By Chet Yarbrough
Enemies: A History of the FBI
By Tim Weiner
Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
Tim Weiner (American Author)
One does not come away from Tim Weiner’s book knowing where the line is drawn between value and scorn for government intrusion in the lives of Americans in a “free” society. This seems particularly relevant today when veracity, political bias, and honesty of the FBI is being seriously questioned.
J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972. 1st Director of the FBI from 1924 to 1972)
“Enemies…” is about the rise of the F.B.I. and J. Edgar Hoover’s role in the growth of American domestic intelligence. Weiner reports on questionable FBI tactics employed by Hoover. Hoover sets the table for violation of human rights with a power that defies the intent of the American Constitution.
Even though overt American legislation denies the right of the government to arbitrarily investigate private citizens, Hoover throws “habeas corpus”
into the trash.
(Habeas corpus is a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention.)
Weiner shows Hoover to lie about wire-tapping and gathering information on private citizens without warrant or judicial review. Hoover creates files that give the F.B.I. secret information about the personal sex lives of elected and government appointed bureaucrats and uses that information to influence elected officials and the American public.
Wiener suggests Hoover’s perception is that communism infiltrates all anarchist’ and most American government-opposition’ movements. Hoover crosses the line between free society and tyranny. He gathers information on individual citizens, union movements, civil rights, and accused domestic terrorists with an unshakable belief in his own perception of reality.
The historical facts of Weiner’s presentation gives context to the American communist beliefs of the 40s, 50’s, and 60’s that seems to warrant some of the inventiveness of Hoover’s actions.
However, a listener is intellectually and emotionally torn by recounted beliefs held by some American and British citizens of Marxian communism. Some were willing to foment a social revolution by any means necessary. Others were simply expressing a personal opinion among friends of the same opinion; not to foment revolution, but to explain what they believe denies equal protection, and/or equal rights in America.
Wiener shows that some actions by the FBI warranted investigation. He notes Klaus Fuchs who gave the Soviet Union secrets of the atomic and hydrogen bombs in the 50s, and the British agent, Kim Philby, who betrays American and British agents of the F.B.I., C.I.A. and British MI-5. (Agents were murdered because of Philby’s betrayal.)
The unfortunate consequence of Hoover’s domination of the F.B.I. is that it evolves into a vehicle of suppression, subject to the whims of one human being’s prejudices. This is particularly apparent in the rise and fall of McCarthyism.
America is a government of checks and balances and when any American agency abandons those criteria of governance, it compromises public freedom.
Every human being is flawed; every human being is subject to the good and bad qualities of human nature. When the F.B.I. or any government agency is dominated by one person, it fails the test of good government. That seems a justifiable critique of Hoover’s career in the FBI.
Serious questions are raised about the veracity, political bias and honesty of today’s FBI. There is the Clinton email investigation, the Trump collusion investigation, the firing of James Comey, and the Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok dismissals.
“Enemies: A History of the FBI” is a relevant subject for the 21st century because of technology’s potential for exponentially invading personal privacy. Checks and balances through rule of law are a free society’s only protection against human nature’s fallibility.
The American Constitution’s checks and balances are being used to address the FBI’s role in America. Though answers are not to everyone’s satisfaction, and individual FBI careers have been tarnished, there is little evidence of gross violations of rule of law. There is ample evidence of human nature’s fallibility. Human fallibility only reminds us of ourselves.