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Debates Rage on over Removing J. Edgar Hoover’s Name from New Headquarters

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Current FBI headquarters, via FBI

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Plans to build a new FBI headquarters have been in limbo under President Trump, but that hasn’t stopped lawmakers and others from debating whether to remove J. Edgar Hoover’s name from a new building.

The Washington Times talked [2] to lawmakers and former FBI officials to get their take. Some lawmakers scoff at the legacy of Hoover, the bureau’s first and longest-serving director. They say he discriminated against gay workers and squashed the civil liberties of black protesters, citing his obsession with Martin Luther King Jr.

“J. Edgar Hoover was an abomination on our history,” said Rep. Karen Bass, California Democrat and chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “I think they should find a name more reputable than J. Edgar Hoover. I mean, all that came out about him after his death: the way he threatened people, what he did in the African American community, what he did to Martin Luther King, what he did to the LGBT community, I could go on and on.”

Former agents say he was a crime-busting and national security hero and transformed the FBI into an effective, modernized federal agency.

“As a former agent, I am disappointed in the FBI for not doing more to defend Mr. Hoover’s legacy,” said William D. Brannon, a 30-year FBI veteran and chairman of the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes Hoover’s legacy with scholarships to underprivileged college students.

“He really is the father of modern law enforcement,” said John F. McCaffrey, director of the J. Edgar Hoover Institute and a former agent. “We need to recognize that. He did things like establish an identification division, he brought science to law enforcement. He may have had his shortcomings, but his accomplishments were tremendous, and we want to see him recognized.”

One Congressional Black Caucus member, Rep. Val Butler Demings, D-Fla., said agents should be able to decide the name of the new headquarters.

“I think it’s really important to understand how the men and women of the bureau feel about the first FBI director,” she said. “I think it’s really important to listen to them.”

But first, the federal government has to decide on a plan for a new headquarters. The current one is decrepit, can’t accommodate a lot of new technology and constitutes security concerns.

Until Trump came along, federal officials had narrowed down the locations for a new headquarters to Maryland and Virginia. Congress had even security a third of the funding.

But six months into his administration, Trump officials abandoned the previous plans, and the project has been in limbo since.