Tag Archives: Espionage

The New Role of Intelligence Agencies

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Ewald Wever is shown in the 1920 Census

The Bureau of Investigations, later known as the FBI, was a critical tool for the United States in counterintelligence during World War I, especially after the Espionage Act of 1917. This act was used to stop interference with the military, preventing insubordination in the military, and preventing support of the enemies of the United States during the war. Any person who conveyed information that was intended to interfere with the U.S. war effort or promoting the success of enemies was subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 20 years. In one famous case, Eugene Debs made a speech criticizing the Espionage Act and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. These acts were stopped around the country by the Bureau of Investigations and one occurrence even happened right here in Suffield. In a declassified report from the Bureau of Investigations, the investigating officers detail this occurrence in Suffield. A fairly successful tobacco farmer of West Suffield, CT, Ewald Wever, discouraged many people in his tobacco warehouse not to buy the second Liberty Loans. He told the people that they would just lose their money because soon the Germans would be ruling over the United States. There were at least two people, who before talking to Mr. Wever, wanted to buy the Liberty Loans, but after talking to Mr. Wever, they decided against doing so because of the way that he talked about them. When Mr. Wever was later asked to buy some Liberty Loans, his response was that he had no money. This was obviously not true since it was well known to everyone around he was a quite wealthy man. Our research so far shows that Mr. Wever had a tendency to be pro-German as he was born in Germany before becoming a United States citizen. Once while in Springfield, MA, Mr. Wever refused to stand for the National Anthem until a fellow resident forced him to stand. Mr. Wever’s actions caught the attention of the FBI thanks to a tip from Charles Bissell, who has a strong connection to the Suffield School. The FBI followed up with Mr. Wever and their desired action is unknown.

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Hartford Courant article talking about a strike at Mr. Wever’s tobacco warehouse. Article date: February 21, 1917

Based on 1920 Census, Mr. Wever lived in West Suffield, CT, was from Germany and was sixty-two years old. According to an article in the Hartford Courant, the tobacco warehouse that Mr. Wever managed was called the “Kaiser & Boasberg plantation,” which consisted of two warehouses, one where the women sort the shade-grown tobacco and the other where the men sort the Havana seed leaf. He lived with his wife and one of his sons and one of his daughters. The family also had a maid who lived with them, which shows that they were financially strong. While doing research on Mr. Wever through Ancestry.com, it was revealed that he had a total of four children with his wife. We continue to research the family of Mr. Wever and are looking to see if there are any direct relatives of him. We will also look into if Mr. Wever and Mr. Bissell were economic rivals, which may have prompted Mr. Bissell to report Mr. Wever. It was known that Mr. Bissell made money in tobacco, therefore this could give him a reason to report Mr. Wever. As we continue to look into new leads, look into acts of espionage in your own town.

Sources:

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fbi-founded

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-congress-passes-espionage-act

https://search.proquest.com/docview/556434153?accountid=46995

Stopping the Elusive Germans On the Homefront

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Secret Service agents walking aside President Woodrow Wilson

I continue to explore the role of federal agencies in stopping pro-German attacks against the United States during the war. The Secret Service was crucial in stopping German spies from roaming around the United States and collecting information. In one case, a Secret Service agent was tailing a known German spy, and the spy had a left a briefcase on a bus. This briefcase was opened and contained many documents showing Germany’s efforts to stop America’s support to the Allies. The Secret Service played a vital role in finding German spies and foiling their plans against the United States.

The Bureau of Investigations (later known as the FBI) worked on many aspects including citizens antiwar sentiments. During the start of the war, they were told to keep their investigations into Germans limited because of the federal laws at the time. This changed through the years of 1914-1917 as the U.S. was getting ready to enter the war. They were involved in a few German cases including one in 1914 where there was a ring that was trying to obtain passports for German reservists that were in the U.S. when the war started. There was another case in 1915 where there was a plot to blow up the Welland Canal, which was a critical shipping point between Lake Erie and Ontario. The Bureau was able to break up this plot and arrested several people connected to the plot. They were also able to connect one of the men to the earlier documents from the Secret Service case with the briefcase. During the early years of the war, there were many sabotage attempts against British-owned firms and factories that supplied ammunition to Britain and Russia that were broken up by the Bureau of Investigations.  In 1916, the Bureau of Investigations officially began a counterintelligence policy.

These early efforts that the Secret Service and Bureau of Investigations unfolded showed Germany’s plots against the U.S. and was a contributing factor in convincing the United States to enter the War. Now that the United States has entered the war, I am going to dig deeper to see what the Secret Service and Bureau of Investigations did inside of the United States during the war. My plan will be to contact the FBI to find more information on their role during WWI.

Sources:

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/the-bureaus-role-during-early-world-war-i-years

This source comes directly from the FBI, which means it is a reliable source for information on the early years of the FBI during World War I.

 

https://www.cia.gov/kids-page/6-12th-grade/operation-history/history-of-american-intelligence.html#catching-up-over-there

This source comes from the CIA talking about the early years of spying and the impact that different federal agencies had on World War I inside of the United States.