his massive public relation campaign to unite the American people against the communist threat, J. Edgar Hoover publishes a book under his name entitled Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism in America and How to Fight It.
1961: The FBI Begins its Surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr.- In light of supposed links in between the Communist Party and the fledgling Civil Rights movement, the FBI begins to follow Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. The FBI will continue to follow, wiretap, bug, and harass him until his death in 1968.
1964: William Albertson Ousted from the Communist Party- In July of 1964 the FBI used a strategy called “Snitch Jacketing” in which they planted false documents in the car of William Albertson, a high ranking Communist Party member. After the documents were discovered by fellow CP members, Albertson was expelled from the Party for being an alleged informant.
1971: The Media, PA Break-In- In March, the Citizen’s Commission to Investigate the FBI breaks into a small FBI office in Media, PA. The group leaks stolen classified documents to congress and the press exposing for the first time the extent of FBI surveillance during the past 30 years.