1947 FBI Files reveal attempt by J. Edgar Hoover to use Black Dahlia Investigation to "set legal precedent"

FBI Director, J. Edgar and partner, Clyde Tolson pull some “G-Strings.” Stay at  Ambassador Hotel and  get box seats at Del Mar Racetrack during their 1947 working vacation to Los Angeles. 

In my original 2001 rough draft of Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder, I included what I thought were some very telling communications found buried in the ELIZABETH SHORT FBI FILES.  (Note even to this day (2009) the FBI still uses the victim’s fictitious middle name of “ANN”. No documentation has ever been produced that she ever used the name in her lifetime.)    

Personally, I found the FBI correspondence with the SSA  fascinating and include them here to set and keep the historical record straight.

What this correspondence shows is that the FBI attempted to use the high-profile notoriety of the Los Angeles Black Dahlia investigation to set a precedent for them to gain access into the highly confidential Social Security Administration files. (Viewing these Federal files was strictly prohibited by law and previously only accessible during war time emergencies and only then in an extreme case such as-Espionage. Had Hoover and Tamm succeeded in their attempt it would have been a huge step backward for American citizens and their Rights to Privacy.)



(Edited from BDA manuscript due to length)



1947 Dahlia Investigation- FBI vs. Social Security Administration

Additional revelations come from the FBI file. Though they do not specifically relate to the weight of evidence, in our investigation, I am including them here due to what I consider to be their historical relevance and importance. They provide us with valuable insights into the thought processes of two top men at the Bureau (Director J. Edgar Hoover and Edward A. Tamm) and their desire and need to attempt to increase and expand the FBI’s base of power and accessibility to confidential records that were clearly out of bounds to them in 1947. Their communications provide us with a clear demonstration that men in power, are always and will always attempt to manipulate current events and conditions to tip the scales and  “set a precedence” in their behalf.


In late January 1947, the FBI made a direct request to the Social Security Administration related to the Dahlia Investigation. They requested that agency provide them with employment information on the victim as well as information that would assist them in locating an early “suspect” through employment records. 


Director Hoover in a notation to Edward A. Tamm (presumably one of his top management advisors in the Bureau, or possibly a Bureau attorney) dated 1/29/47 scribbled a handwritten note to Tamm relating to the request which read:


  “I thought Social Security didn’t let us have any information. How about it?


Tamm immediately responded to Hoover in an Office Memorandum dated 1/30/47, which clearly reveals his tactics, in what he apparently considered to be a “win-win” situation.  I quote that full Memorandum:


To:         THE DIRECTOR

From:    Mr. Edw. A. Tamm

Date:      1/30/47


                In connection with our effort to assist the local authorities by securing Social Security information regarding a suspect in connection with the murder of Elizabeth Short at Los Angeles, you inquired as to whether Social Security lets us have any information.


                During the war, by special arrangement, Social Security furnished us confidentially with information based on our certification that it was needed in connection with a case growing out of the war and having to do with such matters as Espionage, Sabotage and subversive activities. You will recall that just recently they wrote saying that since the President has issued the proclamation terminating hostilities it would now be necessary to say specifically the case arose during and out of the war. We sent a protest to the Attorney General explaining that we now have cases which have arisen since the cessation of hostilities which are at least as important if not more so than those during the war and requested him to effect arrangements whereby we could receive this very valuable data.


            The instant request to Social Security appeared to be an excellent opportunity to get on record asking for assistance in apprehending the perpetrator of a most heinous murder. If they comply, it will be a precedent and if they refuse it will be an excellent instance to cite in our efforts to gain access to their records. The request was delivered by hand but the reply has not been forthcoming as yet. You will be advised immediately. [Emphasis in red mine]


On the following day, January 31, 1947, Mr. W.L. Mitchell, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration gave his reply to Hoover.


Here is that letter:


Dear Mr. Hoover:


I am replying to your letter of January 28, 1947, which (redacted) delivered to us, in which you request information from our records concerning the employment of Elizabeth Short.


The subject of such requests has been previously discussed with the Department of Justice; you may recall that early in 1937, your department requested access to our records for the location of individuals suspected of criminal acts. At that time, every consideration was given to the request but because of the Social Security Board’s often repeated public pledge that information furnished would be used only for the purposes of the Social Security Act, and after consulting with other governmental agencies, representatives of organized labor, and others, the request was denied. Since that time we have followed the policy of refusing to furnish confidential information from our records except for the purposes of administering the Act. An exception was made, however, in our agreement whereby your department has been furnished information when such disclosures would be in the interest of the successful prosecution of the war.


Supporting this policy Congress, in the 1939 amendments to the Social Security Act, enacted Section 1106 which provides that the records of the Social Security Board (now the Social Security Administration) shall be regarded as confidential and that no disclosures thereof may be made except as the Board may by regulations prescribe. Regulation I, adopted in conformity with this statute, prescribes what information may be disclosed and to whom.


Although I appreciate entirely your desire for such information I regret that the request, in accordance with this Regulation, is not one for which an exception may be made.


Sincerely yours,


W. L. Mitchell

Acting Commissioner



A follow-up Memorandum from Tamm to Hoover attaching a copy of Commissioner Mitchell’s response, dated the same day, 1/31/47 states in part:


To:         THE DIRECTOR

From:    Mr. Edw. A. Tamm

Subj:      Elizabeth Short- Victim Murder


…. We are now in receipt of the reply which is a rather verbose declination based on a regulation prescribed by the Social Security Board. ..


                “There are attached for your approval a teletype to Los Angeles advising that Social Security has refused to furnish the information needed by the police and a memorandum to the Attorney General advising of this incident to supplement our previous memorandum.


The teletype as prepared by Tamm for Hoover’s approval which was approved and forwarded to Los Angeles read:



FBI Communications Section- January 31, 1947


Transmit the following message to:  Los Angeles







FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson seen on a little R&R getting down some horse bets at Southern California’s, Del Mar Turf Club in July 1947.

Hoover Clyde Tolson  Del Mar Turf Club 1947.jpg


The Dynamic Duo ( below) arrive from the East and detrain in L.A. in July, 1947, just one month after L.A. top gangster, Bugsy Siegel is gunned down in his Beverly Hills mansion. Hoover praises LAPD Chief Horral’s efforts to keep L.A. free of organized crime.

In the summer of ’47, Top “G-Man” and his assistant director pull some G-strings and bed-up in-suite at the Ambassador Hotel for a week of R&R, with occasional trips to the race track. (See above)

 Twenty years later, Clyde Tolson speaking about U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, reportedly said, “I hope that someone shoots and kills that son of a bitch.”  (Ref. attributed to- Clyde Tolson, qu. in: Thurston Clarke, ‘The Last Good Campaign’, Vanity Fair, No. 574, June, 2008, p. 173). Ironically, if the Tolson quote is accurate, his wish came true, at the very location (Ambassador Hotel) where he and Hoover shared a suite some two decades prior.)

Hoover Tolson LA 1947.jpg



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