J. Edgar Hoover, the antiquated director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has never held any sympathy for advocates of civil disobedience or for vociferous, active reformers. On several occasions he publicly vilified the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in language which was scurrilous and abusive. Thus it is not surprising that he should now lash out against Students for a Democratic Society and other New Left groups, terming them threats to American security.
His February 23 testimony before a House appropriations subcommittee, released yesterday, demonstrates an incredible lack of familiarity with students groups and their goals. He testified that SDS is "anarchistic," "subversive," and "infiltrated by Communist party members." He described its purpose of movement to be "an almost passionate desire to destroy, to annihilate, to tear down." Hoover apparently equates reform with anarchy.
But more dangerous are the political, ideological values his remarks imply. While there may be justification for viewing the tactics of the Revolutionary Action Movement and other militant groups as threatening, there is no conceivable justification for his calling SDS ideology "anti-American prattle." Hoover's statement was made before President Johnson announced a reversal in Vietnam policy, and perhaps Hoover would now be more reductant to equate opposition to the war with sedition. Nevertheless, his personal judgements on what opinions are "safe" for the country constitute a threat to freedom of thought and political opinion.
Hoover commands more cooperation from Congressional committees than does any other man with the possible exception of General Hershey. And as head of a 16,000-man, two-hundred million dollar organization. Hoover has the kind of semi-autonomy that makes his political stands particularly dangerous. It is the responsibility of the next President of the United States to remove him from office, and it is the responsibility of University administrators now to clarify the nature of maligned political organizations.