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COINTELPRO IN ACTION

by Brian Glick Saturday, Aug. 05, 2000 at 11:39 PM

Police/FBI behaviour in Philly echoes COINTELPRO program.

>WHAT WAS COINTELPRO? "COINTELPRO" was the FBI's

>secret program to undermine the popular upsurge

>which swept the country during the 1960s. Though

>the name stands for "Counterintelligence Program,"

>the targets were not enemy spies. The FBI set out

>to eliminate "radical" political opposition inside

>the US. When traditional modes of repression

>(exposure, blatant harassment, and prosecution for

>political crimes) failed to counter the growing

>insurgency, and even helped to fuel it, the Bureau

>took the law into its own hands and secretly used

>fraud and force to sabotage constitutionally-

>protected political activity. Its methods ranged

>far beyond surveillance, and amounted to a domestic

>version of the covert action for which the CIA has

>become infamous throughout the world.

>

>HOW DO WE KNOW ABOUT IT? COINTELPRO was discovered

>in March, 1971, when secret files were removed from

>an FBI office and released to news media. Freedom

>of Information requests, lawsuits, and former

>agents' public confessions deepened the exposure

>until a major scandal loomed. To control the damage

>and re-establish government legitimacy in the wake

>of Vietnam and Watergate, Congress and the courts

>compelled the FBI to reveal part of what it had

>done and to promise it would not do it again.

>

>HOW DID IT WORK? The FBI secretly instructed its

>field offices to propose schemes to "misdirect,

>discredit, disrupt and otherwise neutralize

>"specific individuals and groups. Close

>coordination with local police and prosecutors was

>encouraged. Final authority rested with top FBI

>officials in Washington, who demanded assurance

>that "there is no possibility of embarrassment to

>the Bureau." More than 2000 individual actions were

>officially approved. The documents reveal three

>types of methods:

>

>1. Infiltration: Agents and informers did not

>merely spy on political activists. Their main

>function was to discredit and disrupt. Various

>means to this end are analyzed below.

>

>2. Other forms of deception: The FBI and police

>also waged psychological warfare from the

>outside--through bogus publications, forged

>correspondence, anonymous letters and telephone

>calls, and similar forms of deceit.

>

>3. Harassment, intimidation and violence: Eviction,

>job loss, break-ins, vandalism, grand jury

>subpoenas, false arrests, frame- ups, and physical

>violence were threatened, instigated or directly

>employed, in an effort to frighten activists and

>disrupt their movements. Government agents either

>concealed their involvement or fabricated a legal

>pretext. In the case of the Black and Native

>American movements, these assaults--including

>outright political assassinations--were so

>extensive and vicious that they amounted to

>terrorism on the part of the government.

>

>WHO WERE THE MAIN TARGETS? The most intense

>operations were directed against the Black

>movement, particularly the Black Panther Party.

>This resulted from FBI and police racism, the Black

>community's lack of material resources for fighting

>back, and the tendency of the media--and whites in

>general--to ignore or tolerate attacks on Black

>groups. It also reflected government and corporate

>fear of the Black movement because of its

>militance, its broad domestic base and

>international support, and its historic role in

>galvanizing the entire Sixties' upsurge. Many other

>activists who organized against US intervention

>abroad or for racial, gender or class justice at

>home also came under covert attack. The targets

>were in no way limited to those who used physical

>force or took up arms. Martin Luther King, David

>Dellinger, Phillip Berrigan and other leading

>pacifists were high on the list, as were projects

>directly protected by the Bill of Rights, such as

>alternative newspapers.

>

>The Black Panthers came under attack at a time when

>their work featured free food and health care and

>community control of schools and police, and when

>they carried guns only for deterrent and symbolic

>purposes. It was the terrorism of the FBI and

>police that eventually provoked the Panthers to

>retaliate with the armed actions that later were

>cited to justify their repression.

>

>Ultimately the FBI disclosed six official

>counterintelligence programs: Communist Party-USA

>(1956-71); "Groups Seeking Independence for Puerto

>Rico" (1960-71); Socialist Workers Party (1961-71);

>"White Hate Groups" (1964-71); "Black Nationalist

>Hate Groups" (1967-71); and "New Left" (1968-

>71).The latter operations hit anti-war, student,

>and feminist groups. The "Black Nationalist"

>caption actually encompassed Martin Luther King and

>most of the civil rights and Black Power movements.

>The "white hate" program functioned mainly as a

>cover for covert aid to the KKK and similar

>right-wing vigilantes, who were given funds and

>information, so long as they confined their attacks

>to COINTELPRO targets. FBI documents also reveal

>covert action against Native American, Chicano,

>Phillipine, Arab- American, and other activists,

>apparently without formal Counterintelligence

>programs.

>

>WHAT EFFECT DID IT HAVE? COINTELPRO's impact is

>difficult to fully assess since we do not know the

>entire scope of what was done (especially against

>such pivotal targets as Malcolm X, Martin Luther

>King, SNCC and SDS),and we have no generally

>accepted analysis of the Sixties. It is

>clear,however, that:

>

>-COINTELPRO distorted the public's view of radical

>groups in a way that helped to isolate them and to

>legitimize open political repression.

>

>-It reinforced and exacerbated the weaknesses of

>these groups, making it very difficult for the

>inexperienced activists of the Sixties to learn

>from their mistakes and build solid, durable

>organizations.

>

>-Its violent assaults and covert manipulation

>eventually helped to push some of the most

>committed and experienced groups to withdraw from

>grass-roots organizing and to substitute armed

>actions which isolated them and deprived the

>movement of much of its leadership.

>

>-COINTELPRO often convinced its victims to blame

>themselves and each other for the problems it

>created, leaving a legacy of cynicism and despair

>that persists today.

>

>-By operating covertly, the FBI and police were

>able to severely weaken domestic political

>opposition without shaking the conviction of most

>US people that they live in a democracy, with free

>speech and the rule of law.

>

>[Source: Brian Glick-author of War at Home, South

>End Press]

>

>THE DANGER WE FACE IS .... DID COINTELPRO EVER

>REALLY

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