COINTELPRO – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The FBI engaged in political repression almost from the time of the agency’s inception in 1908, and antecedents to COINTELPRO operated during the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman administrations. Centralized operations under COINTELPRO officially began in August 1956 with a program designed to “increase factionalism, cause disruption and win defections” inside the Communist Party U.S.A. (CPUSA). Tactics included anonymous phone calls, IRS audits, and the creation of documents that would divide American communists internally.[15] An October 1956 memo from Hoover reclassified the FBI’s ongoing surveillance of black leaders, including it within COINTELPRO, with the justification that the movement was infiltrated by communists.[16] When the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was founded in 1957, the FBI began to monitor and target the group almost immediately, focusing particularly on Bayard Rustin, Stanley Levison, and Martin Luther King, Jr.[17]

After the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, King was singled out as a major target for COINTELPRO. Under pressure from Hoover to focus not simply on communist infiltration of the civil rights movement, but on King specifically, Sullivan wrote: “In the light of King’s powerful demagogic speech. . . . We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security.”[18] Soon after, the FBI was systematically bugging King’s home and his hotel rooms.[19]

Amidst the urban unrest of July–August 1967, the FBI began “COINTELPRO–BLACK HATE”, which focused on King and the SCLC as well as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and its leader, Stokely Carmichael. BLACK HATE established the Ghetto Informant Program and instructed 23 FBI offices to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist hate type organizations”.[20] This program coincided with a broader federal effort to prepare military responses for urban riots, and began increased collaboration between the FBI, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and the Department of Defense.[21] A particular target was the Poor People’s Campaign, a national effort organized by King and the SCLC to occupy Washington, D.C. The FBI monitored and disrupted the campaign on a national level, while using targeted smear tactics locally to undermine support for the march.[22]

COINTELPRO–NEW LEFT was created in April 1968, in the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s assassination in Memphis and mass student protests at Columbia University.[23]

The program ultimately encompassed disruption of the Socialist Workers Party (1961), the Ku Klux Klan (1964), the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party (1967), and the entire New Left social/political movement, which included antiwar, community, and religious groups (1968). A later investigation by the Senate’s Church Committee (see below) stated that “COINTELPRO began in 1956, in part because of frustration with Supreme Court rulings limiting the Government’s power to proceed overtly against dissident groups…”[24] Official congressional committees and several court cases[25] have concluded that COINTELPRO operations against communist and socialist groups exceeded statutory limits on FBI activity and violated constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and association.[1]

COINTELPRO – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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