Good news, bad news

Via the New York Times, a newly declassified 1950 proposal — 12 days after the start of the Korean War — from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to Sidney Souers, then special national security assistant to President Truman:

For some months representatives of the FBI and of the Department of Justice have been formulating a plan of action for an emergency situation wherein it would be necessary to apprehend and detain persons who are potentially dangerous to the internal security of the country…

[I]n order to immediately protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage the Attorney General [would be] instructed to apprehend all individuals potentially dangerous to the internal security…

[We would suspend] the Writ of Habeas Corpus [the right of US citizens to seek judicial relief for illegal detention, a cornerstone of the US Constitution and Western law for seven centuries] for apprehensions made pursuant to it…

[A] list of names of individuals which names have previously been furnished from time to time to the Attorney General by the FBI as being individuals who are potentially dangerous to the internal security…

It should be pointed out that the plan does not distinguish between aliens and citizens and both are included in its purview…

For a long period of time the FBI has been accumulating the names, identities and activities of individuals found to be potentially dangerous to the internal security through investigation. These names have been compiled in an index which index has been kept up to date. The names in this index are the ones that have been furnished to the Department of Justice and will be attached to the master warrant referred to above. This master warrant will, therefore, serve as legal authority for the FBI to cause the apprehension and detention of the individuals maintained in this index.

The index now contains approximately 12,000 [!!!] individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven per cent are citizens of the United States [!!!]…

The permanent [!!!] detention of these individuals will take place in regularly established Federal detention facilities… [and] military facilities…

The plan calls for a statement of charges to be served on each detainee and a hearing be afforded the individual within a specified period. The Hearing Board will consist of three members to be appointed by the Attorney General composed of one Judge of the United States or State Court and two citizens. The hearing procedure will give the detainee an opportunity to know why he is being detained and permit him to introduce material in the nature of evidence in his own behalf. The hearing procedure will not [!!!] be bound by the rules of evidence.

The good news: they didn’t do it.

The bad news: Hoover remained Director of the FBI for the next 22 years.

As a side note, next time we discover that one or another military or intelligence or law enforcement agency is accumulating lists of otherwise law-abiding citizens, and talking heads go on TV and say that’s a totally innocuous thing to do, that nothing bad could happen — well, the talking heads will either be stupid or lying.