President Kennedy's assassination introduced the violent aspect of the era

known as the "Sixties." This period, which actually lasted into the

mid-1970s, was characterized by idealism, but also by increased urban crime

and a propensity for some groups to resort to violence in challenging the



Most Americans objecting to involvement in Vietnam or to other policies

wrote to Congress or carried peace signs in orderly demonstrations.

Nevertheless, in 1970 alone, an estimated 3,000 bombings and 50,000 bomb

threats occurred in the United States.


Opposition to the war in Vietnam brought together numerous

anti-establishment groups and gave them a common goal. The convergence of

crime, violence, civil rights issues, and potential national security issues

ensured that the FBI played a significant role during this troubled period.


Presidents Johnson and Nixon and Director Hoover shared with many Americans

a perception of the potential dangers to this country from some who opposed

its policies in Vietnam. As Hoover observed in a 1966 PTA Magazine article,

the United States was confronted with "a new style in conspiracy--conspiracy

that is extremely subtle and devious and hence difficult to understand...a

conspiracy reflected by questionable moods and attitudes, by unrestrained

individualism, by nonconformism in dress and speech, even by obscene

language, rather than by formal membership in specific organizations."


The New Left movement's "romance with violence" involved, among others, four

young men living in Madison, Wisconsin. Antiwar sentiment was widespread at

the University of Wisconsin (UW), where two of them were students. During

the very early morning of August 24, 1970, the four used a powerful homemade

bomb to blow up Sterling Hall, which housed the Army Math Research Center at

UW. A graduate student was killed and three others were injured.


That crime occurred a few months after National Guardsmen killed four

students and wounded several others during an antiwar demonstration at Kent

State University. The FBI investigated both incidents. Together, these

events helped end the "romance with violence" for all but a handful of

hardcore New Left revolutionaries. Draft dodging and property damage had

been tolerable to many antiwar sympathizers. Deaths were not.


By 1971, with few exceptions, the most extreme members of the antiwar

movement concentrated on more peaceable, yet still radical tactics, such as

the clandestine publication of The Pentagon Papers. However, the violent

Weathermen and its successor groups continued to challenge the FBI into the



No specific guidelines for FBI Agents covering national security

investigations had been developed by the Administration or Congress; these,

in fact, were not issued until 1976. Therefore, the FBI addressed the

threats from the militant "New Left" as it had those from Communists in the

1950s and the KKK in the 1960s. It used both traditional investigative

techniques and counterintelligence programs ("Cointelpro") to counteract

domestic terrorism and conduct investigations of individuals and

organizations who threatened terroristic violence. Wiretapping and other

intrusive techniques were discouraged by Hoover in the mid-1960s and

eventually were forbidden completely unless they conformed to the Omnibus

Crime Control Act. Hoover formally terminated all "Cointelpro" operations on

April 28, 1971.


FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died on May 2, 1972, just shy of 48 years as

the FBI Director. He was 77. The next day his body lay in state in the

Rotunda of the Capitol, an honor accorded only 21 other Americans.


Hoover's successor would have to contend with the complex turmoil of that

troubled time. In 1972, unlike 1924 when Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone

selected Hoover, the President appointed the FBI Director with confirmation

by the Senate. President Nixon appointed L. Patrick Gray as Acting Director

the day after Hoover's death. After retiring from a distinguished Naval

career, Gray had continued in public service as the Department of Justice's

Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. As Acting Director, Gray

appointed the first women as Special Agents since the 1920s.


Shortly after Gray became Acting Director, five men were arrested

photographing documents at the Democratic National Headquarters in the

Watergate Office Building in Washington, D.C. The break-in had been

authorized by Republican Party officials. Within hours, the White House

began its effort to cover up its role, and the new Acting FBI Director was

inadvertently drawn into it. FBI Agents undertook a thorough investigation

of the break-in and related events. However, when Gray's questionable

personal role was revealed, he withdrew his name from the Senate's

consideration to be Director. He was replaced hours after he resigned on

April 27, 1973, by William Ruckleshaus, a former Congressman and the first

head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who remained until Clarence

Kelley's appointment as Director on July 9, 1973. Kelley, who was Kansas

City Police Chief when he received the appointment, had been an FBI Agent

from 1940 to 1961.


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