The chairman of the House Government Reform Committee wants to take former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's name off the FBI Building in Washington, D.C., saying Hoover doesn't deserve the honor since he frequently took the law into his own hands.
"Several reasons played an important role in my decision to introduce this important piece of legislation," said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ill. "J. Edgar Hoover clearly abused his role as director of the FBI. Symbolism matters in the United States, and it is wrong to honor a man who frequently manipulated the law to achieve his personal goals."
Hoover was director of the FBI from 1924 until his death in 1972. While credited as an effective leader of the law enforcement agency, he has also been called a control freak who participated in illegal activities to achieve his own ends.
An FBI spokesman said that the bureau had heard that Burton was introducing the legislation, but would not comment on its objective.
In introducing the legislation, Burton cited the example of Hoover's investigation into the FBI's use of informants in New England, which involved blatant misconduct by the FBI. One man, Joe Salvati, was thrown in prison for 30 years even though investigators knew he was innocent of the murder for which he was accused, but they wanted to protect their mob informant.
"I am very dismayed with the FBI's handling of the Joe Salvati case, adding to my disappointment with Hoover," Burton said. "There is no reason we should honor a man who threw everything out the window, including the lives of innocent men, in order to get what he wanted."
The Government Reform Committee has held a series of investigative hearings focusing on the internal procedures that existed when Hoover ran the bureau, including using derogatory information to influence politicians, conducting illegal or unconstitutional surveillance of U.S. citizens, using the FBI's significant powers to disrupt the civil rights movement and using the FBI to benefit favored politicians.