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Profile: Francis Biddle
Francis Biddle was a participant or observer in the following events:
Attorney General Francis Biddle abolishes the FBI’s Custodial Detention Program, which is designed to round up suspected dissidents in times of national emergency or war (see November 1940-1943). However, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover secretly re-establishes the list under a new name: the Security Index (see Early 1943-1971). Biddle clearly informs the FBI: “There is no statutory authorization or other present justification for keeping a ‘custodial detention’ list of citizens.… [I]t is now clear to me that this classification system is inherently unreliable.” The attorney general comments: “The evidence used for the purpose of making the classifications was inadequate; the standards applied to the evidence for the purpose of making the classifications were defective; and finally, the notion that it is possible to make a valid determination as to how dangerous a person is in the abstract and without reference to time, environment, and other relevant circumstances, is impractical, unwise, and dangerous.” But Hoover does not comply with the attorney general’s order. He instead changes the name of the list from the Custodial Detention Program to the Security Index. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will later report, “The attorney general and the Justice Department were apparently not informed of the FBI’s decision to continue the program.” FBI headquarters informs its field offices, “The fact that the Security Index and Security Index Cards are prepared and maintained should be considered strictly confidential, and should at no time be mentioned or alluded to in investigative reports, or discussed with agencies or individuals outside the bureau other than duly qualified representatives of the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Military Intelligence Division, and then only on a strictly confidential basis.” [Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, 5/1976, pp. 420-421]
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