According to a newly declassified document, the New York Times reports, a plan by former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover sought to suspend habeas corpus during wartime, with the intention of imprisoning thousands of Americans indefinitely.
Hoover’s plan was submitted to the White House twelve days after the start of the Korean War. Under the plan, approximately 12,000 people deemed as “potentially dangerous” to national security, 97% of whom were American citizens, would have been rounded up and sent to military prisons without due process.
The prisoners eventually would have had a right to a hearing under the Hoover plan. The hearing board would have been a panel comprised of one judge and two citizens. But the hearings “will not be bound by the rules of evidence,” [Hoover’s] letter noted.
The Constitution says habeas corpus shall not be suspended “unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.” The plan proposed by Hoover, the head of the F.B.I. from 1924 to 1972, stretched that clause to include “threatened invasion” or “attack upon United States troops in legally occupied territory.”
In September 1950, Congress passed and the president signed a law authorizing the detention of “dangerous radicals” if the president declared a national emergency. Truman did declare such an emergency in December 1950, after China entered the Korean War. But no known evidence suggests he or any other president approved any part of Hoover’s proposal.
The entire New York Times article can be read HERE.