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John Edgar Hoover (1895 – 1972) was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972. Hoover is credited with building the FBI into a large and efficient crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modern innovations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories.
Late in life, and after his death, Hoover became an increasingly controversial figure. He exceeded the jurisdiction of the FBI. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. It is because of Hoover\'s long and controversial reign that FBI directors are now limited to 10-year terms.
In 1956, Hoover was becoming increasingly frustrated by Supreme Court decisions that limited the Justice Department\'s ability to prosecute people for their political opinions, most notably, Communists. At this time he formalized a covert \"dirty tricks\" program under the name COINTELPRO.
This program remained in place until it was revealed to the public in 1971, and was the cause of some of the harshest criticism of Hoover and the FBI. COINTELPRO was first used to disrupt the Communist Party, and later organizations such as the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King, Jr.\'s SCLC and others. Its methods included infiltration, burglaries, illegal wiretaps, planting forged documents and spreading false rumors about key members of target organizations and flooding L.A. with drugs. Some authors have charged that COINTELPRO methods also included inciting violence and arranging murders.
Since the 1940s, rumors have circulated that Hoover was gay. It has been suggested that Clyde Tolson, an associate director of the FBI who was Hoover\'s heir, may have been his lover.
Hoover hunted down and threatened anyone who made insinuations about his sexuality. He also spread unsubstantiated rumors that Adlai Stevenson was gay to damage the liberal governor\'s 1952 presidential campaign. His extensive secret files contained surveillance material on Eleanor Roosevelt\'s alleged lesbian lovers, speculated to be acquired for the purpose of blackmail.
This may all be urban legend. Attorney Roy Cohn, an associate of Hoover during the 1950s investigations of Communists and himself a closeted homosexual, opined that Hoover was too frightened of his own sexuality to have anything approaching a normal sexual or romantic relationship.