Why was J Edgar Hoover controversial

Clinton's email affair : The controversial role of the FBI in the United States

The controversy surrounding the use of a private mail server by former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton highlights the often controversial role of the American Federal Police, the FBI. After the agency turned down a criminal investigation against Clinton that summer, FBI Director James Comey put the matter back on the agenda less than two weeks before the election. Critics accuse Comey of trying to intervene in the election campaign. It is not the first time that the agency has become embroiled in a scandal with its behavior.

The founding of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the forerunner of which was formed against opposition in Congress before the First World War, was already controversial: MPs feared the emergence of a secret police. In fact, the FBI combines the characteristics of a police agency with those of a domestic intelligence agency. Unlike the foreign services CIA and NSA, the FBI can target American citizens. The question of control over this agency has been in the background of all FBI scandals for decades.

Under the long aegis of the legendary FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, who was at the head of the police from 1924 to 1972, accusations were repeatedly made against the agency. The FBI fought liquor smugglers and mafia bosses, but also monitored suspected radical leftists and played an active role in the witch hunt of alleged communists in the 1950s, one of the darkest chapters in recent American history. In the 1960s, the FBI investigated, among others, against the civil rights activist Martin Luther King. In addition, files were created on prominent artists who the FBI found suspicious, including Charlie Chaplin and John Lennon.

For decades, the police authority has repeatedly been accused of monitoring and arresting potential enemies of the state without the necessary permits and sometimes with the help of manipulated evidence. In addition, the authority is suspected of not being so committed to the truth as to the wishes of the respective prosecuting authorities in investigations. An investigation of around 270 court cases last year concluded that the vast majority of FBI experts acted in favor of the prosecution when it came to hair analyzes. A total of 14 defendants were sentenced to death in these cases.

The widespread monitoring of phone calls, emails and communication via social networks has further increased distrust of the FBI. For example, the former secret service employee Edward Snowden accused the federal police of stealing data from users of Facebook, Google and other technology companies.

The FBI wants to expand its powers in this area and is demanding permission from Congress to collect information about a user's movements on the Internet and other data without a court order. Affected companies such as Yahoo, Google and Facebook warned parliament a few months ago that this request by the FBI would amount to an expansion of snooping powers without judicial supervision.

Now FBI director Comey has drawn the federal police into the hot phase of the presidential election campaign. As recently as the summer, the chief of police had emphasized that there was no evidence on which to base criminal investigations against Clinton.

Last Friday he spoke up with a letter to Congress in which he made vague hints about new information - according to media reports, the FBI had known for weeks about the new emails, not from Clinton herself, but from her advisor and close Employee Huma Abedin are said to come from. The Washington Post reports that a conservative and Clinton-hostile group within the FBI has pressed for an investigation into the ex-secretary of state. President Barack Obama announced on Monday that he thought Comey was a man of integrity and did not think he wanted to influence the election; he has a high opinion of him and trusts him.

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