|Black Watch page 5|
--Coninued from page 4
| Agents Provocateurs top
Many details are now available concerning these extensive campaigns of terror and disruption, in part through right-wing paramilitary groups organized and financed by the national government, but primarily through the much more effective means of infiltration and provocation of existing groups. In particular, much of the violence that occurred on college campuses can be attributed to government provocateurs.
The Alabama branch of the ACLU argued in court that in May 1970 an FBI agent "committed arson and other violence that police used as a reason for declaring that university students were unlawfully assembled" -- 150 students were arrested. The court ruled that the agent's role was irrelevant unless the defense could establish that he was instructed to commit the violent acts, but this was impossible, according to defense counsel, since the FBI and police thwarted his efforts to locate the agent who had admitted the acts to him. 40
William Frapolly, who surfaced as a government informer in the Chicago Eight conspiracy trial, an active member of student and off-campus peace groups in Chicago, "during an antiwar rally at his college, ... grabbed the microphone from the college president and wrestled him off the stage" and "worked out a scheme for wrecking the toilets in the college dorms...as an act of antiwar protest." 41
One FBI provocateur resigned when he was asked to arrange the bombing of a bridge in such a way that the person who placed the booby-trapped bomb would be killed. This was in Seattle, where it was revealed that FBI infiltrators had been engaged in a campaign of arson, terrorism, and bombings of university and civic buildings, and where the FBI arranged a robbery, entrapping a young black man who was paid $75 for the job and killed in a police ambush. 42
In another case, an undercover operative who had formed and headed a pro-Communist Chinese organization "at the direction of the bureau" reports that at the Miami Republican convention he incited "people to turn over one of the buses and then told them that if they really wanted to blow the bus up, to stick a rag in the gas tank and light it." They were unable to overturn the vehicle. 43
| The Ku Klux Klan top
During the 1960's, the FBI's role was not to protect civil rights workers, but rather, through the use of informants, the Bureau actively assisted the Ku Klux Klan in their campaign of racist murder and terror.
Church Committee hearings and internal FBI documents revealed that more than one quarter of all active Klan members during the period were FBI agents or informants. 44 However, Bureau intelligence "assets" were neither neutral observers nor objective investigators, but active participants in beatings, bombings and murders that claimed the lives of some 50 civil rights activists by 1964. 44
Bureau spies were elected to top leadership posts in at least half of all Klan units. 45 Needless to say, the informants gained positions of organizational trust on the basis of promoting the Klan's fascist agenda. Incitement to violence and participation in terrorist acts would only confirm the infiltrator's loyalty and commitment.
Unlike slick Hollywood popularizations of the period, such as Alan Parker's film, "Mississippi Burning," the FBI was instrumental in building the Ku Klux Klan in the South,
"...setting up dozens of Klaverns, sometimes being leaders and public spokespersons. Gary Rowe, an FBI informant, was involved in the Klan killing of Viola Liuzzo, a civil rights worker. He claimed that he had to fire shots at her rather than 'blow his cover.' One FBI agent, speaking at a rally organized by the Klavern he led, proclaimed to his followers, 'We will restore white rights if we have to kill every negro to do it.'" 46
Throughout its history, the Klan has had a contradictory relationship with the national government: as a defender of white privilege and the patriarchal status quo, and as an implicit threat, however provisional, to federal power. Depending on political conditions in society as a whole, vigilante terror can be supplemental to official violence, or kept on the proverbial shortleash. 47 As a surrogate army in the field of terror against official enemies, the Klan enjoys wide latitude. But when it moves into an oppositional mode and attacks key institutions of national power, Klan paramilitarism - but not its overt white supremacist ideology - is treated as an imminent threat to the social order, suppressed, but never destroyed, unlike other COINTELPRO target groups.
These roles are not mutually exclusive. As anti-racist researcher Michael Novick warns: "The KKK and its successor and fraternal organizations are deeply rooted in the actual white supremacist power relations of US society. They exist as a supplement to the armed power of the state, available to be used when the rulers and the state find it necessary." 48
The Klan's "supplemental" role, particularly as a private armed force sporadically deployed to arrest the development of movements for Black freedom, is best considered by comparison to other Bureau operations. Unlike other COINTELPROs, the "Klan - White Hate Groups" program was of a different order entirely. Senior FBI management and a majority of agents in the field endorsed the Klan's values, if not the vigilante character of their tactics; from militaristic anti-communism to extreme racial hatred; from ultra-nationalism to misogynist puritanism. 49
This was evident during the civil rights struggles of the sixties, when Freedom Riders and local community activists directly confronted hostile police forces - many of whom were openly allied with the Klan. Despite clear jurisdictional authority to enforce federal law, the FBI consistently refused to protect civil rights workers under attack across the South. More than once, the Bureau refused to warn those under imminent threat of violence.
FBI inaction in the area of civil rights enforcement wasn't simply a matter of what the Pike Committee of the House of Representatives dubbed "FBI racism." Rather, FBI bureaucratic lethargy, when it came to protecting Black lives, underscored its mission against subversion for constituents whose privileges and power were threatened by a militant movement for Black rights. 50
Strikingly different from anti-communist COINTELPROs that enmeshed broad social sectors in a web of entanglements, FBI monitoring of the Klan was strictly confined to the organization itself. No serious efforts were made to explore the supplemental role of White Citizens' Councils, many of which were active Klan fronts, let alone investigate the obvious and widespread police complicity in racist violence. 51 Bureau surveillance of the Klan was purely passive, hardly the directed aggression reserved for left-wing targets.
In May, 1961, as civil rights activists turned up the heat, the FBI passed information to the Klan about Freedom Rider buses on their way to Birmingham, Alabama. A police sergeant, Thomas Cook, attached to the Birmingham police intelligence branch was plied with reports by Bureau informants. A Klan member himself, Cook furnished this information to Robert Shelton's Alabama Knights and arranged several meetings to discuss "matters of interest." Cook supplied Klan leaders with the names of "inter-racial organizations," the location of meetings, and the membership lists of civil rights groups for circulation in Klan publications. FBI informant Gary Thomas Rowe wrote a confidential memo to the Birmingham Special Agent in Charge (SAC) stating that Cook had handed over inter-office intelligence memos on civil rights activists during a Klan meeting. Rowe insisted that Cook not only gave him relevant information that police had in their files, but urged Rowe to "help himself to any material he thought he would need for the Klan." 52
According to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Birmingham SAC called Cook and informed him of the progress that Freedom Rider buses had made and when they were scheduled to arrive in the city. According to Rowe, Cook and Birmingham's public safety director, arch-segregationist Eugene "Bull" Connor conspired with Klan leaders and directly organized physical attacks on Freedom Riders when the buses reached their destination. According to one FBI memo, Connor declared: "By God, if you are going to do this thing, do it right." 53
In consultation with Shelton's group, Birmingham police agreed not to show up for 15 or 20 minutes after the buses pulled in, to give Klansmen sufficient time to carry out their attack. Assailants were promised lenient treatment if through some fluke, they managed to get arrested. During a planning meeting that finalized logistical details, Grand Titan Hubert Page advised Klansmen that Imperial Wizard Shelton had spoken with Detective Cook, and was informed that Freedom Rider buses were scheduled to arrive at 11:00 am.
Earlier that day, the KKK intercepted another bus on its way to Birmingham, beating the passengers and setting the vehicle ablaze. As agreed during consultations with Klan leadership, when the buses arrived no police were present at either of Birmingham's bus terminals, but 60 Klansmen - including Rowe - were waiting. Klansmen attacked civil rights workers, reporters and photographers, viciously beating anyone within reach with chains, pipes and baseball bats.
According to ACLU attorney Howard Simon, "We found that the FBI knew that the Birmingham Police Department was infiltrated by the Klan, that many members of the police department were Klan members, that they knew a person in intelligence was passing information directly to leaders of the Klan, and they also knew their undercover agent had worked out an agreement with the police department to stay away from the terminals. They knew all that and still continued their relationship with the police department." 54
Though the Bureau claimed that its "Klan - White Hate Groups" COINTELPRO was launched in order to stifle white supremacist activities, the historical record proves otherwise. The more well known, but by no means only examples of Klan terror during the period - the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that killed four black children; the 1964 murders of civil rights workers Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner in Mississippi: and the 1965 assassination of Viola Liuzzo and her companion near Selma, Alabama, point to knowledge of the crimes, and complicity in subsequent cover-ups by FBI officials.
Bureau informant Gary Thomas Rowe was a central figure in some of the most publicized crimes of the period, indulging in freelance acts of racist terror. He was suspected of involvement in firebombing the home of a wealthy Black Birmingham resident, the detonation of shrapnel bombs in Black neighborhoods and the murder of a Black man during a 1963 demonstration. He became a prime suspect in the Birmingham church bombing after he failed two polygraph tests. His answers were described by investigators as "deceptive" when he denied having been with the Klan group that planted the bomb. 55
Despite enough evidence to open a preliminary investigation, the FBI refused, covering-up for Rowe even when another informant, John Wesley Hall, named him as a member of a three-man Klan security committee holding veto power over all proposed acts of violence. Years later, an independent inquiry uncovered evidence that Hall became a Bureau informant two months after the bombing and despite the fact that a polygraph test convinced the Alabama FBI that he was probably involved in the attack himself, Hall admitted to having moved dynamite for the plot's ringleader, Robert E. Chambliss, a Klan member since 1924. Even though court testimony and a wealth of evidence linked Hall, Rowe and other members of the Alabama Knight's to the bombing, the suspects were convicted on a misdemeanor charge - "possession of an explosive without a permit." It took more than a decade and three bungled investigations to finally convict Chambliss of the crime. 56
In July 1997, almost 35 years after the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, the FBI re-opened its investigation based on "new information." However, mainstream news accounts failed to report the pivotal role played by Bureau informants. The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a target of a 1963 Klan assassination plot, believes he knows why only one man was convicted for the bombing. "It is well known," the 75-year old civil rights leader said, "there was collusion all along between the FBI, local law enforcement and the Klan." Rev. Shuttlesworth should know: Bureau informant John Wesley Hall was the man who proposed killing the minister. 57
New light was shed on Rowe's privileged position as an FBI provocateur tasked to "disrupt and neutralize" the civil rights struggle. During a subsequent investigation into the murder of Viola Liuzzo, evidence surfaced that it was Rowe who actually fired the fatal shots that took her life. But instead of prosecuting Rowe, the Bureau placed him in a federal witness protection program. 58
In 1978, Rowe was indicted by an Alabama grand jury as Liuzzo's killer. But complicity in shielding Rowe and the Bureau from exposure came to light when the contents of a J. Edgar Hoover memo to President Lyndon Johnson became public. Hours after the killings Hoover wrote: "A Negro man was with Mrs. Liuzzo and reportedly was sitting close to her." In a subsequent memo to aides, Hoover said he informed the President that "she was sitting very, very close to the Negro in the car, that it had the appearance of a necking party." 59 While providing a glimpse into the pathological nature of Hoover's racism and misogyny, the Director fails to enlighten us as to the mechanics of a "necking party" during a 100 mph car chase in the dead of night, a "party" by terrorized individuals fleeing armed Klan thugs intent on killing them in cold blood. However twisted, Hoover's slander was calculated to establish a motive; one that would "justify" Mrs. Liuzzo's murder on grounds of breaking one of nativism's primal laws: the prohibition against sex between the races.
On November 3, 1979, a posse organized by Klansmen and neo-Nazis murdered five members of the Communist Workers Party (CWP) in broad daylight. The CWP had organized a "Smash the Klan" demonstration in Greensboro, North Carolina among the city's mostly black and working class mill workers. CWP members included union organizers and activists who had upset "the fundamental order of things." 60
An essential component for the operation, organized by night-riding Klansmen, was U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) agent, Bernard Butkovich. The BATF agent, a Vietnam veteran and demolitions expert undercover in the local branch of the American Nazi Party, helped the Klan obtain automatic weapons, and also in making their escape. 61
The posse had been organized and led by an FBI infiltrator, Edward Dawson. Dawson was also a paid informant for the Greensboro Police Department. 62 Dawson reported to his handlers that eighty-five Klansmen meeting in nearby Lincolnton had expressed their intent to counter-demonstrate on November 3. 63
The night-riders had stated they intended to arm themselves for their counter-demonstration and that Klan leader, Grand Dragon Virgil Griffin, was actively calling out Klansmen from other states to participate. It was also rumored that neo-Nazis from the Winston-Salem area had obtained a machine gun and other weapons. Dawson reported to Greensboro detective Jerry Cooper that Klansmen and neo-Nazis were assembling at the home of a local Klan member and that they were armed. 64
The police/FBI informant had received a copy of the parade route the day before the CWP-initiated march; a map had been supplied by Detective Cooper. Dawson had driven over the parade route three hours earlier with a contingent of out-of-town Klansmen. Dawson also alerted Cooper that the Klansmen and neo- Nazis possessed three handguns and nine long-barrelled rifles, including automatic weapons supplied by BATF agent Bernard Butkovich. 65
Prior to the beginning of the CWP's march and demonstration, Cooper and other police officials drove by the house where the Klansmen and neo-Nazis were assembling. They jotted down license plate numbers and then declared a lunch break -- at approximately 10 a.m. 66 Less than an hour later, Cooper, trailing behind the Klan caravan reported, "shots fired" and then "heavy gunfire." The tactical squad assigned to monitor the march were still out to lunch. 67
Two other officers, responding to a domestic disturbance call, noted the absence of patrol cars usually assigned to the area. They arrived at the Morningside projects, the site of the CWP march. Officer Wise later reported having received a most unusual call from the police communications center. The officers were asked how long they anticipated being at their call; they were subsequently advised to "clear the area as soon as possible." 68
Moments later, five demonstrators lay dead, murdered in broad daylight by members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. 69 According to Michael Novick, the Greensboro massacre "set the tone for neo-Nazi organizing by the KKK and other white supremacists in the ensuing decade." 70
A subsequent civil suit brought against the neo-Nazis, the Klan and the Greensboro police resulted in a partial award to the surviving family members. FBI and BATF agents walked away scott-free.
| The Secret Army Organization top
Convinced that the United States was under threat of an imminent communist takeover, Robert DePugh, a disenchanted member of the John Birch Society, founded the Minutemen in the early sixties. Forged as a "last line of defense against communism," DePugh's secret warriors were dedicated to building an underground army to fight against "the enemy within." 71
However absurd this paranoia may appear on the surface, it had serious and deadly consequences for anyone caught in the cross-hairs. Before their undoing in 1969, the result not of a sinister plot by "communist infiltrators in the government," but because DePugh and others were prepared to rob banks to finance the organization, the Minutemen had built a formidable national network, with thousands of members stockpiling secret arsenals with more than enough firepower to match their feverish rhetoric. In 1966, 19 New York Minutemen were arrested and accused of plotting to bomb three summer camps allegedly used by "Communist, left wing and liberal" groups "for indoctrination purposes." Subsequent raids uncovered a huge arms cache that included military assault rifles, bombs, mortars, machine guns, grenade launchers and a bazooka.
In February 1970, six Minutemen from four states led by Jerry Lynn Davis held a clandestine summit in northern Arizona. Surveying the ruins, they were convinced that "communist elements" in the Justice Department had destroyed the group. Undeterred by recent events, they formed the nucleus of the Secret Army Organization (SAO).
As conceived by Davis and the others, the SAO would be armed but low-key: a propaganda group with a potential for waging guerrilla war against leftists, should the need arise. Emphasizing regional autonomy and a decentralized structure, they believed they had inoculated themselves against unwanted attention from "communist-controlled" government agencies. Shortly after the meeting, chapters were established in San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Seattle with promising contacts made in Portland, El Paso, Los Angeles and Oklahoma. 72
A review of events in San Diego, submitted to the Church Committee in June 1975 and based on "pubic admissions of the officers and agents involved, including sworn testimony at various criminal trials and statements given to news reporters and investigators," 73 describes how the FBI played a central role in the creation of the Secret Army Organization, placing informant Howard Berry Godfrey in a leadership position.
Godfrey, a San Diego fireman, devout Mormon, and self-styled commando, was an FBI informant for more than five years. According to ex-members, it was Godfrey who was the real force behind the SAO. While employed by the FBI, Godfrey selected the organization's name and defrayed its start-up costs, including expenditures for printing and mailing literature. By September 1971, there were four active cells in San Diego. Little did they know they were under the direction of the FBI, the State's ultimate "secret army organization."
San Diego was the center of a thriving activist community committed to a multitude of projects anathema to the nativist right. With 200,000 active-duty soldiers stationed at nearby bases, the Movement for a Democratic Military (MDM) was the outgrowth of antiwar efforts to influence soldiers bound for Vietnam. MDM organizing had made small, but promising chinks in the military's armor. Campus organizing by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and the emergence of militant Chicano organizations in the area were viewed as serious threats to the successful prosecution of the war. A thriving underground press, in the form of the San Diego Street Journal, was in stark contrast to the conservative and establishment-oriented media. But when the Journal ran a series of exposes on the shady financial empire of Nixon crony, C. Arnholt Smith, the response from the right was swift. It would soon turn violent. 74
Between November 1969 and January 1970, remnants of the Minutemen launched attacks against the Journal. Bullets were fired into the office, paint splashed over furniture, equipment smashed, records and subscription lists stolen, staff cars firebombed, Journal vending machines vandalized. When the newspaper attempted to relocate to new offices, their prospective landlord was arrested by the San Diego police on a fabricated murder charge. Released after an hour, he told the Journal they'd have to look elsewhere. As the SAO gradually came online as a Bureau surrogate, attacks against the newspaper and its staff intensified. 75
Another SAO target was Dr. Peter Bohmer, a radical economics professor at San Diego State University who was popular with students and an articulate spokesperson against the war. Harassed by conservative university bureaucrats who objected to his antiwar activism, Bohmer was fired after a protracted struggle. Predictably, his much-publicized battle with the university drew SAO scrutiny. Beginning in 1971, a vicious campaign was launched against the professor. In April, tear gas crystals were dumped in a car parked in front of his home. On May 4, a muffled voice warned over the phone "the cross hairs are on you."
In the summer of 1971, San Diego was chosen as the site for the 1972 Republican convention. Harassment against Bohmer increased, punctuated by assaults targeting the antiwar and Chicano movements. 76 Among these acts were destruction of newspaper offices and book stores, firebombing of cars, and the distribution of leaflets giving the address of the collective where anti-war activist Peter Bohmer lived "for any of our readers who may care to look up this Red Scum, and say hello."
On January 6, 1972 the SAO dramatically upped the ante. Earlier that day SAO cross-hair stickers were plastered on the door of Bohmer's office; that evening a caller threatened, "This time we left a sticker, next time we may leave a grenade. This is the SAO!"
A few hours later, in a car parked outside Bohmer's home, SAO soldier George Mitchell Hoover fiddled with a gun. Sitting next to him was Godfrey, the FBI's informant. Aiming a 9mm Polish Radom pistol, Hoover fired two shots into the house; he would have fired a third but the weapon jammed. The first bullet struck San Diego Street Journal reporter Paula Tharp, shattering her elbow. The second shot narrowly missed Shari Whitehead and lodged in a window frame above her head. Two shell-casings matching the slug removed from Tharp's arm were retrieved from the street.
The next day Godfrey turned over the gun to his FBI control agent, Steve Christiansen, a devout Mormon and dedicated anti-communist himself. The Special Agent hid the weapon under his couch for more than six months while the San Diego police conducted a half-hearted investigation. Though guilty of covering-up a criminal act, Christiansen insisted that Bureau superiors knew he was hiding the gun and fully approved of his actions to protect "confidential sources." 77
Although the Tharp shooting generated considerable publicity, and even some pressure to make arrests, the San Diego police responded with the absurd story that Bohmer carried out the attack himself in an effort "to attract sympathy for his cause." 78
Relentless harassment continued throughout the spring of 1972; more firebombings, threatening phone calls, more cross-hair stickers, just another day at the office for right-wing counterguerrillas. But then the group made a fatal mistake, one that would cost them dearly.
On June 19, 1972, William Yakopec entered the Guild Theater, a local porno house; concealed under his jacket was a bomb. After he pried a cover loose from a vent at the rear of the building, he hurriedly left the premises. Moments later a powerful explosion ripped through the theater, destroying the screen, blowing debris 60 feet into the air and showering the terrified audience with concrete shards and two-by-fours. Unfortunately for Yakopec and the SAO, a deputy district attorney and a San Diego cop were in the audience, conducting an "investigation" to determine whether I am Curious (Yellow) met pertinent criteria to be banned as pornography. 79
Though city fathers had no problem when right-wing militias directed their wrath at suitable targets, taking out a cop and a district attorney was too much even in San Diego. Rubien D. Brandon, the officer who narrowly escaped being blown to kingdom come, angrily phoned the FBI and demanded the name of their informer. A week later, seven members of the SAO were behind bars. Yakopec was charged with the Guild Theater bombing, George Hoover with the Tharp shooting and the group's nominal leader, Jerry Lynn Davis, with receiving stolen property and possession of illegal explosives. Reluctantly, the Bureau realized the time had come to shut the project down.
During the investigation of the Guild Theater bombing, the Yakopec home and those of other SAO members were raided by police. Investigators recovered two half pound blocks of C-4 plastique, HDP primers, blasting caps, 30-40 feet of fuses, SAO literature, stacks of cross-hair stickers ready to go and a small arsenal of weapons, including an unopened case of M-16's valued at more than $60,000. During a simultaneous raid on the home of Genevieve and Richard Fleury, police seized ammunition, dozens of revolvers, lugers and eight bandoliers containing more than a thousand rounds of 30-caliber bullets. It was later revealed that some of these munitions had been transferred to the SAO from the Marine base at Camp Pendelton by a right-wing physician, Dr. Harold Young. Ex-Minuteman Dino Martinelli claimed he had been involved in the transfer and that the SDPD and FBI were aware of the thefts but did nothing. 80
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Frederick Hetter discovered during a subsequent investigation "that [FBI infiltrator] Godfrey supplied 75% of the money for the SAO" in order for the terrorist army to acquire the weapons. 81
What were the results of exposing the extensive links between federal authorities and the Secret Army Organization? While Yakopec, Hoover and Davis went to prison, Godfrey, the FBI's point-man, was rewarded with a job in the state fire marshal's office. Agent Christiansen left the Bureau shortly after his role in the affair came to light. Refusing to talk, Christiansen would only tell reporters that "The FBI is taking good care of us." 82 The FBI then continued with other illegal intelligence and terror programs directed against Bohmer and associates, including several assassination plots. Not one FBI agent or informer has been prosecuted.
| Snitch Jacketing top
Under the guidance of the FBI, informants were often able to work their way into positions of power, such as was the case with Chicago-BPP Chief of Security William O'Neal, or American Indian Movement bodyguard Douglas Durham. Such individuals were often considered valuable due to the (FBI-supplied) information they were able to provide. Besides misleading and provoking the infiltrated groups, another technique used by informants was to "snitch jacket" genuine activists, to make them appear to be the informants. One such person was Kwame Toure, formerly Stokely Carmichael.
Utilizing the services of an infiltrator who had worked his way into a position as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader's bodyguard, the Bureau deliberately created the false appearance that Stokely Carmichael was himself an operative. 83 In a memo dated July 10, 1968, the SAC, New York, proposed to Hoover that:
... consideration be given to convey the impression that CARMICHAEL is a CIA informer. One method of accomplishing [this] would be to have a carbon copy of an informant report supposedly written by CARMICHAEL to the CIA carefully deposited in the automobile of a close Black Nationalist friend ... It is hoped that when the informant report is read it will help promote distrust between CARMICHAEL and the Black Community ... It is also suggested that we inform a certain percentage of reliable criminal and racial informants that "we have it from reliable sources that CARMICHAEL is a CIA agent. It is hoped that the informants would spread the rumor in various large Negro communities across the land. 84
Pursuant to a May 19,1969 Airtel from the SAC, San Francisco, to Hoover, the Bureau then proceeded to "assist" the BPP in "expelling" Carmichael through the forgery of letters on party letterhead. The gambit worked, as is evidenced in the September 5, 1970 assertion by BPP head Huey P. Newton: "We ... charge that Stokely Carmichael is operating as an agent of the CIA." 85
Snitch jacketing has even resulted in the target's death. This appears to have occurred in 1975 in the case of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, a young Micmac woman working with the American Indian Movement on the Pine Ridge Reservation. According to attorney Bruce Ellison,
"I represented a young mother and AIM member named Anna Mae Pictou on weapons charges. She told me after her arrest that the FBI threatened to see her dead within a year unless she cooperated against members of AIM. In an operation [similar to those] previously used against members of the Black Panther Party, the FBI, through an informant named Doug Durham who had infiltrated AIM leadership, began a rumor that she was an informant.
"Six months later her body was found on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The FBI said she died of exposure. They cut off her hands, claiming that this was necessary to identify her, and buried her under the name of Jane Doe.
"We were able to get her body exhumed, and a second, independent autopsy revealed that rather than dying of exposure, that someone had placed a pistol to the back of her head and pulled the trigger. When I asked for her hands after the second autopsy, because she was originally not buried with her hands, an FBI agent went to his car and came back and handed me a box, and with a big smile on his face he said, 'You want her hands? Here.'" 86
The FBI agents involved then used the morgue photos of Aquash to frighten another victim, Myrtle Poor Bear, a woman with a history of deep psychological disorder, for which she had undergone extensive treatment, explaining to their captive that she'd end up "the same way" unless she did exactly what they wanted. Poor Bear quoted Agent Wood as informing her, in specific reference to Aquash, that "they [Price and Wood] could get away with killing because they were agents." Poor Bear was coerced into giving false testimony which led to the extradition of Leonard Peltier, who remains a political prisoner to this day. [See "Political Prisoners" section].
| The Subversion of the Press top
In 1960, the FBI implemented a formal COINTELPRO with the expressed intent of destroying pro-independence groups in Puerto Rico. In doing so, the Bureau engaged in the same kind of political warfare that was used by the United States in Chile and elsewhere in Latin America. In an August 4, 1960 memorandum to the Special Agent in Charge, San Juan, Director Hoover wrote:
"In considering this matter, you should bear in mind the Bureau desires to disrupt the activities of these organizations and is not interested in mere harrassment." 87
San Juan complied, at least on the level of planting disinformation in the island press. Agents systematically planted articles and editorials, often containing malicious gossip concerning independentista leaders' alleged sexual or financial affairs, in "friendly" newspapers, and dispensed "private" warnings to the owners of island radio stations that their FCC licenses might be revoked if pro independence material were aired.
There is clear evidence that agents "talked to" the owners of radio stations WLEO in Ponce, WKFE in Yauco and WJRS in San German about their licensing as early as 1963. One result was cancellation of the one hour daily time-block allotted to "Radio Bandera," a program produced by the APU. Such tactics to deny a media voice to independentistas accord well with other, more directly physical methods employed during the 1970s, after COINTELPRO supposedly ended:
[There was] the bombing of Claridad [daily paper first of the MPIPR and then the PSP] printing presses which has occurred at least five times in the present decade. Although the MPI [now PSP] usually furnished the police with detailed information as to the perpetrators of these acts, not even one trial has ever been held on this island in connection with these bombings, nor even one arrest made. The same holds true for a 1973 bombing of the National Committee of the [PIP]. 88
In the same memo, Hoover recommended gearing up the COINTELPRO, using existing infiltrators within "groups seeking independence for Puerto Rico" as agents provocateurs. The director felt that "carefully selected informants" might be able to raise "controversial issues" within independentista formations. Further, he pointed out that such individuals might be utilized effectively to create situations in which "nationalist elements could be pitted against the communist elements to disrupt some of the organizations, particularly the MPIPR and ... FUPI."
Hoover also instructed that "the San Juan Office should be constantly alert for articles extolling the virtues of Puerto Rico's relationship to the United States as opposed to complete separation from the United States, for use in anonymous mailings to selected subjects in the independence movement who may be psychologically affected by such information."
The Bureau engaged in intensive investigation of independentista leaders both on the island and in New York in order to ascertain their "weaknesses" in terms of "morals, criminal records, spouses, children, family life, educational qualifications and personal activities other than independence activities." The findings, however flimsy or contrived, were pumped into the media, disseminated as bogus cartoons or "political broadsides," and/or surfaced within organizational contexts by provocateurs, all with the express intent of setting the leaders one against the other and at odds with their respective organizational memberships.
When evidence to support such redbaiting contentions could not be discovered, the FBI's COINTELPRO specialists simply made it up:
MPIPR leaders, cognizant of the basic antipathy of Puerto Ricans, predominantly Roman Catholic, to communism, have consistently avoided, at times through public statements, any direct, overt linkage of the MPIPR to communism ... The [San Juan office] feels that the above situation can be exploited by means of a counterintelligence letter, purportedly by an anonymous veteran MPIPR member. This letter would alert MPIPR members to a probable Communist takeover of the organization. 89
Not only did the Bureau's systematic denial of media access to, spreading of disinformation about, and fostering of factionalism within the independentista movement have the effect of negating much of the movement's electoral potential within the island arena itself, such tactics also subverted other initiatives to resolve the issue of Puerto Rico's colonial status in a peaceful fashion. This concerns in particular a plebescite called for July 23, 1967. During the ten months prior to the scheduled referendum to determine the desires of the Puertorriqueno public with regard to the political status of their island, the Bureau went far out of its way to spread confusion. The COINTELPRO methods used included creation of two fictitious organizations Grupo pro-Uso Voto del MPI (roughly, "Group within the MPIPR in Favor of Voting to Achieve Independence") and the "Committee Against Foreign Domination of the Fight for Independence" - as the medium through which to misrepresent independentista positions "from the inside ." One outcome was that Puertorriqueno voters increasingly shied away from the apparently jumbled and bewildering independentista agenda and "accepted" continuation of a "commonwealth" status under U.S. domination.
A 1967 Airtel from SAC, San Juan to J. Edgar Hoover describes a portion of the COINTELPRO methods to be used in subverting the 1967 United Nations plebescite to determine the political status of Puerto Rico:
[deleted] of the MPIPR Youth, has a personal following, and the San Juan Office feels that if [deleted] can be split from the MPIPR at this time, enough of the MPIPR Youth members would be sufficiently confused and disgruntled to effectively neutralize the MPIPR during the critical period just prior to the plebescite scheduled for July 23, 1967. 90
With this accomplished, the Bureau set about seeing to it the independentistas remained artificially discredited (and the overall Puertorriqueño option to mount a coherent effort to protest or reconvene the plebescite truncated) by shifting responsibility for the disaster onto its foremost victims:
It might be desirable to blame the communist bloc and particularly Cuba for the failure of the United Nations and to criticize Mari Bras and others for isolating the Puerto Rican independence forces from the democratic countries. 91
The other COINTELPRO's also made use the news media. One tragic story concerns Jean Seberg, a well known actress and white supporter of the Black Panther Party. According to former FBI agent M. Wesley Swearingen, who worked in Los Angeles at the time, a culture of racism had so permeated the Bureau and its field offices that the agents seethed with hatred toward the Panthers and the white women who associated with them.
"In the view of the Bureau," Swearingen reported, "Jean was giving aid and comfort to the enemy, the BPP ... The giving of her white body to a black man was an unbearable thought for many of the white agents. An agent [allegedly Richard W. Held] was overheard to say, a few days after I arrived in Los Angeles from New York, 'I wonder how she'd like to gobble my dick while I shove my .38 up that black bastard's ass [a reference to BPP theorist Raymond "Masai" Hewitt, with whom Seberg was reputedly having an affair]." 92
On May 27, 1970, when Seberg was in her fifth month of pregnancy, Held sent a telegram to headquarters requesting approval to plant a story with Hollywood gossip columnists to the effect that Seberg was pregnant, not by her husband, Romaine Gary, but by a Panther. Held's idea was approved, although implementation was to be postponed "approximately two additional months," to protect the secrecy of a wiretap the Bureau had installed in the LA and San Francisco BPP headquarters, and until the victim's "pregnancy would be more visible to everyone." Hoover felt that Seberg should be "neutralized" because she'd been a financial supporter of the Black Panther Party.
The schedule was apparently accelerated, because on June 6, Held sent Hoover a letter and attached newspaper clipping demonstrating the "success" of his COINTELPRO action: a column by Joyce Haber, which had run in the Los Angeles Times on May 19. Known by the FBI to have been emotionally unstable and in the care of a psychiatrist before the operation began, Seberg responded to the "disclosure" by attempting suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. This in turn precipitated the premature delivery of her fetus; it died two days later. Seberg held a press conference, and brought the fetus in a glass jar, to prove that it was white.
Henceforth, a shattered Jean Seberg was to regularly attempt suicide on or near the anniversary of her child's death. In 1979, she was successful. Romaine Gary, her ex-husband, who all along maintained he was the father of the child, followed suit shortly thereafter. There is no indication that this was ever considered to be anything other than an extremely successful COINTELPRO operation.
The FBI actively promoted the idea that the Panthers and other black nationalists were anti-Semitic, in order to weaken their support "among liberal and naive elements." In one indicent, the New York Office sent anonymous letters to Rabbi Meir Kahane of the right-wing Jewish Defense League to try to provoke a response against the BPP. In reference to a July 25, 1969 FBI report entitled, "JEWISH DEFENSE LEAGUE, RACIAL MATTERS" the New York Field Office proposed:
Referenced report has been reviewed by the NYO in an effort to target one individual within the Jewish Defense League (JEDEL) who would be the suitable recipient of information furnished on an anonymous basis that the Bureau wishes to disseminate and/or use for future counterintelligence purposes.
NY is of the opinion that the individual within JEDEL who would most suitably serve the above stated purposed would be Rabbi MEIR KAHANE, a Director of JEDEL. It is noted that Rabbi KAHANE's background as a writer for the NY newspaper "Jewish Press" would enable him to give widespread coverage of anti-Semetic [sic] statements made by the BPP and other Black Nationalist hate groups not only to members of JEDEL but to other individuals who would take cognizance of such statements. ...
In view of the above comments the following is submitted as the suggested communication to be used to establish rapport between the anonymous source and the selected individual associated with JEDEL:
Dear Rabbi Kahane:
I am a negro man who is 48 years old and served his country in the U.S. Army in WW2 and worked as a truck driver with "the famous red-ball express" in Gen. Eisenhour's Army in France and Natzi Germany. One day I had a crash with the truck I was driving, a 2 1/2 ton truck, and was injured real bad. I was treated and helped by a Jewish Army Dr. named "Rothstein" who helped me get better again.
Also I was encouraged to remain in high school for two years by my favorite teacher, Mr. Katz. I have always thought Jewish people are good and they have helped me all my life. That is why I became so upset about my oldest son who is a Black Panther and very much against Jewish people. My oldest son just returned from Algiers in Africa where he met a bunch of other Black Panthers from all over the world. He said to me that they all agree that the Jewish people are against all the colored people and that the only friends the colored people have are the Arabs.
I told my child that the Jewish people are the friends of the colored people but he calls me a Tom and says I'll never be anything better than a Jew boy's slave.
Last night my boy had a meeting at my house with six of his Black Panther friends. From the way they talked it sounded like they had a plan to force Jewish store owners to give them money or they would drop a bomb on the Jewish store. Some of the money they will get will be sent to the Arabs in Africa.
They left books and pictures around with Arab writing on them and pictures of Jewish soldiers killing Arab babys. I think they are going to give these away at Negro Christian Churchs.
I thought you might be able to stop this. I think I can get some of the pictures and books without getting myself in trouble. I will send them to you if you are interested.
I would like not to use my real name at this time.
It is further suggested that a second communication be sent to Rabbi KAHANE approximately one week after the above described letter which will follow the same foremat [sic], but will contain as enclosures some BPP artifacts such as pictures of BOBBY SEALE, ELDRIDGE CLEAVER, a copy of a BPP newspaper, etc. It is felt that a progression of letters should then follow which would further establish rapport with the JEDEL and eventually culminate in the anonymous letter writer requesting some response from the JEDEL recipient of these letters. 93
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