Cops waged 'psychological warfare' on Panthers
Interview with Safiya Bukhari, part 3
By Imani Henry
Safiya Bukhari is a former political prisoner who was a member of the Black
Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army. She is currently the
international director of the Jericho Movement, which has dedicated itself
to the liberation of all political prisoners inside the United States. In
part two of this interview, Bukhari began to trace her experiences as a
revolutionary facing government repression.
Imani Henry: There were the four parts of the FBI's Counter Intelligence
Program or Cointelpro--infiltration, psychological warfare, dissemination
of misinformation and violence. Can you give other examples?
Safiya Bukhari: We didn't know about Cointelpro-and I think people believe
that Cointelpro started with the Black Panther Party but it didn't. And
people need to understand what Cointelpro is so they can see it when it is
happening and prepare themselves to deal with it because it is going on all
In the Harlem chapter, there were undercover agents, and if it wasn't for
my sister who worked as a communications person at the police department, I
would not have known so many people in the Harlem chapter were police
officers. Come to find out that some of them were gold shield-carrying
Psychological warfare was more insidious then than just spreading
disinformation. They learned to push peoples' buttons. It went as far as
destroying people's ability to trust each other. For example putting
hallucinogens in people's food so you would be scared to eat because it
could lead to finding out something from someone's past and exposing it to
IH: When did you join the Black Liberation Army and what was that
SB: In 1970, we were about so much work around political prisoners. We had
the Black Panther Party in prison and the BLA in prison and they were being
given life sentences. And we knew we needed to start an offshoot to deal
with the issue by getting the parents involved and community support around
it. So we started the National Committee for the Defense of Political
At the same time, loads of us were being subpoenaed by the grand jury to
testify against Panthers. I was given immunity from prosecution so I
couldn't take the Fifth Amendment. So I had to make a decision whether to
go to the grand jury and take the fifth and face federal contempt charges
or not show up and face regular contempt charges. If I went to court and
pleaded the fifth, I could be facing five years in prison for every
question I refused to answer. So finally I made the decision not to go to
the grand jury and I went underground in the BLA.
To go underground is very difficult. Whatever made you unique as a person,
you have to change all of that and become somebody totally different. You
are out of contact with your family.
IH: How long were you underground?
SB: Beginning April 1973 and I was captured on January 17, 1975.
- END -
Reprinted from the July 18, 2002, issue of Workers World newspaper
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