Learn More About the Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO)
Political Research Associates, which maintains the site PublicEye.org, states in its mission statement that it is :
.... a progressive think tank devoted to supporting movements that are building a more just and inclusive democratic society. We expose movements, institutions, and ideologies that undermine human rights.
At the page dedicated to COINTELPRO, links are available to documents providing background on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) operation, under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover, with the operation said to be in existence from 1956 to 1972, a total of 16 years. It was said to have been terminated after the program was inadvertently uncovered during an F.B.I. field office break in.
From the COINTELPRO web page:
According to attorney Brian Glick in his book War at Home, the FBI used four main methods during COINTELPRO:
- 1. Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit and disrupt. Their very presence served to undermine trust and scare off potential supporters. The FBI and police exploited this fear to smear genuine activists as agents.
- 2. Psychological Warfare From the Outside: The FBI and police used myriad other "dirty tricks" to undermine progressive movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists.
- 3. Harassment Through the Legal System: The FBI and police abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, "investigative" interviews, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters.
- 4. Extralegal Force and Violence: The FBI and police threatened, instigated, and themselves conducted break-ins, vandalism, assaults, and beatings. The object was to frighten dissidents and disrupt their movements. In the case of radical Black and Puerto Rican activists (and later Native Americans), these attacks—including political assassinations—were so extensive, vicious, and calculated that they can accurately be termed a form of official "terrorism."
The governmental body that investigated COINTELPRO and other related intelligence agency activities, issuing reports in 1975 and 1976, was the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, which came to be known as the 'Church Committee', for its chairman, Frank Church.
The final report of the Church Committee, that reviewed the methods and activities of the F.B.I. operation, concluded:
Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that...the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.
A link at the page at PublicEye.org allows visitors to investigate COINTELPRO operational activity that occurred in some cities and states, with some F.B.I. documentation available, for instance, at the link for Denver, Colorado.
The above linked Denver, Colorado document reveals plans to cause disunity among the Black Panther Party (BPP) and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) on college campuses, where both organizations were known to do membership recruitment.
In addition to information on COINTELPRO, the site provides links to other topics, concerning such issues as reproductive rights, economic justice, LGBT equity, civil liberties and racial justice.
There is also a link for reporting incidents of harassment and political repression.
Click here to learn about COINTELPRO.
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