[sixties-l] Why Would the FBI Aid Klansmen?

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Fri Jun 01 2001 - 14:03:55 EDT

  • Next message: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu: "[sixties-l] Oread Daily (fwd)"

    San Francisco Examiner
    May 25, 2001

    Why Would the FBI Aid Klansmen?

    By Conn Hallinan

         In the aftermath of the recent conviction of Thomas Blanton Jr. for
    the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham Baptist church, former Alabama Attorney
    General Bill Baxley asked an agonizing question in his May 4 New York
    Times commentary: "Why would the FBI aid Klansmen in avoidance of
    prosecution? I don't know."
         It is a question that deserves an answer.
         Shortly after the bombing that killed Denise McNair, Addie Mae
    Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson, Blanton, along with
    Robert Chambliss and Bobby Frank Cherry, were identified as suspects by
    the FBI. But when Baxley tried to prosecute them in 1971, he was forced
    to drop the case because the Bureau said it had no hard evidence. In
    fact, it did have such evidence, evidence that was used to convict
    Blanton 38 years after the fact.
         The FBI claims that a combination of simple bureaucratic
    inefficiency and suspicion of local police authorities was responsible
    for the oversight, but past history suggests a very different
         When J. Edgar Hoover took over the agency in 1924, he turned it into
    an organization that spied on, and disrupted, anyone whom the Director
    considered a threat to"U.S. security." Since this included anyone to the
    left of Attila the Hun, civil rights organizations were among his first
         For more than 50 years, Hoover's FBI carried out a vendetta against
    African-Americans fighting against segregation and for the right to
    vote. He also made sure that the both the agency's leadership and the
    bulk of the rank and file remained white. In the 1920s and '30s, when
    the lynching of black Americans reached almost epidemic proportions in
    the South, the FBI was nowhere to be found.
         It did, however, display considerable resources from 1956 to 1971
    when it infiltrated and investigated civil rights organizations in operation
    COINTELPRO. The agency wrote phony letters to Chicago street gangs aimed
    at getting them to attack the Black Panther Party. It fed fake
    information to the Chicago Police Department that resulted in the raid
    that killed Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. And while it
    was hiding the tapes of Klansmen discussing the Birmingham bombing, it
    was busy taping Martin Luther King Jr.'s bedroom.
         Hoover leaked the contents of the King tape to the press, and approved
    sending King an anonymous letter which read, in part, "King you are
    done. The American public, the church organizations you have been
    helping---Protestant, Catholic and Jews will know you for what you
    are---an evil, abnormal beast."
         The letter was part of a plan to discredit King and "replace" him as
    an African-American leader with conservative Republican Samuel Pierce,
    Reagan's Housing and Urban Development secretary, who presided over one
    of the greatest cases of governmental looting and corruption since Tea
    Pot Dome.
         For the full story of the agency's obsession with King, pick up David
    Garrow's "The FBI and Martin Luther King Jr." Another useful guide to the
    organization's priorities is David Burnham's study of the FBI in the
    Nation magazine which demonstrated that civil rights has simply never
    been on the bureau's radar screen, and while the agency refers vast
    numbers of corruption and immigration cases for prosecution, virtual
    none are in the area of civil rights.
         Indeed, the opposite is the case. When African Americans won the
    right to vote in Alabama in 1965, they began organizing to elect black
    officials. In 1982, African Americans won majorities on county
    commissions and school boards in five counties, and, a year later, won a
    seat in the state senate and three in the assembly. In 1984, 50 FBI
    agents, aided by the notorious State Police, swept into Alabama,
    interrogated more than 1,000 elderly black residents for felony voter
    fraud, carting a bus load of them 165 miles to Mobile. Eight voter
    rights activists were charged. All were acquitted or had convictions
    reversed on appeal.
         The racial policies of the FBI were also an internal affair, finally
    boiling over into a lawsuit by Hispanic agents in l988. At the time,
    only one out of the agency's 58 field offices was headed by a Latino,
    and Hispanic agents charged they were routinely denied promotions, given
    dangerous assignments, disciplined, and assigned to what white agents referred
    as the "Taco Circuit."
         The presiding judge, Lucius Bunton of Midland, Texas, agreed with the
    agents, finding the FBI guilty of "systematic discrimination." And the
    agency's response? To promote several of the supervisors who, according to
    testimony, had referred to Hispanic agents as "lazy spics, dirty
    Mexicans, and wetbacks." One supervisor told a female Hispanic agent
    that she was "too ethnic."
         A similar lawsuit was brought by African American agents following the
    harassment of black agent Donald Rochon in Chicago, including one incident
    where white agents sent him a "death and dismemberment" insurance policy
    taken out in his name. Another black agent was sent a job application
    with a question "What is your greatest desire in life (besides a white
    Finally, in 1992, the agency agreed to promote some black agents, but
    not to acknowledge that it had ever engaged in a pattern of
    discrimination. Sort of, "Sorry, we didn't do it, but we promise we
    won't do it again."
         While the reputation of the FBI is crime fighting, much of the
    agency's energies have always been aimed at Americans who find
    themselves opposing some aspect of U.S. foreign or domestic policy.
    While the bureau neglects abortion clinic bombings, it investigated
    1,330 groups and 2,370 individuals who opposed American policy in
    Central America. While it shielded Klansmen, it infiltrated and
    illegally wiretapped organizations like the Southern Christian
    Leadership Conference, the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored
    People, the National Lawyer's Guild, and organizations that support
    civil liberties, women's rights, and the environment. While night riders
    were terrorizing black communities in the South and killing several
    civil rights workers, the FBI was busy collecting files on writers like
    Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Robert Lowell, Archibald McLeish, and
    Edna St. Vincent Millay.
         So let us return to Bill Baxley's question: Why would the FBI help
    Klansmen avoid prosecution?
         Because the FBI was on the side of the bombers.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Jun 01 2001 - 18:18:49 EDT