Making Mojo in the G-Man Cave

In 1952 Learned Hand ruled “publicity is a black art.” The good judge wasn’t really ahead of the curve. J. Edgar Hoover already had his coven in thrall for 28 years when Ike moved into 1600 Penn. Nobody looking for the fast track to an influential career dared crossing it. Most of the ones who did never even knew they had. The full tally of losers who died in ruin without hearing the snake that bit them was buried with JEH.

Melvin Purvis, who caught more public enemies in 8 years than any Fed since, got hung by celebrity. Taking down John Dillinger in 1934 was the damning offence. Hoover had seen his employee’s name in print many times too many and newsreels turned the bile to venom. Purvis left the FBI in 1935 but it was too late.  Fate was out of his hands. The director was always steps ahead cutting opportunity off at the pass. Purvis, alcohol and morphine addled, shot himself in 1960. Whether it was suicide or not his end was no accident. J. Edgar Hoover: The M... Curt Gentry Best Price: $2.00 Buy New $15.99 (as of 11:35 EST - Details)

For most of his 48 years as director Hoover had the press on a string and practically dictated the copy that appeared in dailies. The Bureau came off as slick and highly professional. They were supposedly too busy rounding up kidnappers, bank robbers, foreign agents and violent criminals for anything petty or partisan. The sneaks keeping tabs on politicians, actors, writers, artists, musicians, activists, academicians, businessmen and anybody else blipping the radar never even made the back-pages.

Hoover’s trench coats soaked taxpayers for what it cost to look through their keyholes. There was nothing idle about the curiosity. The dope amassed was put to use blackmailing, blackballing, bribing, bludgeoning and terrorizing thousands. Nobody voted for it or for J. Edgar Hoover. The whole enterprise oozed out of the need to organize federal records and enforce a few fraud statutes in 1908. From there it mandated its own indispensability.

60 some years later their responsibilities had vastly expanded. New duties included planting phony stories in the L.A. Times and other papers to run down people the boss wasn’t keen on.  One falsely claimed the child married actress Jean Seberg carried was illegitimate and black. Hoover died before the scheme paid off in full when Seberg committed suicide in 1979.

Hollywood still doesn’t have the cojones to square off against the director’s ghost. After 4 decades in the ground where is a single film depicting the gossip tabloid paparazzi the vast majority of his G-Men were? Feebs stand as tall as ever on the large and small screens. In the flick America is owed special agents slink around eavesdropping like deranged landlady’s. Enemies: A History of ... Weiner, Tim Best Price: $2.70 Buy New $11.89 (as of 02:10 EST - Details)

No organization or website keeps comprehensive accounts of FBI scandals. A very legitimate fear of reprisal probably dissuades most observers. But an ordinary news follower can recall an overwhelming record of irresponsibility, failure and sleazy priorities without any institutional assistance.

Feds continue to sic the press on the most casual suspects in high profile cases with all the hard evidence of a lynch mob. The Richard Jewell, Wen Lee Ho, Abdullah Higazy, Stephen Hatfill and Brandon Maytfield cases come up without scratching the surface. Once they gave up on framing Hatfill for the anthrax mailings Bruce Ivins was dogged beyond the brink by agents. His suicide is racked up as a W on federal books. Higazy’s bogus confession to the crime of the century on 9-11 was coerced during a polygraph examination. Mayfield never visited Spain, where the crime in question occurred, in his life. Authorities there refuted the FBI’s fingerprint identification more than three weeks before the arrest. The press got a different story.

September 2005 Criminal Minds premiered dramatizing a renaissance in flower at the Bureau’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. Viewers were already getting blinded with scientific crime solving from every network at the time. CBS seized the day and took the concept over the top. Sherlock Holmes, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Martin Heidegger were cloned for one character. The others drip with so much brilliance and human goodness it’s hard on your stomach.

The crew of wunderkind from Quantico on the show deal frequently with the press. Reporters covering the 30 years of gross mismanagement in FBI forensic crime labs haven’t gotten a single line in ten years.

Throughout the 70’s surveys revealed rife incompetence in crime labs around the country. The FBI’s was supposed to be an exception. It wasn’t. In a famous case from 1975 examiner Thomas Curran couldn’t even get a Secrecy and Power: The... Powers, Richard Gid Best Price: $0.25 Buy New $13.50 (as of 11:55 EST - Details) blood type right. Not a single student in my high school biology class flunked that. Massive deceit at the FBI’s Quantico lab came out again in 1996. In what has become an American tradition whistleblower Frederic Whitehurst, after being ignored for years, was forced to go public. Naturally he faced discipline and had to lawyer up.  The details of Whitehurst’s revelations threw test conclusions used in thousands of trials into doubt.

Considering the potential number of falsely imprisoned this fraud far exceeds the human suffering inflicted by Bernie Madoff. We’ll never know how many cases were competently re-examined or swept under the rug. Only ten per cent of 2600 convictions from the hair fiber unit have been reviewed 18 years later. Other units of the lab accused of shoddy work and falsified results have received even less scrutiny. They don’t seem to be learning from past goofs either. Recent inspections, NYT 12-19-2014, show they can’t even responsibly warehouse common evidentiary material. Hits and detail are sparse in web searches on these scandals. Spin and damage control are the two categories where America’s top-cops are over-qualified.  

In 1992 FBI informant Emad Salem was deep inside the cell plotting the first WTC bombing. That operation was called off too early to avert the February 1993 attack. Documents in Arabic seized in another investigation corroborated the plan. They sat in storage untranslated for 2 years. Less than 10 years later agent Collen Rowley’s request for a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s computer and apartment was denied 3 weeks before 9-11.

We’ll remain forever in the dark about how close Feds got to Lee Harvey Oswald. They were covering their tracks before Jack Ruby was printed. The first thing to go was a threatening note the assassin left at the FBI’s Dallas headquarters. In history’s most famous flush the evidence got filed in the local sewer system. James Hosty, who was ordered to destroy the message, leaves us with this assessment of his career:

“I…came to understand that one of our jobs was to protect the Bureau’s image at all costs, even if it ran roughshod over individuals or principals.” J. Edgar Hoover and Cl... Darwin Porter Best Price: $6.38 Buy New $58.25 (as of 08:00 EST - Details)

The principals that prevail under the banner of Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity have been known to mesh with covering for and conspiring with murderous mobsters for decades. The bureau brass has clammed up about these capers with an omerta that would leave any capo di tutti capi proud.

On Wall Street fidelity starts with Goldman Sachs and works its way down. After a financial crisis that ended up costing trillions in bailouts, (and how many depends whose counting 1, 2, 3,),  the FBI hasn’t found enough to indict a single executive of a major investment bank on that score in 7 years. Instead they pointed Federal snipers at college kids with the nerve to call out a K-Wall Street conspiracy.

So it was impressive that enough evidence to proceed against Sergey Aleynikov was uncovered after a 2 day investigation in a highly complex computer code case. Aleynikov left Goldman Sachs in June 2009 for Teza Technologies at triple pay. He was arrested July, 3 pretty much on Goldman’s say-so.  Federal Judge Denise Cole sentenced Aleynikov to 97 months when guidelines recommended 24. February 16, 2012 the Second Circuit reversed his conviction in a ruling on the same day as argument finding no crime occurred. Michael McSwain, acting as an agent of the Bureau and its Goldman bosses, convinced Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to try him again on state charges. It’s the kind of admirable tenacity that took down Martha Stewart for a supposed fib about cutting losses in a single stock sale by $45,000. You’ll never catch Goldman Sachs stooping for paltry coin like that.

It’s hard to remember a well-publicized case where the Bureau shined and wasn’t hiding something. After their responses to Ruby Ridge and Waco it’s even harder to imagine a revelation that could humble them. All this comes up without even delving deep, the whole wretched story would fill volumes. What corporation could sport this kind of record and remain in one solid revenue generating piece?

FBI personnel have increased by a factor of 1000 since Teddy Roosevelt’s administration. That’s not a particularly unusual rate of growth for a successful American organization over the course of 100 years. But how Amazon.com Gift Card i... Check Amazon for Pricing. successful they really are is never too clear. According to TRAC the FBI makes about 15,000 criminal referrals to the DOJ per year. 58% of those get prosecuted. With 34,000 employees and a budget of over 8 billion it doesn’t sound like a bargain.

Any other national endeavor expanding at the same rate would have to have a satisfied customer base. But the FBI product’s end user is not necessarily a blindfolded lady holding scales. The American people picked up the tab for a 250 page file on writer Raymond Chandler. The film noir phenomenon had spurned an offer to join Hoover and Clyde Tolson for dinner. A lucky waiter was sent back to the director with the counteroffer, “tell Mr. Hoover to go to hell,” in the middle of the McCarthy era. The little toadstool’s reaction had to be the best tip that server ever got.

All of JEH’s PR campaigns did not come off as planned. Richard Nixon, John Mitchell and John Ehrlichman took Mr. Hoover up on a meal at his home in 1969. After a quirky spread of chili and steak the new president was invited for a nip in the basement rec room. The chief, Ehrlichman tells us, wasn’t prepared for the self-conscious man-cave lurking at the bottom of the steps.  The creeped out prez bolted from the den of nudie pictures and frat boy amenities after one short snort. Manly manhood was the part of the image master’s image he could never make fit.

We’ll probably never find out if all the free advertising Sony got from the FBI for a certain flop like “The Interview” was arranged. Feds are about as imaginative as Captain Renault when it comes to rounding up suspects. But their unhealthy relationships with Hollywood, news media and Wall Street reek with everything that’s wrong in Washington today. Anyone who has the means to get in with the in-crowd at the top enjoys privileges, immunities and reputational boosts that no one could ever actually earn.

Does the spookacracy that pores through the daily communications of working stiffs ever listen in on meetings at the top floors of Wall and Broad? Will we ever see special agents on the trail of shady think-tanks, lobbies, sweet-heart deals, consumer coercion ploys and corporate agents plotting new laws, foreign policy and executive regulation on the sly? How about pointing all that snoop-ware at the most well-worn path of travel and communication in the country between South Manhattan and the District of Columbia?  We are no more likely to see such things than outside oversight for the Bureau rifling their files, scrutinizing their priorities and holding feet to the fire when they are out of line. If these modest proposals aren’t in the national interest then a caste system is what America’s great destiny must be all about.    

Nobody down at headquarters buys all the innuendo making Tolson’s better-half out to be a sissy-boy. Top-secret sources reveal that Hoover’s infamous G-man cave was disassembled and put back together intact in the remote reaches of 935 Pennsylvania Avenue. Chosen agents convene there for esoteric rituals where federal credentials work like magic amulets. Summoning strange occult powers from the dark, cheap self-serving careerists convert their outward earthly forms into fearless, noble knights of the realm. Official word from the Bureau will neither confirm nor deny these allegations.