FBI Domestic Intelligence Activities

COINTELPRO Revisited - US Domestic Covert Operations

                       US Domestic Covert Operations
                    From the Archive: WAR AT HOME (2/5)
   From: (Gary Lee)
   Date: Fri, 17 Mar 1995 14:20:26 GMT
   Organization: The Gloons of Tharf
   Newsgroups: alt.society.anarchy
   Anyone who doubts that the government is capable of using agents
   provocateurs to plant phony requests for bomb-making information in
   this newsgroup as a pretext for censoring the entire net (or that it
   is capable of much worse if that fails) should take a glance at the
   following articles. These posts also contain much that should be of
   interest to anyone thinking about joining or starting any kind of
   anarchist direct-action campaign or organization. Gary
   /** pn.publiceye: 23.5 **/ ** Written 6:49 pm Jan 24, 1991 by nlgclc
   in cdp:pn.publiceye **
                       How COINTELPRO Helped Destroy
                         the Movements of the 1960s
   Since COINTELPRO was used mainly against the progressive movements of
   the 1960s, its impact can be grasped only in the context of the
   momentous social upheaval which shook the country during those years.
   All across the United States, Black communities came alive with
   renewed political struggle. Most major cities experienced sustained,
   disciplined Black protest and massive ghetto uprisings. Black
   activists galvanized multi-racial rebellion among GIs, welfare
   mothers, students, and prisoners.
   College campuses and high schools erupted in militant protest against
   the Vietnam War. A predominantly white New Left, inspired by the Black
   movement, fought for an end to U.S. intervention abroad and a more
   humane and cooperative way of life at home. By the late 1960s,
   deep-rooted resistance had revived among Chicanos, Puerto Ricans,
   Asian Americans, and Native Americans. A second wave of broad-based
   struggle for women's liberation had also emerged, along with
   significant efforts by lesbians, gay men, and disabled people.
   Millions of people in the United States began to reject the dominant
   ideology and culture. Thousands challenged basic U.S. political and
   economic institutions. For a brief moment, "the crucial mixture of
   people's confidence in the government and lack of confidence in
   themselves which allows the government to govern, the ruling class to
   rule...threatened to break down."
   By the mid-1970s, this upheaval had largely subsided. Important
   progressive activity persisted, mainly on a local level, and much
   continued to be learned and won, but the massive, militant Black and
   New Left movements were gone. The sense of infinite possibility and of
   our collective power to shape the future had been lost. Progressive
   momentum dissipated. Radicals found themselves on the defensive as
   right-wing extremists gained major government positions and defined
   the contours of accepted political debate.
   Many factors besides COINTELPRO contributed to this change. Important
   progress was made toward achieving movement goals such as Black civil
   rights, an end to the Vietnam War, and university reform. The mass
   media, owned by big business and cowed by government and right-wing
   attack, helped to bury radical activism by ceasing to cover it.
   Television, popular magazines, and daily papers stereotyped Blacks as
   hardened criminals and welfare chiselers or as the supposedly affluent
   beneficiaries of reverse "discrimination." White youth were portrayed
   first as hedonistic hippies and mindless terrorists, later as an
   apolitical, self-indulgent "me generation." Both were scapegoated as
   threats to "decent, hard-working Middle America."
   During the severe economic recession of the early- to mid- 1970s,
   former student activists began entering the job market, some taking on
   responsibility for children. Many were scared by brutal government and
   right-wing attacks culminating in the murder of rank-and-file
   activists as well as prominent leaders. Some were strung out on the
   hard drugs that had become increasingly available in Black and Latin
   communities and among white youth. Others were disillusioned by
   mistreatment in movements ravaged by the very social sicknesses they
   sought to eradicate, including racism, sexism, homophobia, class bias
   and competition.
   Limited by their upbringing, social position, and isolation from older
   radical traditions, 1960s activists were unable to make the
   connections and changes required to build movements strong enough to
   survive and eventually win structural change in the United States.
   Middle-class students did not sufficiently ally with working and poor
   people. Too few white activists accepted third world leadership of
   multi-racial alliances. Too many men refused to practice genuine
   gender equality.
   Originally motivated by goals of quick reforms, 1960s activists were
   ill-prepared for the long-term struggles in which they found
   themselves. Overly dependent on media-oriented superstars and one-shot
   dramatic actions, they failed to develop stable organizations,
   accountable leadership, and strategic perspective. Creatures of the
   culture they so despised, they often lacked the patience to sustain
   tedious grassroots work and painstaking analysis of actual social
   conditions. They found it hard to accept the slow, uneven pace of
   personal and political change.
   This combination of circumstances, however, did not by itself
   guarantee political collapse. The achievements of the 1960s movements
   could have inspired optimism and provided a sense of the power to win
   other important struggles. The rightward shift of the major media
   could have enabled alternative newspapers, magazines, theater, film,
   and video to attract a broader audience and stable funding. The
   economic downturn of the early 1970s could have united Black
   militants, New Leftists, and workers in common struggle. Police
   brutality and government collusion in drug trafficking could have been
   exposed in ways that undermined support for the authorities and
   broadened the movements' backing.
   By the close of the decade, many of the movements' internal weaknesses
   were starting to be addressed. Black-led multi-racial alliances, such
   as Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Poor People's Campaign and the Black
   Panthers' Rainbow Coalition, were forming. The movements' class base
   was broadening through Black "revolutionary unions" in auto and other
   industries, King's increasing focus on economic issues, the New Left's
   spread to community colleges, and the return of working-class GIs
   radicalized by their experience in Vietnam. At the same time, the
   women's movement was confronting the deep sexism which permeated 1960s
   activism, along with its corollaries: homophobia, sexual violence,
   militarism, competitiveness, and top-down decision-making.
   While the problems of the 1960s movements were enormous, their
   strengths might have enabled them to overcome their weaknesses had the
   upsurge not been stifled before activists could learn from their
   mistakes. Much of the movements' inability to transcend their initial
   limitations and overcome adversity can be traced to COINTELPRO.
   It was through COINTELPRO that the public image of Blacks and New
   Leftists was distorted to legitimize their arrest and imprisonment and
   scapegoat them as the cause of working people's problems. The FBI and
   police instigated violence and fabricated movement horrors. Dissidents
   were deliberately "criminalized" through false charges, frame-ups, and
   offensive, bogus leaflets and other materials published in their name.
   (Specific examples of these and other COINTELPRO operations are
   presented on pages 41-65.)
   COINTELPRO enabled the FBI and police to exacerbate the movements'
   internal stresses until beleaguered activists turned on one another.
   Whites were pitted against Blacks, Blacks against Chicanos and Puerto
   Ricans, students against workers, workers against people on welfare,
   men against women, religious activists against atheists, Christians
   against Jews, Jews against Muslims. "Anonymous" accusations of
   infidelity ripped couples apart. Backers of women's and gay liberation
   were attacked as "dykes" or "faggots." Money was repeatedly stolen and
   precious equipment sabotaged to intensify pressure and sow suspicion
   and mistrust.
   Otherwise manageable disagreements were inflamed by COINTELPRO until
   they erupted into hostile splits that shattered alliances, tore groups
   apart, and drove dedicated activists out of the movement. Government
   documents implicate the FBI and police in the bitter break-up of such
   pivotal groups as the Black Panther Party, SDS, and the Liberation
   News Service, and in the collapse of repeated efforts to form
   long-term coalitions across racial, class, and regional lines. While
   genuine political issues were often involved in these disputes, the
   outcome could have been different if government agencies had not
   covertly intervened to subvert compromise and fuel hostility and
   Finally, it was COINTELPRO that enabled the FBI and police to
   eliminate the leaders of mass movements without undermining the image
   of the United States as a democracy, complete with free speech and the
   rule of law. Charismatic orators and dynamic organizers were covertly
   attacked and "neutralized" before their skills could be transferred to
   others and stable structures established to carry on their work.
   Malcolm X was killed in a "factional dispute" which the FBI took
   credit for having "developed" in the Nation of Islam. Martin Luther
   King, Jr. was the target of an elaborate FBI plot to drive him to
   suicide and replace him "in his role of the leadership of the Negro
   people" with conservative Black lawyer Samuel Pierce (later named to
   Reagan's cabinet). Many have come to view King's eventual
   assassination (and Malcolm's as well) as itself a domestic covert
   Other prominent radicals faced similar attack when they began to
   develop broad followings and express anti-capitalist ideas. Some were
   portrayed as crooks, thugs, philanderers, or government agents, while
   others were physically threatened or assaulted until they abandoned
   their work. Still others were murdered under phony pretexts, such as
   "shootouts" in which the only shots were fired by the police.
   To help bring down a major target, the FBI often combined these
   approaches in strategic sequence. Take the case of the "underground
   press," a network of some 400 radical weeklies and several national
   news services, which once boasted a combined readership of close to 30
   million. In the late 1960s, government agents raided the offices of
   alternative newspapers across the country in purported pursuit of
   drugs and fugitives. In the process, they destroyed typewriters,
   cameras, printing presses, layout equipment, business records, and
   research files, and roughed up and jailed staffers on bogus charges.
   Meanwhile, the FBI was persuading record companies to withdraw
   lucrative advertising and arranging for printers, suppliers, and
   distributors to drop underground press accounts. With their already
   shaky operations in disarray, the papers and news services were easy
   targets for a final phase of COINTELPRO disruption. Forged
   correspondence, anonymous accusations, and infiltrators' manipulation
   provoked a flurry of wild charges and counter-charges that played a
   major role in bringing many of these promising endeavors to a
   premature end.
   A similar pattern can be discerned from the history of the Black
   Panther Party. Brutal government attacks initially elicited broad
   support for this new, militant, highly visible national organization
   and its popular ten-point socialist program for Black
   self-determination. But the FBI's repressive onslaught severely
   weakened the Party, making it vulnerable to sophisticated FBI
   psychological warfare which so discredited and shattered it that few
   people today have any notion of the power and potential that the
   Panthers once represented.
   What proved most devastating in all of this was the effective
   manipulation of the victims of COINTELPRO into blaming themselves.
   Since the FBI and police operated covertly, the horrors they
   engineered appeared to emanate from within the movements. Activists'
   trust in one another and in their collective power was subverted, and
   the hopes of a generation died, leaving a legacy of cynicism and
   despair which continues to haunt us today.
   ** End of text from cdp:pn.publiceye **
   /** pn.publiceye: 23.6 **/
   ** Written 6:50 pm Jan 24, 1991 by nlgclc in cdp:pn.publiceye **
   Black Panther Party Program:
   What We Want
   -adopted 1966
   1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our
   Black Community.
   2. We want full employment for our people.
   3. We want an end to the robbery by the CAPITALISTS of our Black
   4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
   5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of
   this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our
   true history and our role in the present-day society.
   6. We want all black men to be exempt from military service.
   7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of black
   8. We want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county
   and city prisons and jails.
   9. We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court
   by a jury of their peer group or people from their black communities,
   as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
   10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace.
   And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised
   plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which only black
   colonial subjects will be allowed to participate, for the purpose of
   determining the will of black people as to their national destiny.
   ** End of text from cdp:pn.publiceye ** /** pn.publiceye: 23.7 **/ **
       Written 6:51 pm Jan 24, 1991 by nlgclc in cdp:pn.publiceye **
                             THE DANGER WE FACE
                           Domestic Covert Action
                       Remains a Serious Threat Today
   The public exposure of COINTELPRO and other government abuses elicited
   a flurry of apparent reform in the 1970s. President Nixon resigned in
    the face of impeachment. His Attorney General, other top aides, and
      many of the "plumbers" were prosecuted and imprisoned for brief
      periods. The CIA's director and counter-intelligence chief were
    ousted, and the CIA and the Army were again directed to cease covert
                    operations against domestic targets.
     The FBI had formally shut down COINTELPRO a few weeks after it was
      uncovered. As part of the general face-lift, the Bureau publicly
   apologized for COINTELPRO, and municipal governments began to disband
      the local police "red squads" that had served as the FBI's main
   accomplices. A new Attorney General notified several hundred activists
       that they had been victims of COINTELPRO and issued guidelines
      limiting future operations. Top FBI officials were indicted for
      ordering the burglary of activists' offices and homes; two were
      convicted, and several others retired or resigned. The Bureau's
   egomaniacal, crudely racist and sexist founder, J. Edgar Hoover, died
      in 1972. After two interim directors failed to stem the tide of
   criticism, a prestigious federal judge, William Webster, was appointed
         by President Carter to clean house and build a "new FBI."
   Behind this public hoopla, however, the Bureau's war at home continued
    unabated. Domestic covert action did not end when it was exposed in
       the 1970s. It has persisted throughout the 1980s and become a
                   permanent feature of U.S. government.
   ** End of text from cdp:pn.publiceye ** /** pn.publiceye: 23.8 **/ **
       Written 6:52 pm Jan 24, 1991 by nlgclc in cdp:pn.publiceye **
                           Domestic Covert Action
                         Did Not End in the 1970s 
   Director Webster's highly touted reforms did not create a "new FBI."
   They served mainly to modernize the existing Bureau and to make it
   even more dangerous. In place of the backbiting competition with other
   law enforcement and intelligence agencies which had previously impeded
   coordination of domestic counter-insurgency, Webster promoted
   inter-agency cooperation. Adopting the mantle of an "equal opportunity
   employer," his FBI hired women and people of color to more effectively
   penetrate a broader range of political targets. By cultivating a
   low-visibility image and discreetly avoiding public attack on
   prominent liberals, Webster gradually restored the Bureau's
   respectability and won over a number ofits former critics.
   State and local police similarly upgraded their repressive
   capabilities in the 1970s while learning to present a more friendly
   public face. The "red squads" that had harassed 1960s activists were
   quietly resurrected under other names. Paramilitary SWAT teams and
   tactical squads were formed, along with highly politicized "community
   relations" and "beat rep" programs featuring conspicuous Black, Latin,
   and female officers. Generous federal funding and sophisticated
   technology became available through the Law Enforcement Assistance
   Administration, while FBI-led "joint anti-terrorist task forces"
   introduced a new level of inter-agency coordination.
   Meanwhile, the CIA continued to use university professors,
   journalists, labor leaders, publishing houses, cultural organizations,
   and philanthropic fronts to mold U.S. public opinion.[f-41> At the
   same time, Army Special Forces and other elite military units began to
   train local police for counter-insurgency and to intensify their own
   preparations, following the guidelines of the secret Pentagon
   contingency plans, "Garden Plot" and "Cable Splicer." They drew
   increasingly on manuals based on the British colonial experience in
   Kenya and Northern Ireland, which teach the essential methodology of
   COINTELPRO under the rubric of "low-intensity warfare," and stress
   early intervention to neutralize potential opposition before it can
   take hold.
   While domestic covert operations were scaled down once the 1960s
   upsurge had subsided (thanks in part to the success of COINTELPRO),
   they did notstop. In its April 27, 1971 directives disbanding
   COINTELPRO, the FBI provided for future covert action to continue
   "with tight procedures to ensure absolute security." The results are
   apparent in the record of 1970s covert operations which have so far
   come to light:
   The Native American Movement: 1970s FBI attacks on resurgent Native
   American resistance have been well documented by Ward Churchill and
   others.[f-44> In 1973, the Bureau led a paramilitary invasion of the
   Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota as American Indian Movement
   (AIM) activists gathered there for symbolic protests at Wounded Knee,
   the site of an earlier U.S. massacre of Native Americans. The FBI
   directed the entire 71-day siege, deploying federal marshals, U.S.
   Army personnel, Bureau of Indian Affairs police, local GOONs
   (Guardians of the Oglala Nation, an armed tribal vigilante force), and
   a vast array of heavy weaponry.
   In the following years, the FBI and its allies waged all-out war on
   AIM and the Native people. From 1973-76, they killed 69 residents of
   the tiny Pine Ridge reservation, a rate of political murder comparable
   to the first years of the Pinochet regime in Chile.[f-45> To justify
   such a reign of terror and undercut public protest against it, the
   Bureau launched a complementary program of psychological warfare.
   Central to this effort was a carefully orchestrated campaign to
   reinforce the already deeply ingrained myth of the "Indian savage." In
   one operation, the FBI fabricated reports that AIM "Dog Soldiers"
   planned widespread "sniping at tourists" and "burning of farmers" in
   South Dakota. The son of liberal U.S. Senator (and Arab-American
   activist) James Abourezk, was named as a "gunrunner," and the Bureau
   issued a nationwide alert picked up by media across the country.
   To the same end, FBI undercover operatives framed AIM members Paul
   "Skyhorse" Durant and Richard "Mohawk" Billings for the brutal murder
   of a Los Angeles taxi driver. A bogus AIM note taking credit for the
   killing was found pinned to a signpost near the murder site, along
   with a bundle of hair said to be the victim's "scalp." Newspaper
   headlines screamed of "ritual murder" by "radical Indians." By the
   time the defendants were finally cleared of the spurious charges, many
   of AIM's main financial backers had been scared away and its work
   among a major urban concentration of Native people was in ruin.
   In March 1975, a central perpetrator of this hoax, AIM's national
   security chief Doug Durham, was unmasked as an undercover operative
   for the FBI. As AIM's liaison with the Wounded Knee Legal
   Defense/Offense Committee during the trials of Dennis Banks and other
   Native American leaders, Durham had routinely participated in
   confidential strategy sessions. He confessed to stealing
   organizational funds during his two years with AIM, and to setting up
   the arrest of AIM militants for actions he had organized. It was
   Durham who authored the AIM documents that the FBI consistently cited
   to demonstrate the group's supposed violent tendencies.
   Prompted by Durham's revelations, the Senate Intelligence Committee
   announced on June 23, 1975 that it would hold public hearings on FBI
   operations against AIM. Three days later, armed FBI agents assaulted
   an AIM house on the Pine Ridge reservation. When the smoke cleared,
   AIM activist Joe Stuntz Killsright and two FBI agents lay dead. The
   media, barred from the scene "to preserve the evidence," broadcast the
   Bureau's false accounts of a bloody "Indian ambush," and the
   congressional hearings were quietly cancelled.
   The FBI was then free to crush AIM and clear out the last pockets of
   resistance at Pine Ridge. It launched what the Chairman of the U.S.
   Civil Rights Commission described as "a full-scale military-type
   invasion of the reservation"[f-46> complete with M-16s, Huey
   helicopters, tracking dogs, and armored personnel carriers. Eventually
   AIM leader Leonard Peltier was tried for the agents' deaths before a
   right-wing judge who met secretly with the FBI. AIM member Anna Mae
   Aquash was found murdered after FBI agents threatened to kill her
   unless she helped them to frame Peltier. Peltier's conviction, based
   on perjured testimony and falsified FBI ballistics evidence, was
   upheld on appeal. (The panel of federal judges included William
   Webster until the very day of his official appointment as Director of
   the FBI.) Despite mounting evidence of impropriety in Peltier's trial,
   and Amnesty International's call for a review of his case, the Native
   American leader remains in maximum security prison.
   The Black Movement: Government covert action against Black activists
   also continued in the 1970s. Targets ranged from community-based
   groups to the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika and
   the surviving remnants of the Black Panther Party.
   In Mississippi, federal and state agents attempted to discredit and
   disrupt the United League of Marshall County, a broad-based grassroots
   civil rights group struggling to stop Klan violence. In California, a
   notorious paid operative for the FBI, Darthard Perry, code-named
   "Othello," infiltrated and disrupted local Black groups and took
   personal credit for the fire that razed the Watts Writers Workshop's
   multi-million dollar cultural center in Los Angeles in 1973. The Los
   Angeles Police Department later admitted infiltrating at least seven
   1970s community groups, including the Black-led Coalition Against
   Police Abuse.
   In the mid-1970s, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
   (ATF) conspired with the Wilmington, North Carolina police to frame
   nine local civil rights workers and the Rev. Ben Chavis, field
   organizer for the Commission for Racial Justice of the United Church
   of Christ. Chavis had been sent to North Carolina to help Black
   communities respondto escalating racist violence against school
   desegregation. Instead of arresting Klansmen, the ATF and police
   coerced three young Black prisoners into falsely accusing Chavis and
   the others of burning white-owned property. Although all three
   prisoners later admitted they had lied in response to official threats
   and bribes, the FBI found no impropriety. The courts repeatedly
   refused to reopen the case and the Wilmington Ten served many years in
   prison before pressure from international religious and human rights
   groups won their release.
   As the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) began to build autonomous Black
   economic and political institutions in the deep South, the Bureau
   repeatedly disrupted its meetings and blocked its attempts to buy
   land. On August 18, 1971, four months after the supposed end of
   COINTELPRO, the FBI and police launched an armed pre-dawn assault on
   national RNA offices in Jackson, Mississippi. Carrying a warrant for a
   fugitive who had been brought to RNA Headquarters by FBI informer
   Thomas Spells, the attackers concentrated their fire where the
   informer's floor plan indicated that RNA President Imari Obadele
   slept. Though Obadele was away at the time of the raid, the Bureau had
   him arrested and imprisoned on charges of conspiracy to assault a
   government agent.
   The COINTELPRO-triggered collapse of the Black Panthers' organization
   and support in the winter of 1971 left them defenseless as the
   government moved to prevent them from regrouping. On August 21, 1971,
   national Party officer George Jackson, world-renowned author of the
   political autobiography [Soledad Brother,] was murdered by San Quentin
   prison authorities on the pretext of an attempted jailbreak. In July
   1972, Southern California Panther leader Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt was
   successfully framed for a senseless $70 robbery-murder committed while
   he was hundreds of miles away in Oakland, California, attending Black
   Panther meetings for which the FBI managed to "lose" all of its
   surveillance records. Documents obtained through the Freedom of
   Information Act later revealed that at least two FBI agents had
   infiltrated Pratt's defense committee. They also indicated that the
   state's main witness, Julio Butler, was a paid informer who had worked
   in the Party under the direction of the FBI and the Los Angeles Police
   Department. For many years, FBI Director Webster publicly denied that
   Pratt had ever been a COINTELPRO target, despite the documentary proof
   in his own agency's records.
   Also targeted well into the 1970s were former Panthers assigned to
   form an underground to defend against armed government attack on the
   Party. It was they who had regrouped as the Black Liberation Army
   (BLA) when the Party was destroyed. FBI files show that, within a
   month of the close of COINTELPRO, further Bureau operations against
   the BLA were mapped out in secret meetings convened by presidential
   aide John Ehrlichman and attended by President Nixon and Attorney
   General Mitchell. In the following years, many former Panther leaders
   were murdered by the police in supposed "shoot-outs" with the BLA.
   Others, such as Sundiata Acoli, Assata Shakur, Dhoruba Al-Mujahid Bin
   Wahad (formerly Richard Moore), and the New York 3 (Herman Bell,
   Anthony "Jalil" Bottom, and Albert "Nuh" Washington) were sentenced to
   long prison terms after rigged trials.
   In the case of the New York 3, FBI ballistics reports withheld during
   their mid-1970s trials show that bullets from an alleged murder weapon
   did not match those found at the site of the killings for which they
   are still serving life terms. The star witness against them has
   publicly recanted his testimony, swearing that he lied after being
   tortured by police (who repeatedly jammed an electric cattleprod into
   his testicles) and secretly threatened by the prosecutor and judge.
   The same judge later dismissed petitions to reopen the case, refusing
   to hold any hearing or to disqualify himself, even though his
   misconduct is a major issue. As the NY3 continued to press for a new
   trial, their evidence was ignored by the news media while their former
   prosecutor's one-sided, racist "docudrama" on the case, (Badge of the
   Assassin,) aired on national television.
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