By Paul DeRienzo

Informants are the stock in trade of the FBI when the bureau sets out to destroy popular movements. During the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the FBI, under director J. Edgar Hoover, launched their so-called COINTELPRO operation against black radicals. The stated purpose was to prevent the rise of what the bureau termed a "black messiah" who Hoover feared could unite African-American people against the United States government.

After COINTELPRO was exposed in the 1970's, the FBI claimed the operation had been discontinued and that reforms in the Bureau would prevent any similar assault on American citizens' right to peaceful protest. But the recent federal indictment in Minneapolis of Qubilah Shabazz, a daughter of Malcolm X, for allegedly plotting the assassination of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan seems to indicate the spirit of J. Edgar Hoover is alive and well at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

At the heart of the government's case against Shabazz is a long time informant for the FBI, Michael Fitzpatrick, 34, who is currently facing charges for possession of cocaine in Minneapolis. Prosecutors say Fitzpatrick tipped off the FBI after Shabazz allegedly let him in on her desire to kill Farrakhan, a man suspected of having been involved in her father's assassination in a fusillade of bullets on February 21, 1965 in Harlem's Audubon Ballroom. Qubilah, her mother Betty Shabazz, and three of her sisters witnessed the slaying.

Among those who suspect Farrakhan's involvement is Betty Shabazz, who told reporters last year of her suspicion and added that it was "common knowledge." Her comments led to an article in the New York Post accusing Farrakhan of planning the assassination, prompting a multi-billion dollar libel lawsuit by the Nation of Islam against the Post. However, Farrakhan does admit to helping create a climate of hatred and hostility towards Malcolm X due to a bitter feud between Malcolm and Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad, though he denies having had any role in planning the murder of Malcolm X.

The government's evidence against Shabazz, who has pleaded not guilty, is a stack of 20 audiotapes of conversation between her and Fitzpatrick and a 50 minute videotape that Fitzpatrick secretly made in a Minneapolis area motel room. According to reports in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that quote a federal official, on the videotape, Fitzpatrick does most of the talking, encouraging Shabazz to go along with the plot against Farrakhan, while she objects that innocent people might be killed.

Who is Michael Fitzpatrick?
Michael Fitzpatrick began his political career as an informant while a teenager attending the United Nations International School in Manhattan, where Shabazz was also a student. Fitzpatrick, the son of an Irish union organizer and a Jewish businesswoman, joined the Jewish Defense League and was the chief government informant in a 1978 case in which two militant Jews were convicted of plotting to blow up Egyptian government offices in Manhattan. According to activist attorney William Kunstler, Fitzpatrick actually provided the dynamite that was supposed to be used in the attack.

Fitzpatrick had become an informant when he was convicted in the 1977 bombing of the pro-Soviet Four Continents bookstore in Manhattan. According to court documents, he was paid about $10,000 to inform on the two JDL members involved in the Egyptian bombing plot, Bruce Berger and Victor Vancier. Berger currently works for an organization that aids Jewish immigrants in the United States. Vancier resumed his militant Jewish activism since his 1991 release from prison after a 5 year jail term for several unrelated bombing charges.

Vancier is the host of "Positively Jewish" and "The Jewish Task Force," public access cable television shows in New York City. He has used the shows to denounce blacks, Israeli leaders and to praise Baruch Goldstein, the militant Israeli settler and former Brooklynite who slaughtered 29 Muslims as they worshipped at a Hebron mosque last year.

According to another former JDL member, Stephen Rambam, Fitzpatrick was also a part of SOIL, or Save Our Israeli Land, a protest organization that included Vancier and Dov Hikind, now a Democratic State Assembly member from Brooklyn.

Another JDL member and associate of Fitzpatrick in the late 1970's was Mordecai Levy. Levy says despite his hatred of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, he firmly believes Qubilah Shabazz was set up by the FBI. Levy claims Fitzpatrick has a long history of infiltrating various political groups in order to set them up for arrest. One of the groups says Levy, was the Revolutionary Youth Movement, an arm of the former Communist Workers Party, whose members Fitzpatrick reportedly trained in the use of firearms.

According to Levy, the question to ask Fitzpatrick is why he continued as an informant even after he was already off the hook on the earlier bombing charges. Levy told the SHADOW: "a lot of times informants become addicted to the money, the glory, or the task. I think he had all three. He was a mercenary, a pirate, a freebooter, he enjoyed the work, he enjoyed putting people away."

Levy doesn't hesitate to express his hatred of Louis Farrakhan, a man he refers to as a "black Hitler," but Levy told the SHADOW that despite the enmity he holds for the Nation of Islam leader, he's concerned that "this innocent girl, Malcolm X's daughter, not be framed." Levy added that if the FBI can use someone like Fitzpatrick to "set-up" Shabazz, "today its her, tomorrow it could be a Jewish group, it could be a legitimate African-American group, it could be a gun club... If they can get away with framing Malcolm X's daughter who has no track record of any anti-semitic or anti-white or anything activity -- [then] that's despicable."

After informing in the Egyptian offices bombing case, Fitzpatrick disappeared into the federal witness-protection program, which moved him into a Minneapolis suburb under the name of Michael Summers. In the 1980's, he drifted back and forth between New York and Minneapolis before settling there again four years ago. Chris Gunderson was a member of a local anarchist collective when Fitzpatrick became a regular at Backroom Anarchist Books, the group's organizing center.

Gunderson told the SHADOW that it was at an October 16, 1986 demonstration called "Minneapolis is Revolting" targeting corporations involved with the military-industrial complex in Minneapolis that he first saw Fitzpatrick. A scuffle broke out with police as protestors attempted to take to the streets and Fitzpatrick was in the middle of the action. Gunderson says that Fitzpatrick "represented himself.. as having been a member of the Communist Workers Party who had been assigned to do youth work in the punk scene and that in the course of that he had been won over to anarchism."

Gunderson adds that Fitzpatrick suggested that one of the reasons he left the Communist Workers Party was because he felt the group had "chickened-out and not proven themselves committed to...militancy. And thereby set a standard for militancy that he wanted everyone else to live up to. That was one of his main ways of advancing the idea that people needed to escalate their tactics in ways that were quite clearly foolish and inappropriate. But at the time he cut an impressive figure and was able to influence people for a certain amount of time."

The web of deceit began to unravel after Fitzpatrick started bringing weapons into the bookstore, sparking suspicion among some of the anarchists. According to Gunderson, Fitzpatrick brought a can of "police-issue mace into the bookstore. The mace was then discovered by the police when they came into the bookstore shortly after he had left. [The police said] they were looking for a runaway at the time." Gunderson adds that the anarchists noticed "a pattern of actions and encouragement from him that seemed to us over time to constitute an effort to set us up."

William Kunstler is co-counsel representing Qubilah Shabazz along with Inner-City Broadcasting founder Percy Sutton. Both attorneys represented Malcolm X during the 1960's and are still active in progressive politics. Interviewed by the SHADOW, Kunstler said that "the real purpose" behind Fitzpatrick's attempt to "stimulate Qubilah Shabazz into a conspiracy to assassinate Louis Farrakhan" was to get Farrakhan killed, "not by her, but to stimulate that enmity again between those who loved Malcolm and those who followed Elijah Muhammad into an internecine civil war that resulted in so many deaths in the 60's...it's a dirty business engineered by the FBI...to prevent the rise of what Hoover used to call a black Messiah."

Although Louis Farrakhan's racial rhetoric has aroused animosity among many whites, he is still a popular figure in the African-American community, in part because he's perceived as standing up for young black men. According to Kunstler, "Farrakhan for better or for worse is the only national black leader with that charisma. He can fill Yankee Stadium and they want to cut him down."

At a packed assembly of Nation of Islam members in Chicago last month, Farrakhan accused the FBI of trying to create conflict and division between the Nation and the family of Malcolm X. Farrakhan also accused the FBI of lying to Nation of Islam leaders about the plot. According to Farrakhan's lawyer Ava Muhammad, the FBI had said that a Muslim extremist group -- not a Malcolm X family member -- had been involved in the plot to kill Farrakhan.

William Kunstler says he's interested in the role of the Clinton Administration's Justice Department in the Qubilah case. Kunstler told the SHADOW that "first the Attorney General's office said we knew nothing about this -- four days later, they said we knew all about it. It's my suspicion they of course knew all about it, but first they denied it which is very interesting."

Kunstler also addressed charges by Minneapolis prosecutors that Qubilah had neglected her son, Malcolm X's grandson, also named Malcolm. Kunstler said with a hint of contempt that "prosecutors announced someone said Qubilah had `liquor on her breath' -- that's a great sin I guess." Kunstler says the abuse charge was "dispelled totally because the authorities found it was totally unfounded."

If convicted, Qubilah Shabazz faces up to 90 years in prison and more than two million dollars in fines. The trial has been postponed until May 1st and Kunstler says while "the only fair trial would be no trial at all, I have a suspicion there maybe no trial at all." According to Kunstler, new information may further undercut the government's case against Shabazz.

Former FBI agent Dan Scott held a press conference in Minneapolis to say he had been the case agent for Michael Fitzpatrick back in the late 1970's. Scott told reporters that Fitzpatrick was an idealistic and credible witness, but according to Kunstler, former agent Dan Scott was himself kicked out of the FBI for drunkenness and killing someone in a car accident.

Kunstler adds "there's a puppeteer pulling the strings and there are lots of puppets out there." And the strings attached to Michael Fitzpatrick run straight back to the FBI.

ShadowMain     Shadow #35     Publications     Subscribe to The Shadow
MediaFilter   Artists on MediaFilter    CHAOS