Young J. Edgar: Hoover, the Red Scare and the Assault on Civil Liberties

Kenneth D. Ackerman, Author
Kenneth D. Ackerman, Author . Carroll & Graf $28.95 (472p) ISBN 978-0-78671-775-0
Reviewed on: 04/02/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007

Ackerman, a Washington lawyer (Boss Tweed ), examines the "red scare" hysteria that swept the country in 1919. The linchpin in the government's actions was the notorious Palmer Raids, a series of raids and arrests ostensibly designed to rid the country of anarchists and Communists. Though many at the time believed J. Edgar Hoover played only a small role in the raids, in fact they were organized by Hoover, then only a 24-year-old Department of Justice agent who Ackerman describes as possessing an uncanny ability to please his superiors, a preternatural ability to attend to detail and a dangerously distorted moral compass. The mixture of Hoover and the other personalities prominent in the story—Clarence Darrow, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs and Felix Frankfurter, to name a few—makes for a compelling story that features demagogues; terrorists; a gullible, xenophobic public; rogue law enforcement officials; and good guys, both in and out of government, who discredit the raids. Ackerman captures well the pathological character of the young Hoover and argues effectively that there is a cautionary tale in the corrosive effect of the denial of civil liberties and extralegal measures employed in the red scare raids. Illus. (June)

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