US Domestic Covert Operations

From the Archive: WAR AT HOME

From: (Gary Lee)
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 1995 14:21:22 GMT
Organization: The Gloons of Tharf
Newsgroups: alt.society.anarchy

/** pn.publiceye: 23.5 **/ ** Written 7:12 pm Jan 25, 1991 by nlgclc in cdp:pn.publiceye **

From: (Rich Winkel)
Subject: From the Archive: WAR AT HOME (4/5)
Followup-To: alt.activism.d
Date: 11 Mar 1995 19:09:20 GMT
Organization: ?
Lines: 617
Message-ID: <3jssh0$>
Resent-From: rich

Harassment Through
Psychological Warfare

While boring from within, the FBI and police also attack dissident movements from the outside. They openly mount propaganda campaigns through public addresses, news releases, books, pamphlets, magazine articles, radio, and television. They also use covert deception and manipulation. Documented tactics of this kind include:

False Media Stories: COINTELPRO documents expose frequent collusion between news media personnel and the FBI to publish false and distorted material at the Bureau's behest. The FBI routinely leaked derogatory information to its collaborators in the news media. It also created newspaper and magazine articles and television "documentaries" which the media knowingly or unknowingly carried as their own. Copies were sent anonymously or under bogus letterhead to activists' financial backers, employers, business associates, families, neighbors, church officials, school administrators, landlords, and whomever else might cause them trouble.

One FBI media fabrication claimed that Jean Seberg, a white film star active in anti-racist causes, was pregnant by a prominent Black leader. The Bureau leaked the story anonymously to columnist Joyce Haber and also had it passed to her by a "friendly" source in the Los Angeles Times editorial staff. The item appeared without attribution in Haber's nationally syndicated column of May 19, 1970. Seberg's husband has sued the FBI as responsible for her resulting stillbirth, nervous breakdown, and suicide.

Bogus Leaflets, Pamphlets, and Other Publications: COINTELPRO documents show that the FBI routinely put out phony leaflets, posters, pamphlets, newspapers, and other publications in the name of movement groups. The purpose was to discredit the groups and turn them against one another.

FBI cartoon leaflets were used to divide and disrupt the main national anti-war coalition of the late 1960s. Similar fliers were circulated in 1968 and 1969 in the name of the Black Panthers and the United Slaves (US), a rival Black nationalist group based in Southern California. The phony Panther/US leaflets, together with other covert operations, were credited with subverting a fragile truce between the two groups and igniting an explosion of internecine violence that left four Panthers dead, many more wounded, and a once-flourishing regional Black movement decimated.

Another major COINTELPRO operation involved a children's coloring book which the Black Panther Party had rejected as anti-white and gratuitously violent. The FBI revised the coloring book to make it even more offensive. Its field offices then distributed thousands of copies anonymously or under phony organizational letterheads. Many backers of the Party's program of free breakfasts for children withdrew their support after the FBI conned them into believing that the bogus coloring book was being used in the program.

Forged Correspondence: Former employees have confirmed that the FBI has the capacity to produce state-of-the-art forgery. This capacity was used under COINTELPRO to create snitch jackets and bogus communications that exacerbated differences among activists and disrupted their work.

One such forgery intimidated civil rights worker Muhammed Kenyatta (Donald Jackson), causing him to abandon promising projects in Jackson, Mississippi. Kenyatta had foundation grants to form Black economic cooperatives and open a "Black and Proud School" for dropouts. He was also a student organizer at nearby Tougaloo College. In the winter of 1969, after an extended campaign of FBI and police harassment, Kenyatta received a letter, purportedly from the Tougaloo College Defense Committee, which "directed" that he cease his political activities immediately. If he did not "heed our diplomatic and well-thought-out warning," the committee would consider taking measures "which would have a more direct effect and which would not be as cordial as this note." Kenyatta and his wife left. Only years later did they learn it was not Tougaloo students, but FBI covert operators who had driven them out.

Later in 1969, FBI agents fabricated a letter to the mainly white organizers of a proposed Washington, D.C. anti-war rally demanding that they pay the local Black community a $20,000 "security bond." This attempted extortion was composed in the name of the local Black United Front (BUF) and signed with the forged signature of its leader. FBI informers inside the BUF then tried to get the group to back such a demand, and Bureau contacts in the media made sure the story received wide publicity.

The Senate Intelligence Committee uncovered a series of FBI letters sent to top Panther leaders throughout 1970 in the name of Connie Mathews, an intermediary between the Black Panther Party's national office and Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, in exile in Algeria. These exquisite forgeries were prepared on pilfered stationery in Panther vernacular expertly simulated by the FBI's Washington, D.C. laboratory. Each was forwarded to an FBI Legal Attache at a U.S. Embassy in a foreign country that Mathews was due to travel through and then posted at just the right time "in such a manner that it cannot be traced to the Bureau." The FBI enhanced the eerie authenticity of these fabrications by lacing them with esoteric personal tidbits culled from electronic surveillance of Panther homes and offices. Combined with other forgeries, anonymous letters and phone calls, and the covert intervention of FBI and police infiltrators, the Mathews correspondence succeeded in inflaming intra-party mistrust and rivalry until it erupted into the bitter public split that shattered the organization in the winter of 1971.

Anonymous Letters and Telephone Calls: During the 1960s, activists received a steady flow of anonymous letters and phone calls which turn out to have been from the FBI. Some were unsigned, while others bore bogus names or purported to come from unidentified activists in phony or actual organizations.

Many of these bogus communications promoted racial divisions and fears, often by exploiting and exacerbating tensions between Jewish and Black activists. One such FBI-concocted letter went to SDS members who had joined Black students protesting New York University's discharge of a Black teacher in 1969. The supposed author, an unnamed "SDS member," urged whites to break ranks and abandon the Black students because of alleged anti-Semitic slurs by the fired teacher and his supporters.

Other anonymous letters and phone calls falsely accused movement leaders of collaboration with the authorities, corruption, or sexual affairs with other activists' mates. The letter on the next page was used to provoke "a lasting distrust" between a Black civil rights leader and his wife. Its FBI authors hoped that his "concern over what to do about it" would "detract from his time spent in the plots and plans of his organization." As in the Seberg incident, inter-racial sex was a persistent theme. The husband of one white woman active in civil rights and anti-war work filed for divorce soon after receiving the FBI-authored letter reproduced on page 50.

Still other anonymous FBI communications were designed to intimidate dissidents, disrupt coalitions, and provoke violence. Calls to Stokely Carmichael's mother warning of a fictitious Black Panther murder plot drove him to leave the country in September 1968. Similar anonymous FBI telephone threats to SNCC leader James Forman were instrumental in thwarting efforts to bring the two groups together.

The Chicago FBI made effective use of anonymous letters to sabotage the Panthers efforts to build alliances with previously apolitical Black street gangs. The most extensive of these operations involved the Black P. Stone Nation, or "Blackstone Rangers," a powerful confederation of several thousand local Black youth. Early in 1969, as FBI and police infiltrators in the Rangers spread rumors of an impending Panther attack, the Bureau sent Ranger chief Jeff Fort an incendiary note signed "a black brother you don't know." Fort's supposed friend warned that "The brothers that run the Panthers blame you for blocking their thing and there's supposed to be a hit out for you." Another FBI-concocted anonymous "black man" then informed Chicago Panther leader Fred Hampton of a Ranger plot "to get you out of the way." These fabrications squelched promising talks between the two groups and enabled Chicago Panther security chief William O'Neal, an FBI-paid provocateur, to instigate a series of armed confrontations from which the Panthers barely managed to escape without serious casualties.

Pressure Through Employers, Landlords, and Others: FBI records reveal repeated maneuvers to generate pressure on dissidents from their parents, children, spouses, landlords, employers, college administrators, church superiors, welfare agencies, credit bureaus, and the like. Anonymous letters and telephone calls were often used to this end. Confidential official communications were effective in bringing to bear the Bureau's immense power and authority.

Agents' reports indicate that such FBI intervention denied Martin Luther King, Jr., and other 1960s activists any number of foundation grants and public speaking engagements. It also deprived alternative newspapers of their printers, suppliers, and distributors and cost them crucial advertising revenues when major record companies were persuaded to take their business elsewhere. Similar government manipulation may underlie steps recently taken by some insurance companies to cancel policies held by churches giving sanctuary to refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala.

Tampering With Mail and Telephone Service: The FBI and CIA routinely used mail covers (the recording of names and addresses) and electronic surveillance in order to spy on 1960s movements. The CIA alone admitted to photographing the outside of 2.7 million pieces of first-class mail during the 1960s and to opening almost 215,000. Government agencies also tampered with mail, altering, delaying, or "disappearing" it. Activists were quick to blame one another, and infiltrators easily exploited the situation to exacerbate their tensions.

Dissidents' telephone communications often were similarly obstructed. The SDS Regional Office in Washington, D.C., for instance, mysteriously lost its phone service the week preceding virtually every national anti-war demonstration in the late 1960s.

Disinformation to Prevent or Disrupt Movement Meetings and Activities: A favorite COINTELPRO tactic uncovered by Senate investigators was to advertise a non-existent political event, or to misinform people of the time and place of an actual one. They reported a variety of disruptive FBI "dirty tricks" designed to cast blame on the organizers of movement events.

In one "disinformation" case, the [FBI's] Chicago Field Office duplicated blank forms prepared by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam ("NMC") soliciting housing for demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention. Chicago filled out 217 of these forms with fictitious names and addresses and sent them to the NMC, which provided them to demonstrators who made "long and useless journeys to locate these addresses." The NMC then decided to discard all replies received on the housing forms rather than have out-of-town demonstrators try to locate nonexistent addresses. (The same program was carried out when the Washington Mobilization Committee distributed housing forms for demonstrators coming to Washington for the 1969 Presidential inaugural ceremonies.)

In another case, during the demonstrations accompanying inauguration ceremonies, the Washington Field Office discovered that NMC marshals were using walkie-talkies to coordinate their movements and activities. WFO used the same citizen band to supply the marshals with misinformation and, pretending to be an NMC unit, countermanded NMC orders.

In a third case, a [Bureau] midwest field office disrupted arrangements for state university students to attend the 1969 inaugural demonstrations by making a series of anonymous telephone calls to the transportation company. The calls were designed to confuse both the transportation company and the SDS leaders as to the cost of transportation and the time and place for leaving and returning. This office also placed confusing leaflets around the campus to show different times and places for demonstration-planning meetings, as well as conflicting times and dates for traveling to Washington.

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