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Watch the Borders!

J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI, no question about it. As a result, almost all of his subordinates were on the lookout for ways to impress their powerful boss. A young FBI man was put in charge of the FBI’s supply department. In an effort to cut some costs and impress his boss, he reduced the size of the office memo paper. One of the new memo sheets soon ended up on Hoover’s desk. Hoover took one look at it, determined he didn’t like the size of the margins on the paper, and quickly scribbled on the memo, “Watch the borders!”

The memo was passed on through the office. For the next six weeks, it was extremely difficult to enter the United States by road from either Mexico or Canada. The FBI was watching the borders.

Why was the FBI watching the borders? They thought they had received a warning from their chief. But they hadn’t. They had transformed an innocuous comment into a solemn warning.

Family Survival in the American Jungle, Steve Farrar, 1991, Multnomah Press, p. 75