In the years following the Civil War, a new battle began. Newly freed African American men had gained their voting rights and would soon have a chance to transform Southern politics. Former Confederates and other white supremacists mobilized to stop them. Thus, the KKK was born.
After the first political assassination carried out by the Klan, Washington power brokers looked for help in breaking the growing movement. They found it in Hiram C. Whitley. He became head of the Secret Service, which had previously focused on catching counterfeiters and was at the time the government’s only intelligence organization.
Charles Lane is a Washington Post editorial board member and op-ed columnist. A finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing, he was the Post's Supreme Court correspondent prior to joining the editorial board. His new book is, "Freedom's Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan and the Man Who Masterminded America’s First War on Terror."