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2542FBI watched McCarthy anti-Hoover effort

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  • Greg Cannon
    Oct 24, 2007

      FBI watched McCarthy anti-Hoover effort

      By FREDERIC J. FROMMER, Associated Press Writer 7
      minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - When Eugene McCarthy ran for president in
      1968, he pledged to fire J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI
      director who had outlasted presidents from Calvin
      Coolidge to John F. Kennedy.

      Before long, McCarthy's calls for new FBI leadership
      were cataloged and commented upon by FBI officials in
      a nearly 500-page file, obtained by The Associated
      Press through the Freedom of Information Act. The file
      became available after McCarthy's death in December

      Much of McCarthy's file focuses on law enforcement
      duties surrounding the 1968 campaign, when McCarthy
      helped galvanize opposition to the Vietnam War by
      challenging President Lyndon B. Johnson for the 1968
      Democratic nomination. The Minnesota senator's strong
      showing in the New Hampshire primary led to Johnson's
      withdrawal from the race.

      According to McCarthy's file, FBI agents looked into
      death threats against the candidate, and kept records
      of his public travel and demonstrations. In the
      process, they also paid close attention to McCarthy's
      calls to replace Hoover, collecting several news
      clippings, letters and memos on the subject.

      For example, the FBI's Special Agent in Charge in
      Indianapolis wrote to Hoover on April 22, 1968 to
      inform him of a speech at Indiana University in which
      McCarthy said the U.S. should "re-examine the Federal
      Bureau of Investigation, and even reflect on who its
      director is."

      "I think this man is misguided and irresponsible and
      in my opinion does not deserve the status of a
      presidential candidate," wrote the agent, James T.
      Neagle. "I am certainly setting the record straight as
      to your ability and tremendous record as director of
      the FBI over the years," added Neagle, who included a
      newspaper clipping with the memo.

      Although Vietnam was the driving force behind
      McCarthy's campaign, the calls for Hoover's ouster fit
      with the campaign's general themes. (Vice President
      Hubert H. Humphrey, a fellow Minnesotan, wound up
      winning the Democratic nomination, but lost the
      presidential election to Richard Nixon.)

      Hoover had been running the FBI since 1924, and would
      hold the position until his death in 1972 — nearly a
      half-century at the helm.

      McCarthy's son, Michael McCarthy, said that their
      father warned about the "personalization of power,"
      seeing that in both Hoover and Johnson.

      "Dad felt very strongly about the danger of having the
      head of the FBI so unaccountable, so permanent,"
      recalled his daughter, Ellen McCarthy. "In the late
      '60s and early '70s, we had a wonderful family dog,
      Eric the Red. He who would go crazy at the mention of
      J. Edgar's name — growling and carrying on. It was one
      of Eric's tricks most appreciated by Dad."

      The file includes several other letters from people
      defending Hoover from McCarthy's criticism — with
      copies sent to Hoover. One Hoover admirer wrote to
      McCarthy, calling the criticism "in very bad taste, to
      say the very least, and without reason, logic or
      merit. I am certain that there are millions of
      Americans who feel as I do!"

      Once, Hoover took note of a memo circulated by the
      mayor of Jackson, Mich., which defended the FBI
      director from criticism by McCarthy. A newspaper story
      in the Jackson Citizen Patriot about the initiative is
      included in the file.

      "I have learned of your expression of support of my
      administration of the FBI and want to extend my
      thanks," Hoover wrote to the mayor, Maurice B.
      Townsend, Jr. At the bottom of the letter, the FBI
      adds this note: "There is no record of Mayor Townsend
      in Bufiles (Bureau files). We have had cordial
      relations with the Jackson Citizen Patriot and its
      editor, Honorable Herbert W. Spendlove, is on the
      Special Correspondents' List."

      That list referred to reporters the FBI had identified
      as friendly, said Athan Theoharis, a retired Marquette
      University history professor who has written several
      books on the FBI and Hoover. Another list had
      reporters who were not to be contacted, Theoharis

      The FBI even took note of the state of McCarthy's
      campaign hotel bills. In August 1968, Joseph D.
      Purvis, Special Agent in Charge in the Washington,
      D.C. Field Office, wrote to Hoover to tell him about a
      conversation he had with "one of our good friends at
      the Mayflower," a famous Washington hotel. The
      person's name is redacted from the file.

      Purvis wrote that the campaign had four rooms booked
      since June, and hadn't made any payments — with the
      hotel bill exceeding $20,000 by the end of July. He
      also noted that his Mayflower source was not aware of
      the nature of the campaign business in those rooms,
      "but he has observed those who use them are primarily
      young people, both white and colored."

      "By and large, he said, 'they are a pretty crummy
      bunch.' They seem to enjoy room service immensely,"
      Purvis wrote.

      The FBI's interest in McCarthy's activities extended
      to the senator's family as well.

      Once, when she was 20 years old, McCarthy's daughter
      Ellen took a tour of the FBI. The FBI file includes a
      memo from August 1968 that is almost certainly a
      report of that trip, although the names are redacted.

      The memo, titled "SPECIAL TOUR OF BUREAU," reports
      that a man waiting for a special tour appointment
      asked if the person who had just left the room was the
      (redacted) of McCarthy.

      When told that was the case, he said "that he thought
      it was quite ironic that the individual who had stated
      he would force Mr. Hoover to retire if elected
      president was now sending his (redacted) down to the
      FBI ..." the memo states. "All in the room appeared to
      be quite amused by this aside, and their laughter
      plainly indicated on which side their sympathies were
      in the J. Edgar Hoover-McCarthy matter."

      When shown a copy of the memo, Ellen McCarthy said she
      and a friend toured the FBI around that time.