[sixties-l] COINTELPRO: The Untold American Story

From: radtimes (resist@best.com)
Date: Mon Sep 03 2001 - 18:42:39 EDT

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    The following paper was presented to the WCAR in Durban, S. Africa

    From: Paul Wolf <paulwolf@icdc.com>

    COINTELPRO: The Untold American Story

    Compilation by Paul Wolf with contributions from Robert Boyle, Bob Brown,

    Tom Burghardt, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Kathleen Cleaver, Bruce
    Ellison, Cynthia McKinney, Nkechi Taifa, Laura Whitehorn, Nicholas
    Wilson, and Howard Zinn.

    A longer and annotated version of this document is available online:


    Table of Contents
                                                                                           Page #

    Overview 1
    Victimization 4
    COINTELPRO Techniques 6
    Murder and Assassination 8
    Agents Provocateurs 18
    The Ku Klux Klan 18
    The Secret Army Organization 23
    Snitch Jacketing 26
    The Subversion of the Press 27
    Political Prisoners 32
    Leonard Peltier 32
    Mumia Abu Jamal 35
    Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt 35
    Dhoruba Bin Wahad 41
    Marshall Eddie Conway 46
    Justice Hangs in the Balance 47
    Appendix: The Legacy of COINTELPRO 50
    CISPES 54
    The Judi Bari Bombing 56
    Bibliography 64


    We're here to talk about the FBI and U.S. democracy because here we have
    this peculiar situation that we live in a democratic country - everybody
    knows that, everybody says it, it's repeated, it's dinned into our ears a

    thousand times, you grow up, you pledge allegiance, you salute the flag,
    you hail democracy, you look at the totalitarian states, you read the
    history of tyrannies, and here is the beacon light of democracy. And, of
    course, there's some truth to that. There are things you can do in the
    United States that you can't do many other places without being put in

    But the United States is a very complex system. It's very hard to
    describe because, yes, there are elements of democracy; there are things
    that you're grateful for, that you're not in front of the death squads in

    El Salvador. On the other hand, it's not quite a democracy. And one of
    the things that makes it not quite a democracy is the existence of
    outfits like the FBI and the CIA. Democracy is based on openness, and the

    existence of a secret policy, secret lists of dissident citizens,
    violates the spirit of democracy.

    Despite its carefully contrived image as the nation's premier crime
    fighting agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has always
    functioned primarily as America's political police. This role includes
    not only the collection of intelligence on the activities of political
    dissidents and groups, but often times, counterintelligence operations to

    thwart those activities. The techniques employed are easily recognized
    by anyone familiar with military psychological operations. The FBI,
    through the use of the criminal justice system, the postal system, the
    telephone system and the Internal Revenue Service, enjoys an operational
    capability surpassing even that of the CIA, which conducts covert actions

    in foreign countries without having access to those institutions.

    Although covert operations have been employed throughout FBI history, the

    formal COunter INTELligence PROgrams (COINTELPRO's) of the period
    1956-1971 were the first to be both broadly targeted and centrally
    directed. According to FBI researcher Brian Glick, "FBI headquarters set

    policy, assessed progress, charted new directions, demanded increased
    production, and carefully monitored and controlled day-to-day operations.

    This arrangement required that national COINTELPRO supervisors and local
    FBI field offices communicate back and forth, at great length, concerning

    every operation. They did so quite freely, with little fear of public
    exposure. This generated a prolific trail of bureaucratic paper. The
    moment that paper trail began to surface, the FBI discontinued all of its

    formal domestic counterintelligence programs. It did not, however, cease
    its covert political activity against U.S. dissidents."

    Of roughly 20,000 people investigated by the FBI solely on the basis of
    their political views between 1956-1971, about 10 to 15% were the targets

    of active counterintelligence measures per se. Taking counterintelligence

    in its broadest sense, to include spreading false information, it's
    estimated that about two-thirds were COINTELPRO targets. Most targets
    were never suspected of committing any crime.

    The nineteen sixties were a period of social change and unrest. Color
    television brought home images of jungle combat in Vietnam and protesters

    and priests burning draft cards and American flags. In the spring and
    summer months of 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1968, massive black
    rebellions swept across almost every major US city in the Northeast,
    Midwest and California. Presidents Johnson and Nixon, and many others
    feared violent revolution and denounced the protesters. President
    Kennedy had felt the opposite: "Those who make peaceful revolution
    impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

    The counterculture of the sixties, and the FBI's reaction to it, were in
    many ways a product of the 1950s, the so-called "Age of McCarthyism."
    John Edgar Hoover, longtime Director of the FBI, was a prominent
    spokesman of the anti-communist paranoia of the era:The forces which are
    most anxious to weaken our internal security are not always easy to
    identify. Communists have been trained in deceit and secretly work toward

    the day when they hope to replace our American way of life with a
    Communist dictatorship. They utilize cleverly camouflaged movements, such

    as peace groups and civil rights groups to achieve their sinister
    purposes. While they as individuals are difficult to identify, the
    Communist party line is clear. Its first concern is the advancement of
    Soviet Russia and the godless Communist cause. It is important to learn
    to know the enemies of the American way of life.

    Throughout the 1960s, Hoover consistently applied this theory to a wide
    variety of groups, on occasion reprimanding agents unable to find
    "obvious" communist connections in civil rights and anti-war groups.
    During the entire COINTELPRO period, no links to Soviet Russia were
    uncovered in any of the social movements disrupted by the FBI.

    The commitment of the FBI to undermine and destroy popular movements
    departing from political orthodoxy has been extensive, and apparently
    proportional to the strength and promise of such movements, as one would
    expect in the case of the secret police organization of any state, though

    it is doubtful that there is anything comparable to this record among the

    Western industrial democracies.

    In retrospect, the COINTEPRO's of the 1960s were thoroughly successful in

    achieving their stated goals, "to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit,
    or otherwise neutralize" the enemies of the State.


    The most serious of the FBI disruption programs were those directed
    against "Black Nationalists." Agents were instructed to undertake
    actions to discredit these groups both within "the responsible Negro
    community" and to "Negro radicals," also "to the white community, both
    the responsible community and to `liberals' who have vestiges of sympathy

    for militant black nationalists simply because they are Negroes..."

    A March 4th, 1968 memo from J Edgar Hoover to FBI field offices laid out
    the goals of the COINTELPRO - Black Nationalist Hate Groups program: "to
    prevent the coalition of militant black nationalist groups;" "to prevent
    the rise of a messiah who could unify and electrify the militant black
    nationalist movement;" "to prevent violence on the part of black
    nationalist groups;" "to prevent militant black nationalist groups and
    leaders from gaining respectability;" and "to prevent the long-range
    growth of militant black nationalist organizations, especially among
    youth." Included in the program were a broad spectrum of civil rights
    and religious groups; targets included Martin Luther King, Malcolm X,
    Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, and Elijah Muhammad.

    A top secret Special Report for President Nixon, dated June 1970 gives
    some insight into the motivation for the actions undertaken by the
    government to destroy the Black Panther party. The report describes the
    party as "the most active and dangerous black extremist group in the
    United States." Its "hard-core members" were estimated at about 800, but

    "a recent poll indicates that approximately 25 per cent of the black
    population has a great respect for the BPP, incuding 43 per cent of
    blacks under 21 years of age." On the basis of such estimates of the
    potential of the party, counterintelligence operations were carried out
    to ensure that it did not succeed in organizing as a substantial social
    or political force.

    Another memorandum explains the motivation for the FBI operations against

    student protesters: "the movement of rebellious youth known as the 'New
    Left,' involving and influencing a substantial number of college
    students, is having a serious impact on contemporary society with a
    potential for serious domestic strife." The New Left has "revolutionary
    aims" and an "identification with Marxism-Leninism." It has attempted
    "to infiltrate and radicalize labor," and after failing "to subvert and
    control the mass media" has established "a large network of underground
    publications which serve the dual purpose of an internal communication
    network and an external propaganda organ." Its leaders have "openly
    stated their sympathy with the international communist revolutionary
    movements in South Vietnam and Cuba; and have directed others into
    activities which support these movements."

    The effectiveness of the state disruption programs is not easy to
    evaluate. Black leaders estimate the significance of the programs as
    substantial. Dr. James Turner of Cornell University, former president of

    the African Heritage Studies Association, assessed these programs as
    having "serious long-term consequences for black Americans," in that they

    "had created in blacks a sense of depression and hopelessness."

    <<end excerpt

    This document is available as a .doc file online at:

    A longer and annotated version of this document is available online:

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