16. Letter From the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Hoover) to the President’s Special Consultant (Souers)1

My Dear Admiral:

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 thought you would be interested in a brief outline of the plan.

Action to Be Taken By the Department of Justice

The plan envisions four types of emergency situations: (1) attack upon the United States; (2) threatened invasion; (3) attack upon United States troops in legally occupied territory; and (4) rebellion.

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The plan contains a prepared document which should be referred to the President immediately upon the existence of one of the emergency situations for the President’s signature. Briefly, this proclamation recites the existence of the emergency situation and that in order to immediately protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage the Attorney General is instructed to apprehend all individuals potentially dangerous to the internal security. In order to make effective these apprehensions, the proclamation suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus for apprehensions made pursuant to it.

The plan also contains a prepared joint resolution to be passed by Congress and an Executive Order for the President which too will validate the previous Presidential proclamation.

The next step in the plan is a prepared order from the Attorney General to the Director of the FBI to apprehend dangerous individuals, conduct necessary searches and seize contraband as defined in the plan. Together with the order to the Director of the FBI the Attorney General will forward a master warrant attached to 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. If for some reason the full plan is not put into operation it has so been drawn that the section applicable only to alien enemies may be put into effect.

Action to Be Taken By the FBI

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 twelve thousand individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven per cent are citizens of the United States. Immediately upon receipt of instructions and the master warrant from the Attorney General the various FBI Field Divisions will be instructed by expeditious means to cause the apprehension of the individuals within their various territories. Each FBI Field Division maintains an index of the individuals within its territory, which index is so arranged that it may be used for ready apprehension purposes. Upon apprehension the individuals will be delivered to the nearest jail for temporary detention and action by the Attorney General.

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Detention and Subsequent Procedures

The permanent detention of these individuals will take place in regularly established Federal detention facilities. These facilities have been confidentially surveyed and the facilities have been found to be adequate in all areas except in the territory covered by the FBI’s New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco Offices. In these three areas arrangements have been perfected with the National Military Establishment for the temporary and permanent detention in Military facilities of the individuals apprehended.

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 Hearing Board may make one of three recommendations, that is; that the individual be detained, paroled or released. This action by the Board is subject to review by the Attorney General and the Attorney General’s decision on the matter will be final except for appeal to the President.

The details of this plan as set forth in this communication have also been furnished on this date to Mr. James S. Lay, Jr., Executive Secretary, National Security Council.

With expressions of my highest esteem and best regards,

Sincerely yours,

J. Edgar Hoover
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 273, Files of the National Security Council Representative for Internal Security 1947–69, Box 36, Problem 11. Personal and Confidential; by Special Messenger. A handwritten notation reads: “Mr. Coyne has suggested that you probably will choose to discuss this with Mr. Lay and Mr. Coyne.” This is followed by an initial that appears to be an “S”. The initials JPC probably indicate that J. Patrick Coyne, NSC Representative for Internal Security, read the letter. Souers sent a noncommittal reply on July 14. (Ibid.)