COINTELPRO The Naked Truth
THE NAKED TRUTH
FBI Domestic Intelligence Activities
Table Of Contents
Who Were The Targets?
What Effect Did It Have? The Danger We Face
Essential Precautions How We Can Protect Ourselves?
Separate Box Infiltrators Obvious Surveillance
Mail Problems Burglaries Informers And Infiltrators
Tip Sheet Visits From The FBI
INTRODUCTIONActivists across the country report increasing government harassment and disruption of their work:
-In the Southwest, paid informers infiltrate the church services, Bible classes and support networks of clergy and lay workers giving sanctuary to refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala.
-In Alabama, elderly Black people attempting for the first time to exercise their right to vote are interrogated by FBI agents and hauled before federal grand juries hundreds of miles from their homes.
-In New England, a former CIA case officer cites examples from his own past work to warn college students of efforts by undercover operatives to misdirect and discredit protests against South African and US racism.
-In the San Francisco Bay Area, activists planning anti-nuclear civil disobedience learn that their meetings have been infiltrated by the US Navy.
-In Detroit, Seattle, and Philadelphia, in Cambridge, MA, Berkeley, CA., Phoenix, AR., and Washington, DC., churches and organizations opposing US policies in Central America report obviously political break ins in which important papers are stolen or damaged, while money and valuables are left untouched. License plates on a car spotted fleeing one such office have been traced to the US National Security Agency.
-In Puerto Rico, Texas and Massachusetts, labor leaders, community organizers, writers and editors who advocate Puerto Rican independence are branded by the FBI as "terrorists," brutally rounded-up in the middle of the night, held incommunicado for days and then jailed under new preventive detention laws.
-The FBI puts the same "terrorist" label on opponents of US intervention in El Salvador, but refuses to investigate the possibility of a political conspiracy behind nation-wide bombings of abortion clinics.
-Throughout the country, people attempting to see Nicaragua for themselves find their trips disrupted, their private papers confiscated, and their homes and offices plagued by FBI agents who demand detailed personal and political information.
These kinds of government tactics violate our fundamental constitutional rights. They make it enormously difficult to sustain grass-roots organizing. They create an atmosphere of fear and distrust which undermines any effort to challenge official policy.
Similar measures were used in the 1960s as part of a secret FBI program known as "COINTELPRO." COINTELPRO was later exposed and officially ended. But the evidence shows that it actually persisted and that clandestine operations to discredit and disrupt opposition movements have become an institutional feature of national and local government in the US. This pamphlet is designed to help current and future activists learn from the history of COINTELPRO, so that our movements can better withstand such attack.
The first section gives a brief overview of what we know the FBI did in the 60s. It explains why we can expect similar government intervention in the 80s and beyond, and offers general guidelines for effective response.
The main body of the pamphlet describes the specific methods which have previously been used to undermine domestic dissent and suggests steps we can take to limit or deflect their impact.
A final chapter explores ways to mobilize broad public protest against this kind of repression.
Further readings and groups that can help are listed in back. The pamphlet's historical analysis is based on confidential internal documents prepared by the FBI and police during the 60s.
It also draws on the post-60s confessions of disaffected government agents, and on the testimony of public officials before Congress and the courts. Though the information from these sources is incomplete, and much of what was done remains secret, we now know enough to draw useful lessons for future organizing. The suggestions included in the pamphlet are based on the author's 20 years experience as an activist and lawyer, and on talks with long-time organizers in a broad range of movements. They are meant to provide starting points for discussion, so we can get ready before the pressure intensifies. Most are a matter of common sense once the methodology of covert action is understood. Please take these issues seriously. Discuss the recommendations with other activists. Adapt them to the conditions you face. Point out problems and suggest other approaches. It is important that we begin now to protect our movements and ourselves.
A HISTORY TO LEARN FROM
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. Much of what has been learned, and copies of some of the actual documents, can be found in the readings listed at the back of this pamphlet.
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 militancy, 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, Philippine, 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.
THE DANGER WE FACE
DID COINTELPRO EVER REALLY END?Public exposure of COINTELPRO in the early 1970s elicited a flurry of reform. Congress, the courts and the mass media condemned government "intelligence abuses." Municipal police forces officially disbanded their red squads. A new Attorney General notified past victims of COINTELPRO and issued Guidelines to limit future operations. Top FBI officials were indicted (albeit for relatively minor offenses), two were convicted, and several others retired or resigned. J. Edgar Hoover the egomaniacal, crudely racist and sexist founder of the FBI died, and a well known federal judge, William Webster, eventually was appointed to clean house and build a "new FBI."
Behind this public hoopla, however, was little real improvement in government treatment of radical activists. Domestic covert operations were briefly scaled down a bit, after the 60s' upsurge had largely subsided, due impart to the success of COINTELPRO. But they did not stop. In April, 1971, soon after files had been taken from one of its offices, the FBI instructed its agents that "future COINTELPRO actions will be considered on a highly selective, individual basis with tight procedures to insure absolute security." The results are apparent in the record of the subsequent years:
-A virtual war on the American Indian Movement, ranging from forgery of documents, infiltration of legal defense committees, diversion of funds, intimidation of witnesses and falsification of evidence, to the para-military invasion of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and the murder of Anna Mae Aquash, Joe Stuntz and countless others;
-Sabotage of efforts to organize protest demonstrations at the 1972 Republican and Democratic Party conventions. The attempted assassination of San Diego Univ. Prof. Peter Bohmer, by a "Secret Army Organization" of ex-Minutemen formed, subsidized, armed, and protected by the FBI, was a part of these operations;
-Concealment of the fact that the witness whose testimony led to the 1972 robbery murder conviction of Black Panther leader Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt was a paid informer who had worked in the BPP under the direction of the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department;
-Infiltration and disruption of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and prosecution of its national leaders on false charges (Florida, 1971-74);
-Formation and operation of sham political groups such as "Red Star Cadre," in Tampa, Fla., and the New Orleans "Red Collective" (1972-76);
-Mass interrogation of lesbian and feminist activists, threats of subpoenas, jailing of those who refused to cooperate, and disruption of women's health collectives and other projects (Lexington, KY., Hartford and New Haven, Conn., 1975);
-Harassment of the Hispanic Commission of the Episcopal Church and numerous other Puerto Rican and Chicano religious activists and community organizers (Chicago, New York City, Puerto Rico, Colorado and New Mexico, 1977);
-Entrapment and frame-up of militant union leaders (NASCO shipyards, San Diego, 1979); and
IS IT A THREAT TODAY?All this, and maybe more, occurred in an era of reform. The use of similar measures in today's very different times cannot be itemized in such detail, since most are still secret. The gravity of the current danger is evident, however, from the major steps recently taken to legitimize and strengthen political repression, and from the many incidents which are coming to light despite stepped-up security.
The ground-work for public acceptance of repression has been laid by President Reagan's speeches reviving the old red scare tale of worldwide "communist take-overs" and adding a new bogeyman in the form of domestic and international "terrorism." The President has taken advantage of the resulting political climate to denounce the Bill of Rights and to red bait critics of US intervention in Central America. He has pardoned the FBI officials convicted of COINTELPRO crimes, praised their work, and spoken favorably of the political witch hunts he took part in during the 1950s.
For the first time in US history, government infiltration to "influence" domestic political activity has received official sanction. On the pretext of meeting the supposed terrorist threat, Presidential Executive Order 12333 (Dec. 4, 1981) extends such authority not only to the FBI, but also to the military and, in some cases, the CIA. History shows that these agencies treat legal restriction as a kind of speed limit which they feel free to exceed, but only by a certain margin. Thus, Reagan's Executive Order not only encourages reliance on methods once deemed abhorrent, it also implicitly licenses even greater, more damaging intrusion. Government capacity to make effective use of such measures has also been substantially enhanced in recent years:
-Judge Webster's highly touted reforms have served mainly to modernize the FBI and make it more dangerous. Instead of the back- biting competition which impeded coordination of domestic counter- insurgency in the 60s, the Bureau now promotes inter-agency cooperation. As an equal opportunity employer, it can use Third World and female agents to penetrate political targets more thoroughly than before. By cultivating a low visibility corporate image and discreetly avoiding public attack on prominent liberals, the FBI has regained respectability and won over a number of former critics.
-Municipal police forces have similarly revamped their image while upgrading their repressive capabilities. The police "red squads" that infiltrated and harassed the 60s' movements have been revived under other names and augmented by para-military SWAT teams and tactical squads as well as highly politicized community relations and "beat rep" programs, in which Black, Hispanic and female officers are often conspicuous. Local operations are linked by FBI led regional anti terrorist task forces and the national Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit (LEIU).
-Increased military and CIA involvement has added political sophistication and advanced technology. Army Special Forces and other elite military units are now trained and equipped for counter-insurgency (known as "low intensity warfare"). Their manuals teach the essential methodology of COINTELPRO, stressing earlier intervention to neutralize potential opposition before it can take hold.
The CIA's expanded role is especially ominous. In the 60s, while legally banned from "internal security functions," the CIA managed to infiltrate the Black, student and antiwar movements. It also made secret use of university professors, journalists, labor leaders, publishing houses, cultural organizations and philanthropic fronts to mold US public opinion. But it apparently felt compelled to hold back within the country from the kinds of systematic political destabilization, torture, and murder which have become the hallmark of its operations abroad. Now, the full force of the CIA has been unleashed at home.
-All of the agencies involved in covert operations have had time to learn from the 60s and to institute the "tight procedures to insure absolute security" that FBI officials demanded after COINTELPRO was exposed in 1971. Restoration of secrecy has been made easier by the Administration's steps to shield covert operations from public scrutiny. Under Reagan, key FBI and CIA files have been re-classified "top secret." The Freedom of Information Act has been quietly narrowed through administrative reinterpretation. Funds for covert operations are allocated behind closed doors and hidden in CIA and defense appropriations.
Government employees now face censorship even after they retire, and new laws make it a federal crime to publicize information which might tend to reveal an agent's identity. Despite this stepped-up security, incidents frighteningly reminiscent of 60s' COINTELPRO have begun to emerge.
The extent of the infiltration, burglary and other clandestine government intervention that has already come to light is alarming. Since the vast majority of such operations stay hidden until after the damage has been done, those we are now aware of undoubtedly represent only the tip of the iceberg. Far more is sure to lie beneath the surface.
Considering the current political climate, the legalization of COINTELPRO, the rehabilitation of the FBI and police, and the expanded role of the CIA and military, the recent revelations leave us only one safe assumption: that extensive government covert operations are already underway to neutralize today's opposition movements before they can reach the massive level of the 60s.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?Domestic covert action has now persisted in some form through at least the last seven presidencies. It grew from one program to six under Kennedy and Johnson. It flourished when an outspoken liberal, Ramsey Clark, was Attorney General (1966-68). It is an integral part of the established mode of operation of powerful, entrenched agencies on every level of government. It enables policy makers to maintain social control without detracting from their own public image or the perceived legitimacy of their method of government. It has become as institutional in the US as the race, gender, class and imperial domination it serves to uphold.
Under these circumstances, there is no reason to think we can eliminate COINTELPRO simply by electing better public officials. Only through sustained public education and mobilization, by a broad coalition of political, religious and civil libertarian activists, can we expect to limit it effectively.
In most parts of the country, however, and certainly on a national level, we lack the political power to end covert government intervention, or even to curb it substantially. We therefore need to learn how to cope more effectively with this form of repression.
The next part of this pamphlet examines the methods that were used to discredit and disrupt the movements of the 60s and suggests steps we can take to deflect or reduce their impact in the year 2000.
A CHECK-LIST OF ESSENTIAL PRECAUTIONS:-Check out the authenticity of any disturbing letter, rumor, phone call or other communication before acting on it.
-Document incidents which appear to reflect covert intervention, and report them to the Movement Support Network Hotline: 212/477- 5562.
-Deal openly and honestly with the differences within our movements (race, gender, class, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, personality, experience, physical and intellectual capacities, etc.) before the FBI and police exploit them to tear us apart.
-Don't rush to expose a suspected agent. Instead, directly criticize what the suspect says and does. Intra-movement witch hunts only help the government create distrust and paranoia.
-Support whoever comes under government attack. Don't be put off by political slander, such as recent attempts to smear radical activists as "terrorists." Organize public opposition to FBI investigations, grand juries, show trials and other forms of political harassment.
-Above all, do not let them divert us from our main work. Our most powerful weapon against political repression is effective organizing around the needs and issues which directly affect people's lives.
WHAT THEY DO & HOW WE CAN PROTECT OURSELVES
INFILTRATION BY AGENTS OR INFORMERSAgents are law enforcement officers disguised as activists.
Informers are non agents who provide information to a law enforcement or intelligence agency. They may be recruited from within a group or sent in by an agency, or they may be disaffected former members or supporters.
Infiltrators are agents or informers who work in a group or community under the direction of a law enforcement or intelligence agency. During the 60s the FBI had to rely on informers (who are less well trained and harder to control) because it had very few black, Hispanic or female agents, and its strict dress and grooming code left white male agents unable to look like activists. As a modern equal opportunity employer, today's FBI has fewer such limitations.
What They Do: Some informers and infiltrators quietly provide information while keeping a low profile and doing whatever is expected of group members. Others attempt to discredit a target and disrupt its work. They may spread false rumors and make unfounded accusations to provoke or exacerbate tensions and splits. They may urge divisive proposals, sabotage important activities and resources, or operate as "provocateurs" who lead zealous activists into unnecessary danger. In a demonstration or other confrontation with police, such an agent may break discipline and call for actions which would undermine unity and detract from tactical focus.
Infiltration As a Source of Distrust and Paranoia: While individual agents and informers aid the government in a variety of specific ways, the general use of infiltrators serves a very special and powerful strategic function. The fear that a group may be infiltrated often intimidates people from getting more involved. It can give rise to a paranoia which makes it difficult to build the mutual trust which political groups depend on. This use of infiltrators, enhanced by covertly initiated rumors that exaggerate the extent to which a particular movement or group has been penetrated, is recommended by the manuals used to teach counter-insurgency in the U.S. and Western Europe.
Covert Manipulation to Make A Legitimate Activist Appear to be an Agent: An actual agent will often point the finger at a genuine, non collaborating and highly valued group member, claiming that he or she is the infiltrator. The same effect, known as a "snitch jacket," has been achieved by planting forged documents which appear to be communications between an activist and the FBI, or by releasing for no other apparent reason one of a group of activists who were arrested together. Another method used under COINTELPRO was to arrange for some activists, arrested under one pretext or another, to hear over the police radio a phony broadcast which appeared to set up a secret meeting between the police and someone from their group.
GUIDELINES FOR COPING WITH INFILTRATION:
- l. Establish a process through which anyone who suspects an informer (or other form of covert intervention) can express his or her fears without scaring others. Experienced people assigned this responsibility can do a great deal to help a group maintain its morale and focus while, at the same time, centrally consolidating information and deciding how to use it. This plan works best when accompanied by group discussion of the danger of paranoia, so that everyone understands and follows the established procedure.
- 2. To reduce vulnerability to paranoia and "snitch jackets", and to minimize diversion from your main work, it generally is best if you do not attempt to expose a suspected agent or informer unless you are certain of their role. (For instance, they surface to make an arrest, testify as a government witness or in some other way admit their identity). Under most circumstances, an attempted exposure will do more harm than the infiltrator's continued presence. This is especially true if you can discreetly limit the suspect's access to funds, financial records, mailing lists, discussions of possible law violations, meetings that plan criminal defense strategy, and similar opportunities.
- 3. Deal openly and directly with the form and content of what anyone says and does, whether the person is a suspected agent, has emotional problems, or is simply a sincere, but naive or confused person new to the work.
- 4. Once an agent or informer has been definitely identified, alert other groups and communities by means of photographs, a description of their methods of operation, etc. In the 60s, some agents managed even after their exposure in one community to move on and repeat their performance in a number of others.
- 5. Be careful to avoid pushing a new or hesitant member to take risks beyond what that person is ready to handle, particularly in situations which could result in arrest and prosecution. People in this position have proved vulnerable to recruitment as informers.
OTHER FORMS OF DECEPTIONBogus leaflets, pamphlets, etc.: COINTELPRO documents show that the FBI routinely put out phony leaflets, posters, pamphlets, etc. to discredit its targets. In one instance, agents revised a children's coloring book which the Black Panther Party had rejected as anti white and gratuitously violent, and then distributed a cruder version to backers of the Party's program of free breakfasts for children, telling them the book was being used in the program.
False media stories: The FBI's documents expose collusion by reporters and news media that knowingly published false and distorted material prepared by Bureau agents. One such story had Jean Seberg, a noticeably pregnant white film star active in anti racist causes, carrying the child of a prominent Black leader. Seberg's white husband, the actual father, has sued the FBI as responsible for her resulting still-birth, breakdown, and suicide.
Forged correspondence: Former employees have confirmed that the FBI and CIA have the capacity to produce "state of the art" forgery. The U.S. Senate's investigation of COINTELPRO uncovered a series of letters forged in the name of an intermediary between the Black Panther Party's national office and Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, in exile in Algeria. The letters proved instrumental in inflaming intra-party rivalries that erupted into the bitter public split that shattered the Party in the winter of 1971.
Anonymous letters and telephone calls: During the 60s, activists received a steady flow of anonymous letters and phone calls which turn out to have been from government agents. Some threatened violence. Others promoted racial divisions and fears. Still others charged various leaders with collaboration, corruption, sexual affairs with other activists' mates, etc. As in the Seberg incident, inter-racial sex was a persistent theme. The husband of one white woman involved in a bi-racial civil rights group received the following anonymous letter authored by the FBI:
Look, man, I guess your old lady doesn't get enough at home or she wouldn't be shucking and jiving with our Black Men in ACTION, you dig? Like all she wants to integrate is the bedroom and us Black Sisters ain't gonna take no second best from our men. So lay it on her man or get her the hell off [name]. A Soul Sister
False rumors: Using infiltrators, journalists and other contacts, the Bureau circulated slanderous, disruptive rumors through political movements and the communities in which they worked.
Other misinformation: A favorite FBI tactic uncovered by Senate investigators was to misinform people that a political meeting or event had been canceled. Another was to offer non- existent housing at phony addresses, stranding out-of-town conference attendees who naturally blamed those who had organized the event. FBI agents also arranged to transport demonstrators in the name of a bogus bus company which pulled out at the last minute. Such "dirty tricks" interfered with political events and turned activists against each other.
SEPARATE BOX:Fronts for the FBI: COINTELPRO documents reveal that a number of Sixties' political groups and projects were actually set up and operated by the FBI.
One, "Grupo pro-Uso Voto," was used to disrupt the fragile unity developing in l967 among groups seeking Puerto Rico's independence from the US. The genuine proponents of independence had joined together to boycott a US-administered referendum on the island's status. They argued that voting under conditions of colonial domination could serve only to legitimize US rule, and that no vote could be fair while the US controlled the island's economy, media, schools, and police. The bogus group, pretending to support independence, broke ranks and urged independistas to take advantage of the opportunity to register their opinion at the polls.
Since FBI front groups are basically a means for penetrating and disrupting political movements, it is best to deal with them on the basis of the Guidelines for Coping with Infiltration (below).
Confront what a suspect group says and does, but avoid public accusations unless you have definite proof. If you do have such proof, share it with everyone affected.
GUIDELINES FOR COPING WITH OTHER FORMS OF DECEPTION:
- 1. Don't add unnecessarily to the pool of information that government agents use to divide political groups and turn activists against each other. They thrive on gossip about personal tensions, rivalries and disagreements. The more these are aired in public, or via a telephone which can be tapped or mail which can be opened, the easier it is to exploit a groups' problems and subvert its work. (Note that the CIA has the technology to read mail without opening it, and that the telephone network can now be programmed to record any conversation in which specified political terms are used.)
- 2. The best way to reduce tensions and hostilities, and the urge to gossip about them, is to make time for open, honest discussion and resolution of "personal" as well as "political" issues.
- 3. Don't accept everything you hear or read. Check with the supposed source of the information before you act on it. Personal communication among estranged activists, however difficult or painful, could have countered many FBI operations which proved effective in the Sixties.
- 4. When you hear a negative, confusing or potentially harmful rumor, don't pass it on. Instead, discuss it with a trusted friend or with the people in your group who are responsible for dealing with covert intervention.
- 5. Verify and double check all arrangements for housing, transportation, meeting rooms, and so forth.
- 6. When you discover bogus materials, false media stories, etc., publicly disavow them and expose the true source, insofar as you can.
HARASSMENT, INTIMIDATION & VIOLENCE:Pressure through employers, landlords, etc.: COINTELPRO documents reveal frequent overt contacts and covert manipulation (false rumors, anonymous letters and telephone calls) to generate pressure on activists from their parents, landlords, employers, college administrators, church superiors, welfare agencies, credit bureaus, licensing authorities, and the like.
Agents' reports indicate that such intervention denied Sixties' activists any number of foundation grants and public speaking engagements. It also cost underground newspapers most of their advertising revenues, when major record companies were persuaded to take their business elsewhere. It may underlie recent steps by insurance companies to cancel policies held by churches giving sanctuary to refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala.
Burglary: Former operatives have confessed to thousands of "black bag jobs" in which FBI agents broke into movement offices to steal, copy or destroy valuable papers, wreck equipment, or plant drugs.
Vandalism: FBI infiltrators have admitted countless other acts of vandalism, including the fire which destroyed the Watts Writers Workshop's multi-million dollar ghetto cultural center in 1973. Late 60s' FBI and police raids laid waste to movement offices across the country, destroying precious printing presses, typewriters, layout equipment, research files, financial records, and mailing lists.
Other direct interference: To further disrupt opposition movements, frighten activists, and get people upset with each other, the FBI tampered with organizational mail, so it came late or not at all. It also resorted to bomb threats and similar "dirty tricks".
Conspicuous surveillance: The FBI and police blatantly watch activists' homes, follow their cars, tap phones, open mail and attend political events. The object is not to collect information (which is done surreptitiously), but to harass and intimidate.
Attempted interviews: Agents have extracted damaging information from activists who don't know they have a legal right to refuse to talk, or who think they can outsmart the FBI. COINTELPRO directives recommend attempts at interviews throughout political movements to "enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles" and "get the point across that there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox."
Grand juries: Unlike the FBI, the Grand Jury has legal power to make you answer its questions. Those who refuse, and are required to accept immunity from use of their testimony against them, can be jailed for contempt of court. (Such "use immunity" enables prosecutors to get around the constitutional protection against self incrimination.)
The FBI and the US Dept. of Justice have manipulated this process to turn the grand jury into an instrument of political repression. Frustrated by jurors' consistent refusal to convict activists of overtly political crimes, they convened over 100 grand juries between l970 and 1973 and subpoenaed more than 1000 activists from the Black, Puerto Rican, student, women's and anti-war movements. Supposed pursuit of fugitives and "terrorists" was the usual pretext. Many targets were so terrified that they dropped out of political activity. Others were jailed without any criminal charge or trial, in what amounts to a U.S. version of the political internment procedures employed in South Africa and Northern Ireland.
False arrest and prosecution: COINTELPRO directives cite the Philadelphia FBI's success in having local militants "arrested on every possible charge until they could no longer make bail" and "spent most of the summer in jail." Though the bulk of the activists arrested in this manner were eventually released, some were convicted of serious charges on the basis of perjured testimony by FBI agents, or by co-workers who the Bureau had threatened or bribed.
The object was not only to remove experienced organizers from their communities and to divert scarce resources into legal defense, but even more to discredit entire movements by portraying their leaders as vicious criminals. Two victims of such frame ups, Native American activist Leonard Peltier and 1960s' Black Panther official Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, have finally gained court hearings on new trial motions.
Others currently struggling to re-open COINTELPRO convictions include Richard Marshall of the American Indian Movement and jailed Black Panthers Herman Bell, Anthony Bottom, Albert Washington (the "NY3"), and Richard "Dhoruba" Moore.
Intimidation: One COINTELPRO communiqué urged that "The Negro youths and moderates must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead revolutionaries."
Others reported use of threats (anonymous and overt) to terrorize activists, driving some to abandon promising projects and others to leave the country. During raids on movement offices, the FBI and police routinely roughed up activists and threatened further violence. In August, 1970, they forced the entire staff of the Black Panther office in Philadelphia to march through the streets naked.
Instigation of violence: The FBI's infiltrators and anonymous notes and phone calls incited violent rivals to attack Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and other targets. Bureau records also reveal maneuvers to get the Mafia to move against such activists as black comedian Dick Gregory.
A COINTELPRO memo reported that "shootings, beatings and a high degree of unrest continue to prevail in the ghetto area of southeast San Diego...it is felt that a substantial amount of the unrest is directly attributable to this program."
Covert aid to right wing vigilantes: In the guise of a COINTELPRO against "white hate groups," the FBI subsidized, armed, directed and protected the klu Klux Klan and other right wing groups, including a "Secret Army Organization" of California ex-Minutemen who beat up Chicano activists, tore apart the offices of the San Diego Street Journal and the Movement for a Democratic Military, and tried to kill a prominent anti-war organizer. Puerto Rican activists suffered similar terrorist assaults from anti-Castro Cuban groups organized and funded by the CIA.
Defectors from a band of Chicago based vigilantes known as the "Legion of Justice" disclosed that the funds and arms they used to destroy book stores, film studios and other centers of opposition had secretly been supplied by members of the Army's 113th Military Intelligence Group.
Assassination: The FBI and police were implicated directly in murders of Black and Native American leaders. In Chicago, police assassinated Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, using a floor plan supplied by an FBI informer who apparently also had drugged Hampton's food to make him unconscious during the raid.
FBI records show that this accomplice received a substantial bonus for his services. Despite an elaborate cover-up, a blue ribbon commission and a U.S Court of Appeals found the deaths to be the result not of a shoot out, as claimed by police, but of a carefully orchestrated, Vietnam style "search and destroy mission".
GUIDELINES FOR COPING WITH HARASSMENT, INTIMIDATION & VIOLENCE:
- 1. Establish security procedures appropriate to your group's level of activity and discuss them thoroughly with everyone involved. Control access to keys, files, letterhead, funds, financial records, mailing lists, etc. Keep duplicates of valuable documents. Safeguard address books, and do not carry them when arrest is likely.
- 2. Careful records of break ins, thefts, bomb threats, raids, arrests, strange phone noises (not always taps or bugs), harassment, etc. will help you to discern patterns and to prepare reports and testimony.
- 3. Don't talk to the FBI. Don't let them in without a warrant. Tell others that they came. Have a lawyer demand an explanation and instruct them to leave you alone.
- 4. If an activist does talk, or makes some other honest error, explain the harm that could result. But do not attempt to ostracize a sincere person who slips up. Isolation only weakens a person's ability to resist. It can drive someone out of the movement and even into the arms of the police.
- 5. If the FBI starts to harass people in your area, alert everyone to refuse to cooperate (see box). Call the Movement Support Network's Hotline:(2l2) 614-6422. Set up community meetings with speakers who have resisted similar harassment elsewhere. Get literature, films, etc. through the organizations listed in the back of this pamphlet. Consider "Wanted" posters with photos of the agents, or guerilla theater which follows them through the city streets.
- 6. Make a major public issue of crude harassment, such as tampering with your mail. Contact your congressperson. Call the media. Demonstrate at your local FBI office. Turn the attack into an opportunity for explaining how covert intervention threatens fundamental human rights.
- 7. Many people find it easier to tell an FBI agent to contact their lawyer than to refuse to talk. Once a lawyer is involved, the Bureau generally pulls back, since it has lost its power to intimidate. If possible, make arrangements with a local lawyer and let everyone know that agents who visit them can be referred to that lawyer. If your group engages in civil disobedience or finds itself under intense police pressure, start a bail fund, train some members to deal with the legal system, and develop an ongoing relationship with a sympathetic local lawyer.
- 8. Organizations listed in the back of this pamphlet can also help resist grand jury harassment. Community education is important, along with legal, financial, child care, and other support for those who protect a movement by refusing to divulge information about it. If a respected activist is subpoenaed for obviously political reasons, consider trying to arrange for sanctuary in a local church or synagogue.
- 9. While the FBI and police are entirely capable of fabricating criminal charges, any law violations make it easier for them to set you up. The point is not to get so up-tight and paranoid that you can't function, but to make a realistic assessment based on your visibility and other pertinent circumstances.
- 10. Upon hearing of Fred Hampton's murder, the Black Panthers in Los Angeles fortified their offices and organized a communications network to alert the community and news media in the event of a raid. When the police did attempt an armed assault four days later, the Panthers were able to hold off the attack until a large community and media presence enabled them to leave the office without casualties. Similar preparation can help other groups that have reason to expect right wing or police assaults.
- 11. Make sure your group designates and prepares other members to step in if leaders are jailed or otherwise incapacitated. The more each participant is able to think for herself or himself and take responsibility, the better will be the group's capacity to cope with crises.
ORGANIZING PUBLIC OPPOSITION TO COVERT INTERVENTIONA BROAD BASED STRATEGY: No one existing political organization or movement is strong enough, by itself, to mobilize the public pressure required to significantly limit the ability of the FBI, CIA and police to subvert our work. Some activists oppose covert intervention because it violates fundamental constitutional rights. Others stress how it weakens and interferes with the work of a particular group or movement. Still others see covert action as part of a political and economic system which is fundamentally flawed. Our only hope is to bring these diverse forces together in a single, powerful alliance.
Such a broad coalition cannot hold together unless it operates with clearly defined principles. The coalition as a whole will have to oppose covert intervention on certain basic grounds such as the threat to democracy, civil liberties and social justice, leaving its members free to put forward other objections and analyses in their own names. Participants will need to refrain from insisting that only their views are "politically correct" and that everyone else has "sold out."
Above all, we will have to resist the government's maneuvers to divide us by moving against certain groups, while subtly suggesting that it will go easy on the others, if only they dissociate themselves from those under attack. This strategy is evident in the recent Executive Order and Guidelines, which single out for infiltration and disruption people who support liberation movements and governments that defy U.S. hegemony or who entertain the view that it may at times be necessary to break the law in order to effectuate social change.
DIVERSE TACTICS: For maximum impact, local and national coalitions will need a multi-faceted approach which effectively combines a diversity of tactics, including:
- l. Investigative research to stay on top of, and document, just what the FBI, CIA and police are up to.
- 2. Public education through forums, rallies, radio and TV, literature, film, high school and college curricula, wall posters, guerilla theater, and whatever else proves interesting and effective.
- 3. Legislative lobbying against administration proposals to strengthen covert work, cut back public access to information, punish government "whistle blowers", etc. Coalitions in some cities and states have won legislative restrictions on surveillance and covert action. The value of such victories will depend our ability to mobilize continuing, vigilant public pressure for effective enforcement.
- 4. Support for the victims of covert intervention can reduce somewhat the harm done by the FBI, CIA and police. Organizing on behalf of grand jury resisters, political prisoners, and defendants in political trials offers a natural forum for public education about domestic covert action.
- 5. Lawsuits may win financial compensation for some of the people harmed by covert intervention. Class action suits, which seek a court order (injunction) limiting surveillance and covert action in a particular city or judicial district, have proved a valuable source of information and publicity. They are enormously expensive, however, in terms of time and energy as well as money. Out-of-court settlements in some of these cases have given rise to bitter disputes which split coalitions apart, and any agreement is subject to reinterpretation or modification by increasingly conservative, administration oriented federal judges.
The US Court of Appeals in Chicago has ruled that the consent decree against the FBI there affects only operations based "solely on the political views of a group or an individual," for which the Bureau can conjure no pretext of a "genuine concern for law enforcement."
- 6. Direct action, in the form of citizens' arrests, mock trials, picket lines, and civil disobedience, has recently greeted CIA recruiters on a number of college campuses. Although the main focus has been on the Agency's international crimes, its domestic activities have also received attention. Similar actions might be organized to protest recruitment by the FBI and police, in conjunction with teach ins and other education about domestic covert action. Demonstrations against Reagan's attempts to bolster covert intervention, or against particular FBI, CIA or police operations, could also raise public consciousness and focus activists' outrage.
PROSPECTS: Previous attempts to mobilize public opposition, especially on a local level, indicate that a broad coalition, employing a multi-faceted approach, may be able to impose some limits on the government's ability to discredit and disrupt our work. It is clear, however, that we currently lack the power to eliminate such intervention. While fighting hard to end domestic covert action, we need also to study the forms it takes and prepare ourselves to cope with it as effectively as we can.
Above all, it is essential that we resist the temptation to so preoccupy ourselves with repression that we neglect our main work. Our ability to resist the government's attacks depends ultimately on the strength of our movements. So long as we continue to advocate and organize effectively, no manner of intervention can stop us.
BUGS, TAPS AND INFILTRATORS:
WHAT TO DO ABOUT POLITICAL SPYINGOrganizations involved in controversial issues particularly those who encourage or assist members to commit civil disobedience should be alert to the possibility of surveillance and disruption by police or federal agencies.
During the last three decades, many individuals and organizations were spied upon, wiretapped, their personal lives disrupted in an effort to draw them away from their political work, and their organizations infiltrated. Hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence from agencies such as the FBI and CIA were obtained by Congressional inquiries headed by Senator Frank Church and Representative Otis Pike, others were obtained through use of the Freedom of Information Act and as a result of lawsuits seeking damages for First Amendment violations.
Despite the public outcry to these revelations, the apparatus remains in place, and federal agencies have been given increased powers by the Reagan Administration.
Good organizers should be acquainted with this sordid part of American history, and with the signs that may indicate their group is the target of an investigation.
HOWEVER, DO NOT LET PARANOIA immobilize you. The results of paranoia and overreaction to evidence of surveillance can be just as disruptive to an organization as an actual infiltrator or disruption campaign.
This document is a brief outline of what to look for -- and what to do if you think your group is the subject of an investigation. This is meant to suggest possible actions, and is not intended to provide legal advice
Possible evidence of government spying
Obvious surveillanceLook for:
- Visits by police or federal agents to politically involved individuals, landlords, employers, family members or business associates. These visits may be to ask for information, to encourage or create possibility of eviction or termination of employment, or to create pressure for the person to stop his or her political involvement.
- Uniformed or plainclothes officers taking pictures of people entering your office or participating in your activities. Just before and during demonstrations and other public events, check the area including windows and rooftops for photographers.
- People who seem out of place. If they come to your office or attend your events, greet them as potential members. Try to determine if they are really interested in your issues -- or just your members!
- People writing down license plate numbers of cars and other vehicles in the vicinity of your meetings and rallies.
Despite local legislation and several court orders limiting policy spying activities, these investigatory practices have been generally found to be legal unless significant "chilling" of constitutional rights can be proved.
Telephone ProblemsElectronic surveillance equipment is now so sophisticated that you should not be able to tell if your telephone conversations are being monitored. Clicks, whirrs, and other noises probably indicate a problem in the telephone line or other equipment.
For example, the National Security Agency has the technology to monitor microwave communications traffic, and to isolate all calls to or from a particular line, or to listen for key words that activate a recording device. Laser beams and "spike" microphones can detect sound waves hitting walls and window panes, and then transmit those waves for recording. In these cases, there is little chance that the subject would be able to find out about the surveillance.
Among the possible signs you may find are:
- Hearing a tape recording of a conversation you, or someone else in your home or office, have recently held.
- Hearing people talking about your activities when you try to use the telephone.
- Losing service several days before major events.
Government use of electronic surveillance is governed by two laws, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Warrants for such surveillance can be obtained if there is evidence of a federal crime, such as murder, drug trafficking, or crimes characteristic of organized crime, or for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence information available within the U.S. In the latter case, an "agent of a foreign power" can be defined as a representative of a foreign government, from a faction or opposition group, or foreign based political groups.
Because of traditional difficulties with the U.S. Postal Service, some problems with mail delivery will occur, such as a machine catching an end of an envelope and tearing it, or a bag getting lost and delaying delivery.
However, a pattern of problems may occur because of political intelligence gathering:
- Envelopes may have been opened prior to reaching their destination; contents were removed and/or switched with other mail. Remember that the glue on envelopes doesn't work as well when volume or bulk mailings are involved.
- Mail may arrive late, on a regular basis different from others in your neighborhood.
- Mail may never arrive. There are currently two kinds of surveillance permitted with regards to mail: the mail cover, and opening of mail. The simplest, and lest intrusive form is the "mail cover" in which Postal employees simply list any information that can be obtained from the envelope, or opening second, third or fourth class mail. Opening of first class mail requires a warrant unless it is believed to hold drugs or "ticks." More leeway is given for opening first class international mail.
BurglariesA common practice during the FBI's Counter- Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) was the use of surreptitious entries or "black bag jobs." Bureau agents were given special training in burglary, key reproduction, etc. for use in entering homes and offices. In some cases, the key could be obtained from "loyal American" landlords or building owners.
Typical indicators are:
- Files, including membership and financial reports are rifled, copied or stolen.
- Items of obvious financial value are left untouched.
- Equipment vital to the organization may be broken or stolen, such as typewriters, printing machinery, and computers.
- Signs of a political motive are left, such as putting a membership list or a poster from an important event in an obvious place. Although warrant less domestic security searches are in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and any evidence obtained this way cannot be used in criminal proceedings, the Reagan Administration and most recent Presidents (excepting Carter) have asserted the inherent authority to conduct searches against those viewed as agents of a foreign power
Informers and InfiltratorsInformation about an organization or individual can also be obtained by placing an informer or infiltrator. This person may be a police officer, employee of a federal agency, someone who has been charged or convicted of criminal activity and has agreed to "help" instead of serve time, or anyone from the public.
Once someone joins an organization for the purposes of gathering information, the line between data gathering and participation blurs. Two types of infiltrators result -- someone who is under "deep cover" and adapts to the lifestyle of the people they are infiltrating. These people may maintain their cover for many years, and an organization may never know whom these people are. Agents "provocateur" are more visible, because they will deliberately attempt to disrupt or lead the group into illegal activities. They often become involved just as an event or crisis is occurring, and leave town or drop out after the organizing slows down.
An agent may:
- Volunteer for tasks which provide access to important meetings and papers such as financial records, membership lists, minutes and confidential files.
- Not follow through or complete tasks, or else does them poorly despite an obvious ability to do good work.
- Cause problems for a group such as committing it to activities or expenses without following proper channels; urge a group to plan activities that divide group unity.
- Seem to create or be in the middle of personal or political difference that slow the work of the group.
- Seek the public spotlight, in the name of your group, and then make comments or present an image different from the rest of the group.
- Urge the use of violence or breaking the law, and provide information and resources to enable such ventures.
- Have no obvious source of income over a period of time, or have more money available than his or her job should pay.
- Charge other people with being agents, (a process called snitch jackets), thereby diverting attention from him or herself, and draining the group's energy from other work.
THESE ARE NOT THE ONLY SIGNS, NOR IS A PERSON WHO FITS SEVERAL OF THESE CATEGORIES NECESSARILY AN AGENT. BE EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS AND DO NOT CALL ANOTHER PERSON WITHOUT HAVING SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE.
Courts have consistently found that an individual who provides information, even if it is incriminating, to an informer has not had his or her Constitutional rights violated. This includes the use of tape recorders or electronic transmitters as well.
Lawsuits in Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere, alleging infiltration of lawful political groups have resulted in court orders limiting the use of police informers and infiltrators. However, this does not affect activities of federal agencies.
If you find evidence of surveillance: Hold a meeting to discuss spying and harassment
- Determine if any of your members have experienced any harassment or noticed any surveillance activities that appear to be directed at the organization's activities. Carefully record all the details of these and see if any patterns develop.
- Review past suspicious activities or difficulties in your group. Has one or several people been involved in many of these events? List other possible "evidence" of infiltration.
- Develop internal policy on how the group should respond to any possible surveillance or suspicious actions. Decide who should be the contact person(s), what information should be recorded, what process to follow during any event or demonstration if disruption tactics are used.
- Consider holding a public meeting to discuss spying in your community and around the country. Schedule a speaker or film discussing political surveillance.
- Make sure to protect important documents or computer disks, by keeping a second copy in a separate, secret location. Use fireproof, locked cabinets if possible.
- Implement a sign-in policy for your office and/or meetings. This is helpful for your organizing, developing a mailing list, and can provide evidence that an infiltrator or informer was at your meeting. Appoint a contact for spying concerns
This contact person or committee should implement the policy developed above and should be given to authority to act, to get others to respond should any problems occur.
The contact should: Seek someone familiar with surveillance history and law, such as the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Conference of Black Lawyers or the American Friends Service Committee. Brief them about your evidence and suspicions. They will be able to make suggestions about actions to take, as well as organizing and legal contacts.
- Maintain a file of all suspected or confirmed experiences of surveillance and disruption. Include: date, place, time, who was present, a complete description of everything that happened, and any comments explaining the context of the event or showing what impact the event had on the individual or organization. If this is put in deposition form and signed, it can be used as evidence in court.
- Under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy act, request any files on the organization from federal agencies such as the FBI, CIA, Immigration and Naturalization, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, etc. File similar requests with local and state law enforcement agencies, if your state freedom of information act applies.
Prepare for major demonstrations and events
- Plan ahead; brief your legal workers on appropriate state and federal statutes on police and federal official spying. Discuss whether photographing with still or video cameras is anticipated and decide if you want to challenge it.
- If you anticipate surveillance, brief reporters who are expected to cover the event, and provide them with materials about past surveillance by your city's police in the past, and/or against other activists throughout the country.
- Tell the participants when surveillance is anticipated and discuss what the group's response will be. Also, decide how to handle provocateurs, police violence, etc. and incorporate this into any affinity group, marshall or other training. During the event: Carefully monitor the crowd, looking for surveillance or possible disruption tactics. Photograph any suspicious or questionable activities.
- Approach police officer(s) seen engaging in questionable activities. Consider having a legal worker and/or press person monitor their actions. If you suspect someone is an infiltrator:
- Try to obtain information about his or her background: where s/he attended high school and college; place of employment, and other pieces of history. Attempt to verify this information.
- Check public records which include employment; this can include voter registration, mortgages or other debt filings, etc.
- Check listings of police academy graduates, if available. Once you obtain evidence that someone is an infiltrator: Confront him or her in a protected setting, such as a small meeting with several other key members of your group (and an attorney if available). Present the evidence and ask for the person's response.
- You should plan how to inform your members about the infiltration, gathering information about what the person did while a part of the group and determining any additional impact s/he may have had.
- You should consider contacting the press with evidence of the infiltration. If you can only gather circumstantial evidence, but are concerned that the person is disrupting the group: Hold a strategy session with key leadership as to how to handle the troublesome person.
- Confront the troublemaker, and lay out why the person is disrupting the organization. Set guidelines for further involvement and carefully monitor the person's activities. If the problems continue, consider asking the person to leave the organization.
- If sufficient evidence is then gathered which indicates s/he is an infiltrator, confront the person with the information in front of witnesses and carefully watch reactions.
Request an investigation or make a formal complaint
- Report telephone difficulties to your local and long distance carriers. Ask for a check on the lines to assure that the equipment is working properly. Ask them to do a sweep/check to see if any wiretap equipment is attached (Sometimes repair staff can be very helpful in this way.) If you can afford it, request a sweep of your phone and office or home form a private security firm. Remember this will only be good at the time that the sweep is done.
- File a formal complaint with the U.S. Postal Service, specifying the problems you have been experiencing, specific dates, and other details. If mail has failed to arrive, ask the Post Office to trace the envelope or package.
- Request a formal inquiry by the police, if you have been the subject of surveillance or infiltration. Describe any offending actions by police officers and ask a variety of questions. If an activity was photographed, ask what will be done with the pictures. Set a time when you expect a reply from the police chief. Inform members of the City Council and the press of your request.
- If you are not pleased with the results of the police chief's reply, file a complaint with the Police Board or other administrative body. Demand a full investigation. Work with investigators to insure that all witnesses are contacted. Monitor the investigation and respond publicly to the conclusions. Initiate a lawsuit if applicable federal or local statues have been violated.
Before embarking on a lawsuit, remember that most suits take many years to complete and require tremendous amounts of organizers' and legal workers' energy and money.
Always notify the press when you have a good story
Keep interested reporters updated on any new developments. They may be aware of other police abuses, or be able to obtain further evidence of police practices.
Press coverage of spying activities is very important, because publicity conscious politicians and police chiefs will be held accountable for questionable practices.
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 of its 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. At the same time, Army Special Forces and other elite military units began to train local police for counterinsurgency 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 not stop. 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. 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. 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" gun runner," 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 canceled.
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" 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 respond to 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 firewhere 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 York3 (Herman Bell, Anthony "Jalil" Bottom, and Albert "Nuh" Washington) were sentenced to long prison terms after rigged trials.
Even in instances involving actual armed struggle on the part of liberation movements leaving aside the probability that earlier applications of COINTELPRO tactics had done much to convince adherents that no other route to effect positive social change lay open to them - the Bureau had been duplicitous in its approach. One need only examine the case of Assata Shakur (s/n: Joanne Chesimard) to get the picture. Publicly and sensationally accused by the FBI of being the revolutionary mother hen"of a BLA cell conducting a "series of cold-blooded murders of NewYork City police officers," Assata Shakur was made the subject of a nationwide manhunt in 1972. 16 On May 2, 1973, she, BLA founder Zayd Malik Shakur (her brother-in-law) and Sundiata Acoli (s/n: Clark Squire) were subjected to one of the random harassment stops of blacks on the New Jersey Turnpike for which the Jersey state troopers are so deservedly notorious. Apparently realizing who it was they'd pulled over, the two troopers -Werner Foerster and James Harper - opened fire, wounding Assata Shakur immediately. In the fight which followed, both Zayd Shakur and trooper Foerster were killed, trooper Harper and Sundiata Acoli wounded. Both surviving BLA members were captured. Assata Shakur was, however, charged with none of the killings which had ostensibly earned her such celebrated status as a "terrorist." Instead, the government contended she had participated in bank robberies, and the state of New York accused her of involvement in the killing of a heroin dealer in Brooklyn and the failed ambush of two cops in Queens on January 23, 1973. She was acquitted of every single charge in a series of trials lasting into 1977. Meanwhile, she was held without bond, in isolation and in especially miserable local jail facilities. Finally, having exhausted all other possibilities of obtaining a conviction, the authorities took her to trial in New Jersey in the death of trooper Foerster. Despite the fact that Sundiata Acoli had long-since been convicted of having fired the fatal bullets - and medical testimony indicating her wounds had incapacitated her prior to the firefight itself Assata Shakur was convicted of first degree murder by an all-white jury on March 25, 1977. She was sentenced to life imprisonment. The travesty imbedded in all this was unmistakable, and Assata Shakur's circumstances remained the topic of much discussion and debate. This became all the more true on the night of November 2, 1979, when a combat unit of the BLA set the prisoner free from the maximum security building of the Clinton Women's Prison in New Jersey. It is instructive that this organization of what the police and the FBI were busily portraying as "mad dog killers" appear to have gone considerably out of their way to insure that no one, including the guards, was hurt during the prison break. For her part, Assata Shakur - now hyped by the Bureau as "the nation's number one terrorist fugitive" despite the state's failure to link her to any concrete , act of terrorism, was quietly provided sanctuary in Cuba where she remains today. 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 cattle prod 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.
TIP SHEET for Staff Organizers
Common Sense SecurityAs the movements for social change become more sophisticated, the techniques of the state, corporations and the right wing have also become more sophisticated. Historically this has always been the case; caution in the face of the concerted effort to stop us, however, is both prudent and necessary.
Here are some useful suggestions:
- If you wish to have a private conversation, leave your home and your office and go outside and take a walk or go somewhere public and notice who is near you. Never say anything you don't want to hear repeated when there is any possibility of being recorded.
- Never leave one copy of a document or list behind; take a minute to duplicate an irreplaceable document and keep the duplicate in a safe place. Back up and store important computer disks off site. Sensitive data and membership list should be kept under lock and key.
- Keep your mailing lists, donor lists and personal phone books away from light fingered people. Always maintain a duplicate.
- Know your printer if you are about to publish.
- Know your mailing house.
- Know anyone you are trusting to work on any part of a project that is sensitive.
- Don't hire a stranger as a messenger.
- Sweeps for electronic surveillance are only effective for the time they are being done, and are only effective as they are being done if you are sure of the person(s) doing the sweep.
- Don't use code on the phone. If you are being tapped and the transcript is used against you in court, the coded conversation can be alleged to be anything. Don't say anything on the phone you don't want to hear in open court.
- Don't gossip on the phone. Smut is valuable to anyone listening; it makes everyone vulnerable.
- If you are being followed, get the tag number and description of the car and people in the car. Photograph the person(s) following you or have a friend do so.
- If you are followed or feel vulnerable, call a friend; don't "tough it out" alone. They are trying to frighten you. It is frightening to have someone threatening your freedom.
- Debrief yourself after each incident. Write details down: time, date, occasion, incident, characteristics of the person(s), impressions, anything odd about the situation. Keep a "weirdo" file and keep notes from unsettling situations and see if a pattern emerges.
- Write for your file under the FOIA and pursue the agencies until they give you all the documents filed under your name.
- Brief your membership on known or suspected surveillance.
- Report thefts of materials from your office or home to the police as a criminal act.
- Assess your undertaking from a security point of view; understand your vulnerabilities; assess your allies and your adversaries as objectively as possible; do not underestimate the opposition. Do not take chances.
- Recognize your organizational and personal strengths and weaknesses.
- Discuss incidents with cohorts, family and membership. Call the press if you have hard information about surveillance or harassment. Discussion makes the dirty work of the intelligence agencies and private spies overt.
VISITS FROM THE FBI
- Don't talk to the FBI ( or any government investigator) without your attorney present. Information gleaned during the visit can be used against you and your co-workers. Get the names and addresses of the agents and tell them you will have your attorney get in touch with them. They rarely set up an interview under t hose circumstances.
- Don't invite them into your home. Speak with the agents outside. Once inside they glean information about your perspective and life style.
- Don't let them threaten you into talking. If the FBI intents to impanel a grand jury, a private talk with you will not change the strategy of the FBI.
- Lying to the FBI is a criminal act. Any information you give the FBI can and will be used against you.
- Don't let them intimidate you. So what if they know where you live or work and what you do? This is still a democracy and we still have Constitutional rights. They intend to frighten you; don't let them. They can only "neutralize" you if you let them.
- Remember. The United States prides itself in being a democracy; we have Constitutional rights. Dissatisfaction with the status quo and attempting to mobilize for change is protected; surveillance and harassment are violations. Speak out.
Coming to grips with the FBI is of major importance. The Bureau has long since made itself an absolutely central ingredient in the process of repression in America, not only extending its own operations in this regard, but providing doctrine, training and equipment to state and local police, organizing the special "joint task forces" which have sprouted in every major city since 1970, creating the computer nets which tie the police together nationally, and providing the main themes of propaganda by which the rapid build-up in police power has been accomplished in the U.S.Similarly, the FBI provides both doctrinal and practical training to prison personnel - especially in connection with those who supervise POWs and political prisoners - which is crucial in the shaping of the policies pursued within the penal system as a whole. Hence, so long as the FBI is able to retain the outlook which defined COINTELPRO, and to translate that outlook into "real world" endeavors, it is reasonable to assume that both the police and prison "communities" will follow right along. Conversely, should the FBI ever be truly leashed, with the COINTELPRO mentality at last rooted out once and for all, it may be anticipated that the emergent U.S. police state apparatus will undergo substantial unraveling Hence, we would would like to close with what seems to us the only appropriate observation, paraphrasing Malcolm X and Huey P. Newton: We are confronted with the necessity of a battle which must be continued until it has been won. That choice has already been made for us, and we have no option to simply wish it away. To lose is to bring about the unthinkable, and there is no place to run and hide. Under the circumstances, the FBI and its allies must be combated by all means available, and by any means necessary.