Intelligence gathering in the 1950s.
Intelligence gathering in the 1950s.

LEAKS! FAKE NEWS! EXPLOSIVE TWEETS! Information is at a premium these days, but that’s nothing new. In his one-man war against communism, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover counted on the American people to say something when they saw something. 

1958 | Washington, DC

If You See Something, Say Something

Here are a few suggestions of what Americans can report to the FBI:

1. Any information about espionage, sabotage, and subversive activities. The FBI is as close to every person as the nearest telephone. See the front of any telephone book for the FBI’s number.

2. Don’t worry if the information seems incomplete or trivial. Many times a small bit of information might furnish the data we are seeking.

3. Stick to the facts. The FBI is not interested in rumor or idle gossip. Talebearing should always be avoided. The FBI is not interested in what a person thinks but what he does to undermine our national security.

4. Don’t try to do any investigating yourself. Security investigations require great care and effort. The innocent must be protected as well as the guilty identified. That is the job for the professional investigator. Hysteria, witch-hunts, and vigilantes weaken our internal security.

5. Be alert. America’s best defense lies in the alertness of its patriotic citizens.


Winter 2016

J. EDGAR HOOVER, from Masters of Deceit. At the age of twenty-four in 1919, Hoover ran the Radical Division in the Department of Justice, overseeing the Palmer raids, which led to the deportation of nearly a thousand foreign “subversives.” In 1924 he became director of the Bureau of Investigation, known as the FBI by 1935. “The Communist Party,” Hoover said in 1950, “is today a Trojan Horse of disloyalty, coiled like a serpent in the very heart of America.” In 1956 he began operations of COINTELPRO to investigate Communist Party activities. 

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