FBI Domestic Intelligence Activities

COINTELPRO Revisited - COINTELPRO and Qubilah Shabazz

   by Rebecca Hill and Nikolas Kautz
   The New York Three. The New York Twenty-One. The Chicago Seven/Eight.
   COINTELPRO, the government's campaign to thwart potentially
   revolutionary social movements with tactics both "legal" and illegal,
   has long been associated with larger US cities. Even the recent case
   of the Minnesota Eight, in which eight African-American menuniformly
   described in the mainstream press as Vice Lordsgot snatched up after
   the shooting of a white police officer, barely put these cities of
   less than 2 million on the political-repression map. Then came Qubilah
   Shabazz. Observers around the world, and many people here, are
   scratching their heads about how the dubious indictment of Malcolm X's
   second daughter happened to go down in this overgrown cow town.
   But don't let "Minnesota Nice" fool you. As the life-long shenanigans
   of infiltrator Michael Fitzpatrick became known, casting doubt on the
   government's contention that Qubilah Shabazz hired Fitzpatrick to kill
   Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Justice Department in Washington, DC
   tried to play the "local yokel" card. For about a day, the national
   press quoted unnamed government lawyers vaguely insinuating that
   Minnesota's US attorney, a fresh-scrubbed fellow with the excellent
   name Lillehaug, was a naive Midwestern clodhopper, hoodwinked by a
   con-man informer. Then Attorney General Janet Reno stepped in dispel
   all the nonsense and stamp her approval on the frame-up. Reno knows.
   The COINTELPRO credentials of the authorities here are perfectly in
  The War on AIM
   The FBI office here is named for the two agents killed on the Pine
   Ridge Lakota Sioux reservation in 1975; Leonard Peltier was framed for
   their shootings and still sits in prison. Much of the government's war
   against the American Indian Movement has been planned here. The
   government waged that war in large part with infiltrators a tad better
   at their jobs than Fitzpatrick. The Native casualty count far
   outnumbered the government's.
   Among the murdered was Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, an AIM organizer gunned
   down in 1976. Now, the government claims to be re-opening her unsolved
   case. Instead of investigating themselves (duh), or the pro-government
   Indian "GOON squads" that ran the reservation, they say AIM members
   suspected that Aquash was an informer, and killed her. As the FBI's
   own documents show, and as several excellent books recount, the Feds
   tried to feed disinformation to AIM that Aquash was working for them.
   This tactic is known as "badjacketing," or putting a "snitch jacket"
   on someone. In both the Shabazz and the Aquash cases, the government
   wants to manipulate emotions around a powerful unifying force in
   popular movements: martyrs. They want to sow division. They want to
   blame the movements themselves for murders by the "agents of
   repression." Will we let them?
  The War on Young, Black Men
   A more recent case, the Minnesota 8, should boost the local
   authorities even higher in Reno's esteem. Eight African-American men
   were accused in 1992 of being Vice Lords, and of killing a white
   police officer and a suspected Vice Lord police informer. At trial, it
   came out that the dead man, Ed Harris, was being set up to look like a
   snitch. Officers including a well-known Black detective repeatedly
   stopped him on the street, talked to him, and let him go. He was among
   eight young, Black, male execution-slaying victims in a period of
   weeks. Two and a half years later, suspicion persists in the community
   that some or all of the men, possibly including Harris, were murdered
   by the police as payback for the policeman's death. Court documents
   show the quiet, background involvement of the FBI, who may have
   planted one of the star witnesses. Loverine Harris, Ed Harris's wife,
   had previously testified against a man in Illinois who went to prison
   for murder. She was the FBI's "confidential, reliable informant" in
   that case. Four convictions, two guilty pleas, one acquittal, and one
   legal limbo later, the police have made short work of what was left of
   the old Vice Lord leadership. Two men prominent in bringing the Vice
   Lords into the gang coalition United for Peace are in custody, one for
   supposedly holding a bunch of people at gunpoint in a garage because
   his car repairs weren't to his satisfaction, the other for allegedly
   ringing in the New Year with a few pistol shots from his balcony. With
   that grim background report, let's welcome Qubilah Shabazz to the Twin
  Start of a New War?
   Nobody with a lick of sense believes Qubilah Shabazz hired Michael
   Fitzpatrick to kill Min. Farrakhan. The only question worth posing is
   what the government is up to. Speculation includes the following,
   starting with the most obvious point:
   No matter how astutely the Nation of Islam handles this, Min.
   Farrakhan can only lose popularity from a big, public reminder of his
   rivalry with Malcolm.
   Either Min. Farrakhan or Ms. Shabazz could be targets of violence now,
   because of a plan cooked up by the government. Observers at her St.
   Paul arraignment noted than anyone in the standing-room-only court
   room could have had a weapon.
   On one of the surveillance tapes, Ms. Shabazz is said to object to
   Fitzpatrick's plan, worrying that Jews might be revenge targets after
   Min. Farrakhan's assassination. Remember that Fitzpatrick infiltrated
   the JDL, the group Rabbi Meir Kahane founded in direct opposition to
   the Black Panthers. The government would like nothing better than a
   shoot-out between JDL and NOI sympathizers.
   The Nation has shown how it's going to play this. Min. Farrakhan's
   first comments emphasized FBI hostility, downplayed his role in
   Malcolm's murder, and sent sympathy to Ms. Shabazz. The Final Call,
   the NOI paper, took a different tack: "Government, Jewish militant
   linked to the plot to kill Farrakhan," its headline screamed the first
   week in February. Let's not screw around. Michael Fitzpatrick is not a
   "Jewish militant." I'm a Jewish militant. Michael Fitzpatrick is a
   snitch. Anyway, whatever the government's plan, they're a lot less
   able to carry it out if everyone is loudly doubting their story.
   Demonstrations in support of Qubilah Shabazz should go down in a bunch
   of cities before her next court appearance, postponed till sometime in
   The Committee Seeking Equal Justice for the Minnesota 8 didn't need to
   be told twice about deadly government trickery. No sooner had news of
   Ms. Shabazz's indictment broken than busy Committee members were
   strategizing about a campaign in her support. After her daughter
   entered a not-guilty plea on January 18, Dr. Betty Shabazz greeted and
   thanked half a dozen Committee members who had loitered outside the
   St. Paul Federal Courthouse in sub-zero wind-chill. "United we stand!
   The US government is the real hit man!" Committee members shouted,
   trying to warm up the chilly national press corps. They held a banner
   with the pictures of Malcolm, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Fred
   Hampton, all COINTELPRO martyrs. The Committee's February 18 forum,
   "Snitches, Frame-ups, and Provocateurs: Qubilah Shabazz, Malcolm X,
   and the Making of Crime," helped build for a demonstration on the 30th
   anniversary of Malcolm's murder, February 22. Events will continue
   building up through Ms. Shabazz's trial. The group understands that
   heavy local support will be critical in defeating the railroad.
  The Government's Tool
   As for Fitzpatrick, he is an informer of the commonest, lowliest kind.
   This is not a free-lance spy who directs his own operations. This is a
   lifelong hot-dog and loser whose thrill is selling people bullshit.
   Cops at every level, from celebrity US attorneys to the local
   gang-unit officers, know how to control the con-man crook. In 1993,
   Fitzpatrick was looking at five years for coke he'd been caught
   holding. Qubilah Shabazz had for years been his fantasy "get out of
   jail free" card. He remembered her from high school and thought she
   just might kind of remember him. We don't know what Fitzpatrick may
   get in return, but his drug charge seems to be in limbo, and he's
   hanging out somewhere under government protection. The local straight
   press has admitted that Fitzpatrick does most of the talking on the
   video and audio tapes that will buttress his testimony against Ms.
   Shabazz. The only thing about Fitzpatrick that isn't clear yet is just
   when he became an informer.
   At 18, he tried to blow up a Russian-language bookstore in New York,
   for motives that remain obscure. His taste for the crazy side of life
   may have hooked him up with cops or right-wingers who put him up to
   it, or he may have cooked up that one on his own. But after that, with
   FBI agents controlling him, he joined the crypto-fascist, racist
   Jewish Defense League in New York, got some folks to agree to blow up
   the Egyptian tourism office, and testified against the two JDLers who
   went to prison. He went into witness protection, and from there into
   chemical-dependency treatment. He wound up here.
  Fitzpatrick's Minneapolis Adventure
   Only dedicated media snoozers can have missed how Love and Rage's own
   Christopher Day Gunderson helped bust Fitzpatrick out. Not long after
   the first descriptions of Fitzpatrick hit the press, Christopher went,
   "Hmm." A few phone calls to anarchists who'd been active in
   Minneapolis in the mid-80s confirmed it. This was the same Michael,
   the big, ugly "free-beers-for-everyone!" Michael, who'd started
   hanging around Backroom Anarchist Books late in 1986.
   Christopher's statement to William Kunstler, one of Ms. Shabazz's
   lawyers, is excellent reading. It describes the arrival of a
   tough-talking, tale-telling guy in his 20s who tried to sway a
   nascent, mostly-teenage group to stop having candy-ass demos and start
   blowing shit up. When no one took his bait, he urged the Backroomers
   at least to start throwing shit around. "After a few hours we were all
   intoxicated and all convinced by Michael of the merits of a plan to
   attack a polling station with bags of human feces," Christopher
   states. Sober in the morning, they instead went ahead with a mild
   guerrilla theater protesting the 1986 election. Fitzpatrick planted a
   can of mace in the bookstore moments before suburban cops burst in
   looking for a runaway. They instantly found the mace behind the books
   where the infiltrator had stashed it. He talked a man who was crashing
   in the bookstore's loft, but was not formally in the collective, into
   keeping a shotgun in the store, since things were getting so "heavy."
   The collective talked the man into giving the gun back to Fitzpatrick.
   If you're a convicted felon caught with a gun, you either go to prison
   or you don't. It all depends on if you're a Vice Lord or a white
   informer like Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick boasted to the anarchists of
   having been in the Communist Workers Party, the group that an Alcohol,
   Tobacco, and Firearms undercover agent set up to get shot up by the
   Klan in Greensboro, NC, in 1979. To a woman he wanted to impress, he
   boasted he'd infiltrated the JDL. She passed word back to the
   Backroomers, who threw him out forever in December 1986 or January
  'Til the chickens Come Home to Roost
   The authorities here are used to getting away with infiltration,
   frames, and murder. Qubilah Shabazz's trial this spring will be an
   opportunity to teach them a lesson. An international show of unity for
   Ms. Shabazz will be necessary. Rest assured the movements here will be
   inside the court room and out.

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