By Pat Shannan
As panning critics drove moviegoers away from Hollywood’s glossed-over depiction of J. Edgar Hoover in the movie J. Edgar faster than the Democrats could force the nosedive of Herman Cain in the polls, much comes to mind about the distorted, historical portrait of the 48-year reign of America’s top G-man.
While no one dared discuss it while he was alive, Hoover was a bad example of a lawman. A closet homosexual (although claims he was a transvestite are probably untrue), he authorized illegal wiretapping and surveillance bugs on innocent people, as well as suspects, and maintained continuing dossiers on everybody who was anybody—all of which made him the 20th century’s poster boy for rampant abuse of power. His underhanded tactics of officially documenting what he knew to be lies about prominent people—followed by threats of publication if they didn’t back away from the current issue at hand—became well known throughout the political circles of Washington.
It was precisely these tactics used by Hoover to destroy and later jail New Jersey Representative Cornelius Gallagher—who persisted after being warned—in his investigation into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) ability to spy on Americans. Gallagher began hearings on the topic in the 1960s.
After creating a scenario of affiliation with the local N.J. mob, the FBI broke into the congressman’s home, stole his personal stationery and forged documents connecting him to local Mafia chieftain Joe Zicarelli. They also forged telephone tapes of Gallagher talking with Zicarelli and succeeded in getting Life magazine to publish a false story about it. Agents warned Gallagher’s lawyer that unless he resigned, Life would print a story that a N.J. gambler had died of a heart attack at his home while in bed with his wife.
Today’s legalized payoffs to lying witnesses would have made Hoover deliriously happy.
Hoover was so compromised by New York mobsters that for decades he denied the Mafia even existed. This control apparently went back to the late 1920s when the director had been arrested on homosexuality charges in New Orleans. He was able to keep the news suppressed, but could not keep the information out of the hands of the laughing mob, and each agreed to leave the other alone, with mutual benefits.
When Hoover and Deputy Director Clyde Tolson suddenly began to frequent the racetrack, N.Y. mobster Frank Costello later explained to British journalist Anthony Summers that they were tipping off Hoover on fixed races at Belmont and Pimlico.
“The cheapskate would still bet only 10 bucks, even when he knew he couldn’t lose,” chuckled Costello.
Irving “Ash” Resnick was a New England mobster who had vacationed with Hoover at Miami Beach, and later built the popular Caesar’s Palace casino. He confirmed for writer Pete Hamill the private life rumors of the director and his assistant and explained that it was the notorious Meyer Lansky who “nailed Hoover with the pictures [of Hoover and Tolson] and had made the deal to ‘lay off.’”
Hoover had nothing to do with the Lindbergh kidnapping investigation, but managed to use it as a springboard for getting the Lindbergh Law on the statute books. This provided for federal jurisdiction within the states and opened the door to the unconstitutional Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Food and Drug Administration, etc. abuse that local sheriffs face today.
Pat Shannan is an AFP contributing editor and the author of several best-selling videos and books.