Example: [Brunvand, 1993]
I heard this tale from someone whose college roommate said he had heard Watergate conspirator
J. Edgar Hoover, former director of the FBI, had a rule stating that all FBI memoranda were required to be shorter than two and one-half typed pages and with wide margins all around. Hoover himself once received a memo that violated this prescribed length and format.
The writer had managed to cram more words into his memo by reducing the size of the margins. Hoover responded by writing on the memo, "Watch the borders!" When Hoover's subordinates saw the note, they assigned hundreds of special agents to guard our national borders with Mexico and Canada.
What there is little debate about, however, are the numerous petty abuses he unthinkingly subjected subordinates to. Hoover ruled with an iron fist and was seldom questioned even when his way of doing things was suspect. He viewed the department as his and everyone in it as there to do his bidding, and he often failed to separate his away-from-the-office needs with his requirements as director of the FBI. Bureau personnel were routinely used to write his speeches, run his errands, and even fill out his personal income tax returns. His private concerns became departmental concerns as Hoover regarded the department as an extension of himself.
One incident in particular highlights this attitude: Upon going on a diet to battle his own bulge, he issued a Bureau-wide directive that henceforth agents would conform to the suggested weight standards of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company or else. A round of crash diets quickly followed, with every overweight agent in the field offices and at headquarters hastily shedding extra pounds they'd
Hoover was famous for penning instructions and comments in distinctive blue ink in the margins of FBI memos, then routing them back to the sender for action. Perhaps it was this habit which fueled his insistence that all memos have generous white space left around their text — he needed a place to scrawl his notes after all, and in Hoover's mind his needs were the department's needs.
Cartha DeLoach was Hoover's assistant from 1965 to 1970, making him the
Several days later a supervisor was again reviewing the memo when the answer to the question jumped out and smacked him in the face. The memo had been typed with the narrowest possible margins. Hoover, always fastidious, had picked up his pen and in annoyance had scrawled, "Watch the borders!"
Barbara "hoover craft" Mikkelson
Last updated: 9 July 2007
Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Baby Train. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993. ISBN 0-393-31208-9 (pp. 128-129). DeLoach, Cartha D. Hoover's FBI. Washington: Regnery Press, 1995. ISBN 0-89526-479-X (pp. 95-96).