The FBI’s Porn Stash

Jul 17 2012 @ 3:00pm

David Rosen reviews a new history, The FBI’s Obscene File, by Douglas Charles:

In 1942, this system formally came to be known as the Obscene File, and it remained in force until the 1990s when the F.B.I. shifted its focus to mainly child pornography. … While Charles never says so explicitly, there’s been a prurient aspect at the heart of the F.B.I. since its founding. Someone, often a white, conservative Christian G-man, had to acquire, review, analyze, classify, ship, store, and maintain the obscene materials in the File. Sadly, the author never speculates as to the temptation posed by so much obscene materials at F.B.I. headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The files also played a role in the persecution of gays:

In 1937, the F.B.I. began to systematically investigate homosexuals; during World War II, gays were deemed a security risk; in 1951, amidst the Cold War, Hoover set up the "Sex Deviates" file. In 1953, President Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450 that prohibited the employment of gays and lesbians in the federal government. According to some estimates, 1,500 employees were fired and another 6,000 resigned. Nevertheless, as Charles reports, by 1971 the reign of terror against gays stopped and the 300,000-plus pages of information on suspected gays, lesbians, and sexual-rights organizations were destroyed.

Along the same lines, William McGowan reports on a criminal organization that used fake cops to blackmail closeted gays in the 1960s:

The bulls would explain the penalties for violating sodomy laws or corrupting a minor, then demand an outright bribe, or as they did to the Princeton professor, suggest that the victim pay “bail money” as a way of avoiding making his arrest public, or prison. In some cases the bulls might induce a payoff by putting a victim together in a room with another man they pretended to have arrested for the same thing elsewhere in the hotel. That other man might say something like: “Hey, I can’t afford to be arrested. I’m going to offer them money, what about you?” Having the victim induce the payoff, rather than demand the money outright, lowered the criminals’ exposure in court.