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Context of '1985: FEMA Takes Over Emergency Detention List from FBI'

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The FBI maintains a list of individuals that are to be closely monitored and/or detained in the event of a national emergency or war. The index of names, known officially as the “Custodial Detention Program,” is spawned from a list established in 1939 by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (see November 1939). The updated list is composed of persons thought to have a “Communistic, Fascist, Nazi, or other nationalistic background.” The list includes individuals that distribute “literature and propaganda favorable to a foreign power and opposed to the American way of life,” as well as “agitators who are adherents of foreign ideologies.” The names on the list are divided into two categories: those who are to be immediately detained in the event of war and those who are to be subject to close surveillance in the event of war. The program will be criticized for being unreliable and potentially illegal (see 1943). [Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, 5/1976, pp. 417]

Entity Tags: J. Edgar Hoover, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The FBI maintains a “Security Index” of US citizens that are to be targeted for surveillance and/or detention in the event of a national emergency or war. The list is carried over from the FBI’s Custodial Detention Program, which was abolished by the attorney general in 1943 (see 1943 and November 1940-1943). A government source tells the New York Times that the purpose of the Security Index is to “assist in rounding up people who might commit sabotage or espionage” in the event of a disaster. The index is at first composed mostly of suspected communists, but is later expanded to include a wide range of political groups. By the 1960s, names on the list include professors, teachers, labor union organizers, authors, journalists, doctors, scientists, and clergymen. The names on the Security Index are broken down into three categories: leaders of “subversive” groups, supporters of such groups, and supporters of such groups considered to be violent. At its peak in the late 1960s, the FBI’s Security Index reportedly lists more than 26,000 citizens. FBI Special Agent M. Wesley Swearingen will later say the number is actually much higher, claiming 50,000 people are on the list in Chicago alone. Sources will later tell the New York Times that the list includes several people who pose “no genuine internal security threat.” The list is utilized by the FBI’s secret COINTELPRO program, which is used to discredit anti-war and other “New Left” groups. The Security Index will be transferred to the Administrative Index within the FBI in late 1971 (see Late 1971). [New York Times, 8/3/1975; New York Times, 10/23/1975; New York Times, 4/29/1976; Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, 5/1976, pp. 420-421; Chicago Tribune, 3/2/1986]

Entity Tags: M. Wesley Swearingen, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), tells the House Appropriations Committee that the FBI is prepared to arrest 14,000 purported communists inside the US in the event of war with Russia. James M. McInerney, assistant attorney general, refuses to provide the committee with details regarding those on the list, but says they are “either out-and-out Communists” or are “sympathetic toward the Communist cause.” The officials are apparently referring to the FBI’s Security Index, which was established in 1943 (see 1943 and Early 1943-1971). [New York Times, 4/28/1951]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, House Committee on Appropriations, J. Edgar Hoover, James M. McInerney, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Congress revokes emergency detention provisions within the 1950 Subversive Activity Control Act in an attempt to ban the FBI’s controversial “Security Index” program. The decades-old Security Index lists thousands of citizens that are to be targeted for surveillance and/or detention in the event of a national emergency or war (see Early 1943-1971 and 1943). The FBI will still maintain the list in anticipation of the program’s reactivation. The FBI and the Justice Department will evade the Congressional ban by allowing the FBI to reestablish the list under a new name in late 1971 (see Late 1971). [New York Times, 8/3/1975]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The FBI, acting against the will of Congress, maintains a secret list of citizens to be monitored and/or detained in the event of a national emergency. Congress recently attempted to ban the FBI’s secret “Security Index” by revoking the Emergency Detention Act of the 1950 Subversive Activity Control Act (see 1971). The FBI, in an apparent attempt to subvert the repeal, changes the title of the detention list to the “Administrative Index,” or “ADEX” for short. A source from the FBI will say the change is in “name only.” Another FBI official acknowledges that the new index could be “interpreted as a means to circumvent [the] repeal of the Emergency Detention Act.” The Justice Department secretly decides that Congress has not restricted the FBI’s authority. In a memo to J. Edgar Hoover, Attorney General John N. Mitchell says the repeal by Congress does “not alter or limit” the FBI’s authority to “record, file, and index” names of purportedly subversive individuals. According to Mitchell, the FBI maintains plans for a national emergency that are “prepared on the basis of authority other than” the provisions revoked by Congress. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will later report that the FBI “continued to evade the will of Congress, partly with Justice Department approval, by maintaining a secret administrative index of suspects for round-up in case of a national emergency.” The FBI will maintian control of the list until 1985, when it will be transferred to FEMA (see Late 1971-1985 and 1985). [Associated Press, 12/18/1975; New York Times, 4/29/1976; Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, 5/1976, pp. 542-548; Chicago Tribune, 3/2/1986]

Entity Tags: John Mitchell, J. Edgar Hoover, Senate Intelligence Committee, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The FBI Administrative Index, known as ADEX for short (see Late 1971-1985), is transferred to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The index contains the names and background information of approximately 12,000 individuals considered to be potential threats in times of crisis. Citizens on the list are to be closely monitored and/or detained in the event of a national emergency. Documents later obtained by the Austin American-Statesman will reveal an internal struggle between FBI Director William Webster, who recommends the FBI maintain control of the list, and Attorney General Edwin Meese, who, along with Reagan adviser Robert McFarlane, demands the list be handed over to FEMA. The list ultimately ends up under the control of FEMA. [Texas Observer, 5/15/1987]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

US Representative Henry B. Gonzalez (D-TX) claims the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is prepared to detain 400,000 Central Americans residing in the United States in the event of an emergency. According to the Texas Observer, Gonzalez says reliable intelligence sources have informed him that the plan, if implemented, would also include a certain number of US citizens, noting that the agency maintains a list of “subversive” individuals to be monitored and/or apprehended in the event of a national emergency, a possible reference to the FBI’s Administration Index (see 1985). [Texas Observer, 5/15/1987; Miami Herald, 7/5/1987]

Entity Tags: Henry Gonzalez, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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