Hopeless Cases describes the futile search for those responsible for a series of apparently related terrorist attacks and plots in the World War I-Red Scare era during the final surge of early twentieth-century anarchist violence in the United States. The most brazen attacks occurred in 1919 when bombs mailed to thirty-six public figures nationwide in May were followed in June by coordinated nearly simultaneous bombings aimed at public figures and institutions in eight cities. The end of the campaign was the Wall Street explosion (September 16, 1920) that killed forty and injured hundreds. Scores were arrested (thirty for the Wall Street explosion alone), but lawmen never caught the culprits. Fears aroused by bomb blasts gave the Justice Department carte blanche to roundup and deport alien radicals, particularly Bolsheviks, in 1919-1920. The bombings raised issues, including the fear of an unknown enemy and the government's need for accurate intelligence, that mirror today's post 9/11 era. The book profiles the suspects but focuses on the investigators, especially the Bureau of Investigation and its spies and informants. Based largely upon FBI files, it explores the Bureau's relationship with British Intelligence in New York City, and to the Sacco-Vanzetti case, as well as a privately funded search for the bombers. Throughout, the manhunt was handicapped by disputes with other law enforcement agencies and by intra-Bureau jealousies and rivalries, agent job insecurity and high turnover, inadequate training and resources, and morale problems, particularly in the New York and Boston field offices.
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About the Author
Charles H. McCormick is Professor of History Emeritus at Fairmont State University and an independent historian. He is the author of Leisler's Rebellion, This Nest of Vipers, and Seeing Reds.