How powerful was J Edgar Hoover

Happy the country that has such heroes. More than forty years ago, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein revealed the "dirty tricks" used by the American president to get rid of his opponents and stay in office. Richard Nixon, who had at least approved the break-in at the Watergate Hotel, the headquarters of the opposing Democrats, had to resign after months of denial and blatant abuse of office to forestall a dismissal procedure. The reporters had overthrown a lying, increasingly paranoid president, a man who had become a criminal in the White House. Woodward and Bernstein, immortalized in the film "The Untouchables", are the heroes that every journalist must adore.

Bob Woodward had a source that provided him with material on Nixon's machinations. He named her "Deep Throat" after a porn movie that millions of Americans watched secretly at the time and, as a professional, didn't even reveal her to his partner Bernstein. It only became known in 2005: W. Mark Felt outed himself as a tipster. Felt had access to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) research on the Watergate case, he had all the incriminating material to show how Nixon was lying in despair, and he had a burning desire to to take revenge on the president.

Felt had hoped to be his successor after the death of long-time FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover in 1972. Felt served twice as acting head of the FBI, twice passed over him by Nixon, who incidentally suspected Felt of being Woodward's informant. Vengeance is mine, Felt said to himself, and made use of the two journalists. So Woodward and Bernstein became his unsuspecting assistants and (but what else?) Heroes. The real hero of Watergate, however, adhered to the rules of clandestine and in the background.

Everyone knows that Donald Trump has to be afraid

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump fired James Comey on the grounds that the FBI chief had exaggerated the number of privately sent e-mails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before the committee of inquiry. The reasoning is a joke that the humorless paranoid in the White House would not have believed. Comey's assertion, trumpeted ahead of the November presidential election, that Clinton's e-mails had been transmitted illegally cost her enough votes that Trump could take away what was believed to be a victory. Everyone knows that the president must fear that the FBI's investigation will prove wrongdoing on him, not Hillary Clinton. Finally, Comey has also spoken publicly, and perhaps prematurely, that Trump's connections to Russia could be un-American. If not the FBI, who would be independent enough to investigate suspected government crime?

For decades the FBI formed a state within a state, and it was more efficient than any government. That was up to J. Edgar Hoover, who became a founding director in 1935 and stayed there for 37 years. From Franklin Roosevelt to Nixon, six presidents worked under him. During the First World War, the lawyer had already entered the Ministry of Justice, where he was able to rise quickly to the Bureau of Investigation because he was involved in espionage and the defense against potentially hostile foreigners and proved to be very successful in doing so.

The fight against organized crime earned him lasting fame, which, like Hoover himself, owed its rise to prohibition and the resulting gang crime. The police were not up to these gangs for a long time; the gangsters had the better guns and the faster cars. In the federal system of fifty states, it was easy to flee to the next state after a bank robbery. Systematic prosecution was only possible with a federal agency (hence the "Federal Bureau"). Hoover was celebrated in the newsreel as he led Lepke Buchalter away with the harness on his wrist. Even better was the appearance that Hoover gave the FBI and its agents through the film "G-Men" (1935). James Cagney played an FBI agent who acted just as heroically as John Dillinger, except that he was now on the side of law. In 1959, Hoover was able to increase this propaganda success with the "FBI Story", for which James Stewart, the epitome of the upright American, was won over as the leading actor. The end of Prohibition or the recovery from the economic crisis were not responsible for the temporary defeat of organized crime, but it was the all-seeing, all-knowing J. Edgar Hoover and his all-powerful machine, the FBI. Hoover himself had defeated the crime.