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J. Edgar Hoover’s “Official & Confidential” Files

A Byte Out of History
J. Edgar Hoover’s “Official & Confidential” Files


Director Hoover Working at the Desk in His OfficeToday marks an historic moment in FBI history: the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has formally accessioned the J. Edgar Hoover Official and Confidential Files (O&C Files) from FBI Records.

Why historic? Because, while much of the material has already been released, this transfer sets the stage for future generations of historians to learn more about J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.

What exactly are the O&C Files?

Some 17,000 pages contained in 165 files that Hoover retained in the privacy of his own office suite.

They evolved in an interesting way. In the beginning—and Hoover’s FBI dates back to 1924—Hoover kept most sensitive and national security files in his office suite for safe keeping. By 1941, the collection had grown exponentially, so he had them reorganized, sent the bulk of them to his National Defense Division (now called the Counterintelligence Division), and restricted to his office only “confidential items of a more or less personal nature of the Director’s and items which [he] might have occasion to call for from time to time.”

These were everything from sensitive information from ongoing case files to sensitive administrative matters; from notes (both benign and derogatory) on political leaders, media, and other individuals to materials for congressional hearings and briefings; from research for attorneys general and presidents to notes on persons and organizations critical of the FBI. There were even book and movie reviews. And there is also Richard Nixon’s background investigation, as he had once applied to become an FBI special agent.

Why did Hoover segregate these out from FBI Central Records?

Good question. And given some of the derogatory materials, you can understand why the subject has been controversial. But, as Hoover noted, it was convenient for him to have at hand materials that he routinely used for internal business and for administration and congressional briefings. He also wanted to closely hold highly sensitive information that, if leaked, could destroy cases, careers, and reputations both inside and outside the Bureau. Only two people had access to the files: Hoover and his secretary Helen Gandy. Now you have access to them too.

- National Archives Press Release