FBI Domestic Intelligence
Table Of Contents
What Was COINTELPRO?
How Do We Know About It?
How Did It Work?
Who Were The Targets?
What Effect Did It Have?
The Danger We Face
Is It A Threat Today?
What Can We Do About It?
How We Can Protect Ourselves?
Other Forms Of Deception
Coping With Deception
Informers And Infiltrators
Visits From The FBI
Activists across the country report increasing government
harassment and disruption of their work:
-In the Southwest, paid informers infiltrate the church
services, Bible classes and support networks of clergy and lay
workers giving sanctuary to refugees from El Salvador and
-In Alabama, elderly Black people attempting for the first
time to exercise their right to vote are interrogated by FBI
agents and hauled before federal grand juries hundreds of
miles from their homes.
-In New England, a former CIA case officer cites examples from
his own past work to warn college students of efforts by
undercover operatives to misdirect and discredit protests
against South African and US racism.
-In the San Francisco Bay Area, activists planning
anti-nuclear civil disobedience learn that their meetings have
been infiltrated by the US Navy.
-In Detroit, Seattle, and Philadelphia, in Cambridge, MA,
Berkeley, CA., Phoenix, AR., and Washington, DC., churches and
organizations opposing US policies in Central America report
obviously political break ins in which important papers are
stolen or damaged, while money and valuables are left
untouched. License plates on a car spotted fleeing one such
office have been traced to the US National Security Agency.
-In Puerto Rico, Texas and Massachusetts, labor leaders,
community organizers, writers and editors who advocate Puerto
Rican independence are branded by the FBI as "terrorists,"
brutally rounded-up in the middle of the night, held
incommunicado for days and then jailed under new preventive
-The FBI puts the same "terrorist" label on opponents of US
intervention in El Salvador, but refuses to investigate the
possibility of a political conspiracy behind nation-wide
bombings of abortion clinics.
-Throughout the country, people attempting to see Nicaragua
for themselves find their trips disrupted, their private
papers confiscated, and their homes and offices plagued by FBI
agents who demand detailed personal and political information.
These kinds of government tactics violate our fundamental
constitutional rights. They make it enormously difficult to
sustain grass-roots organizing. They create an atmosphere of
fear and distrust which undermines any effort to challenge
Similar measures were used in the 1960s as part of a secret
FBI program known as "COINTELPRO." COINTELPRO was later
exposed and officially ended. But the evidence shows that it
actually persisted and that clandestine operations to
discredit and disrupt opposition movements have become an
institutional feature of national and local government in the
US. This pamphlet is designed to help current and future
activists learn from the history of COINTELPRO, so that our
movements can better withstand such attack.
The first section gives a brief overview of what we know the
FBI did in the 60s. It explains why we can expect similar
government intervention in the 80s and beyond, and offers
general guidelines for effective response.
The main body of the pamphlet describes the specific methods
which have previously been used to undermine domestic dissent
and suggests steps we can take to limit or deflect their
A final chapter explores ways to mobilize broad public protest
against this kind of repression.
Further readings and groups that can help are listed in back.
The pamphlet's historical analysis is based on confidential
internal documents prepared by the FBI and police during the
It also draws on the post-60s confessions of disaffected
government agents, and on the testimony of public officials
before Congress and the courts. Though the information from
these sources is incomplete, and much of what was done remains
secret, we now know enough to draw useful lessons for future
organizing. The suggestions included in the pamphlet are based
on the author's 20 years experience as an activist and lawyer,
and on talks with long-time organizers in a broad range of
movements. They are meant to provide starting points for
discussion, so we can get ready before the pressure
intensifies. Most are a matter of common sense once the
methodology of covert action is understood. Please take these
issues seriously. Discuss the recommendations with other
activists. Adapt them to the conditions you face. Point out
problems and suggest other approaches. It is important that we
begin now to protect our movements and ourselves.
"COINTELPRO" was the FBI's secret program to undermine the
popular upsurge which swept the country during the 1960s.
Though the name stands for "Counterintelligence Program," the
targets were not enemy spies. The FBI set out to eliminate
"radical" political opposition inside the US. When traditional
modes of repression (exposure, blatant harassment, and
prosecution for political crimes) failed to counter the
growing insurgency, and even helped to fuel it, the Bureau
took the law into its own hands and secretly used fraud and
force to sabotage constitutionally- protected political
activity. Its methods ranged far beyond surveillance, and
amounted to a domestic version of the covert action for which
the CIA has become infamous throughout the world.
COINTELPRO was discovered in March, 1971, when secret files
were removed from an FBI office and released to news media.
Freedom of Information requests, lawsuits, and former agents'
public confessions deepened the exposure until a major scandal
loomed. To control the damage and re-establish government
legitimacy in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, Congress and
the courts compelled the FBI to reveal part of what it had
done and to promise it would not do it again. Much of what has
been learned, and copies of some of the actual documents, can
be found in the readings listed at the back of this pamphlet.
The FBI secretly instructed its field offices to propose
schemes to "misdirect, discredit, disrupt and otherwise
neutralize "specific individuals and groups. Close
coordination with local police and prosecutors was encouraged.
Final authority rested with top FBI officials in Washington,
who demanded assurance that "there is no possibility of
embarrassment to the Bureau." More than 2000 individual
actions were officially approved. The documents reveal three
types of methods:
1. Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on
political activists. Their main function was to discredit
and disrupt. Various means to this end are analyzed below.
2. Other forms of deception: The FBI and police also waged
psychological warfare from the outside through bogus
publications, forged correspondence, anonymous letters and
telephone calls, and similar forms of deceit.
3. Harassment, intimidation and violence: Eviction, job
loss, break ins, vandalism, grand jury subpoenas, false
arrests, frame- ups, and physical violence were threatened,
instigated or directly employed, in an effort to frighten
activists and disrupt their movements. Government agents
either concealed their involvement or fabricated a legal
pretext. In the case of the Black and Native American
movements, these assaults including outright political
assassinations were so extensive and vicious that they
amounted to terrorism on the part of the government.
The most intense operations were directed against the Black
movement, particularly the Black Panther Party. This
resulted from FBI and police racism, the Black community's
lack of material resources for fighting back, and the
tendency of the media and whites in general to ignore or
tolerate attacks on Black groups. It also reflected
government and corporate fear of the Black movement because
of its militancy, its broad domestic base and international
support, and its historic role in galvanizing the entire
Sixties' upsurge. Many other activists who organized against
US intervention abroad or for racial, gender or class
justice at home also came under covert attack. The targets
were in no way limited to those who used physical force or
took up arms. Martin Luther King, David Dellinger, Phillip
Berrigan and other leading pacifists were high on the list,
as were projects directly protected by the Bill of Rights,
such as alternative newspapers.
The Black Panthers came under attack at a time when their
work featured free food and health care and community
control of schools and police, and when they carried guns
only for deterrent and symbolic purposes. It was the
terrorism of the FBI and police that eventually provoked the
Panthers to retaliate with the armed actions that later were
cited to justify their repression.
Ultimately the FBI disclosed six official
counterintelligence programs: Communist Party USA (1956-71);
"Groups Seeking Independence for Puerto Rico" (1960-71);
Socialist Workers Party (1961-71); "White Hate Groups"
(1964-71); "Black Nationalist Hate Groups" (1967-71); and
"New Left" (1968- 71). The latter operations hit anti-war,
student, and feminist groups. The "Black Nationalist"
caption actually encompassed Martin Luther King and most of
the civil rights and Black Power movements. The "white hate"
program functioned mainly as a cover for covert aid to the
kkk and similar right wing vigilantes, who were given funds
and information, so long as they confined their attacks to
COINTELPRO targets. FBI documents also reveal covert action
against Native American, Chicano, Philippine, Arab-
American, and other activists, apparently without formal
COINTELPRO's impact is difficult to fully assess since we do
not know the entire scope of what was done (especially
against such pivotal targets as Malcolm X, Martin Luther
King, SNCC and SDS) and we have no generally accepted
analysis of the Sixties. It is clear, however, that:
-COINTELPRO distorted the public's view of radical groups in
a way that helped to isolate them and to legitimize open
-It reinforced and exacerbated the weaknesses of these
groups, making it very difficult for the inexperienced
activists of the Sixties to learn from their mistakes and
build solid, durable organizations.
-Its violent assaults and covert manipulation eventually
helped to push some of the most committed and experienced
groups to withdraw from grass-roots organizing and to
substitute armed actions which isolated them and deprived
the movement of much of its leadership.
-COINTELPRO often convinced its victims to blame themselves
and each other for the problems it created, leaving a legacy
of cynicism and despair that persists today.
-By operating covertly, the FBI and police were able to
severely weaken domestic political opposition without
shaking the conviction of most US people that they live in a
democracy, with free speech and the rule of law.
Public exposure of COINTELPRO in the early 1970s elicited a
flurry of reform. Congress, the courts and the mass media
condemned government "intelligence abuses." Municipal police
forces officially disbanded their red squads. A new Attorney
General notified past victims of COINTELPRO and issued
Guidelines to limit future operations. Top FBI officials
were indicted (albeit for relatively minor offenses), two
were convicted, and several others retired or resigned. J.
Edgar Hoover the egomaniacal, crudely racist and sexist
founder of the FBI died, and a well known federal judge,
William Webster, eventually was appointed to clean house and
build a "new FBI."
Behind this public hoopla, however, was little real
improvement in government treatment of radical activists.
Domestic covert operations were briefly scaled down a bit,
after the 60s' upsurge had largely subsided, due impart to
the success of COINTELPRO. But they did not stop. In April,
1971, soon after files had been taken from one of its
offices, the FBI instructed its agents that "future
COINTELPRO actions will be considered on a highly selective,
individual basis with tight procedures to insure absolute
security." The results are apparent in the record of the
-A virtual war on the American Indian Movement, ranging from
forgery of documents, infiltration of legal defense
committees, diversion of funds, intimidation of witnesses
and falsification of evidence, to the para-military invasion
of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and the
murder of Anna Mae Aquash, Joe Stuntz and countless others;
-Sabotage of efforts to organize protest demonstrations at
the 1972 Republican and Democratic Party conventions. The
attempted assassination of San Diego Univ. Prof. Peter
Bohmer, by a "Secret Army Organization" of ex-Minutemen
formed, subsidized, armed, and protected by the FBI, was a
part of these operations;
-Concealment of the fact that the witness whose testimony
led to the 1972 robbery murder conviction of Black Panther
leader Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt was a paid informer who had
worked in the BPP under the direction of the FBI and the Los
Angeles Police Department;
-Infiltration and disruption of the Vietnam Veterans Against
the War, and prosecution of its national leaders on false
charges (Florida, 1971-74);
-Formation and operation of sham political groups such as
"Red Star Cadre," in Tampa, Fla., and the New Orleans "Red
-Mass interrogation of lesbian and feminist activists,
threats of subpoenas, jailing of those who refused to
cooperate, and disruption of women's health collectives and
other projects (Lexington, KY., Hartford and New Haven,
-Harassment of the Hispanic Commission of the Episcopal
Church and numerous other Puerto Rican and Chicano religious
activists and community organizers (Chicago, New York City,
Puerto Rico, Colorado and New Mexico, 1977);
-Entrapment and frame-up of militant union leaders (NASCO
shipyards, San Diego, 1979); and
-Complicity in the murder of socialist labor and community
organizers (Greensboro, N.C., 1980).
All this, and maybe more, occurred in an era of reform. The
use of similar measures in today's very different times
cannot be itemized in such detail, since most are still
secret. The gravity of the current danger is evident,
however, from the major steps recently taken to legitimize
and strengthen political repression, and from the many
incidents which are coming to light despite stepped-up
The ground-work for public acceptance of repression has been
laid by President Reagan's speeches reviving the old red
scare tale of worldwide "communist take-overs" and adding a
new bogeyman in the form of domestic and international
"terrorism." The President has taken advantage of the
resulting political climate to denounce the Bill of Rights
and to red bait critics of US intervention in Central
America. He has pardoned the FBI officials convicted of
COINTELPRO crimes, praised their work, and spoken favorably
of the political witch hunts he took part in during the
For the first time in US history, government infiltration to
"influence" domestic political activity has received
official sanction. On the pretext of meeting the supposed
terrorist threat, Presidential Executive Order 12333 (Dec.
4, 1981) extends such authority not only to the FBI, but
also to the military and, in some cases, the CIA. History
shows that these agencies treat legal restriction as a kind
of speed limit which they feel free to exceed, but only by a
certain margin. Thus, Reagan's Executive Order not only
encourages reliance on methods once deemed abhorrent, it
also implicitly licenses even greater, more damaging
intrusion. Government capacity to make effective use of such
measures has also been substantially enhanced in recent
-Judge Webster's highly touted reforms have served mainly to
modernize the FBI and make it more dangerous. Instead of the
back- biting competition which impeded coordination of
domestic counter- insurgency in the 60s, the Bureau now
promotes inter-agency cooperation. As an equal opportunity
employer, it can use Third World and female agents to
penetrate political targets more thoroughly than before. By
cultivating a low visibility corporate image and discreetly
avoiding public attack on prominent liberals, the FBI has
regained respectability and won over a number of former
-Municipal police forces have similarly revamped their image
while upgrading their repressive capabilities. The police
"red squads" that infiltrated and harassed the 60s'
movements have been revived under other names and augmented
by para-military SWAT teams and tactical squads as well as
highly politicized community relations and "beat rep"
programs, in which Black, Hispanic and female officers are
often conspicuous. Local operations are linked by FBI led
regional anti terrorist task forces and the national Law
Enforcement Intelligence Unit (LEIU).
-Increased military and CIA involvement has added political
sophistication and advanced technology. Army Special Forces
and other elite military units are now trained and equipped
for counter-insurgency (known as "low intensity warfare").
Their manuals teach the essential methodology of COINTELPRO,
stressing earlier intervention to neutralize potential
opposition before it can take hold.
The CIA's expanded role is especially ominous. In the 60s,
while legally banned from "internal security functions," the
CIA managed to infiltrate the Black, student and antiwar
movements. It also made secret use of university professors,
journalists, labor leaders, publishing houses, cultural
organizations and philanthropic fronts to mold US public
opinion. But it apparently felt compelled to hold back
within the country from the kinds of systematic political
destabilization, torture, and murder which have become the
hallmark of its operations abroad. Now, the full force of
the CIA has been unleashed at home.
-All of the agencies involved in covert operations have had
time to learn from the 60s and to institute the "tight
procedures to insure absolute security" that FBI officials
demanded after COINTELPRO was exposed in 1971. Restoration
of secrecy has been made easier by the Administration's
steps to shield covert operations from public scrutiny.
Under Reagan, key FBI and CIA files have been re-classified
"top secret." The Freedom of Information Act has been
quietly narrowed through administrative reinterpretation.
Funds for covert operations are allocated behind closed
doors and hidden in CIA and defense appropriations.
Government employees now face censorship even after they
retire, and new laws make it a federal crime to publicize
information which might tend to reveal an agent's identity.
Despite this stepped-up security, incidents frighteningly
reminiscent of 60s' COINTELPRO have begun to emerge.
The extent of the infiltration, burglary and other
clandestine government intervention that has already come to
light is alarming. Since the vast majority of such
operations stay hidden until after the damage has been done,
those we are now aware of undoubtedly represent only the tip
of the iceberg. Far more is sure to lie beneath the surface.
Considering the current political climate, the legalization
of COINTELPRO, the rehabilitation of the FBI and police, and
the expanded role of the CIA and military, the recent
revelations leave us only one safe assumption: that
extensive government covert operations are already underway
to neutralize today's opposition movements before they can
reach the massive level of the 60s.
Domestic covert action has now persisted in some form
through at least the last seven presidencies. It grew from
one program to six under Kennedy and Johnson. It flourished
when an outspoken liberal, Ramsey Clark, was Attorney
General (1966-68). It is an integral part of the established
mode of operation of powerful, entrenched agencies on every
level of government. It enables policy makers to maintain
social control without detracting from their own public
image or the perceived legitimacy of their method of
government. It has become as institutional in the US as the
race, gender, class and imperial domination it serves to
Under these circumstances, there is no reason to think we
can eliminate COINTELPRO simply by electing better public
officials. Only through sustained public education and
mobilization, by a broad coalition of political, religious
and civil libertarian activists, can we expect to limit it
In most parts of the country, however, and certainly on a
national level, we lack the political power to end covert
government intervention, or even to curb it substantially.
We therefore need to learn how to cope more effectively with
this form of repression.
The next part of this pamphlet examines the methods that
were used to discredit and disrupt the movements of the 60s
and suggests steps we can take to deflect or reduce their
impact in the year 2000.
-Check out the authenticity of any disturbing letter, rumor,
phone call or other communication before acting on it.
-Document incidents which appear to reflect covert
intervention, and report them to the Movement Support
Network Hotline: 212/477- 5562.
-Deal openly and honestly with the differences within our
movements (race, gender, class, age, religion, national
origin, sexual orientation, personality, experience,
physical and intellectual capacities, etc.) before the FBI
and police exploit them to tear us apart.
-Don't rush to expose a suspected agent. Instead, directly
criticize what the suspect says and does. Intra-movement
witch hunts only help the government create distrust and
-Support whoever comes under government attack. Don't be put
off by political slander, such as recent attempts to smear
radical activists as "terrorists." Organize public
opposition to FBI investigations, grand juries, show trials
and other forms of political harassment.
-Above all, do not let them divert us from our main work.
Our most powerful weapon against political repression is
effective organizing around the needs and issues which
directly affect people's lives.
INFILTRATION BY AGENTS OR INFORMERS
Agents are law enforcement officers disguised as activists.
Informers are non agents who provide information to a law
enforcement or intelligence agency. They may be recruited
from within a group or sent in by an agency, or they may be
disaffected former members or supporters.
Infiltrators are agents or informers who work in a group or
community under the direction of a law enforcement or
intelligence agency. During the 60s the FBI had to rely on
informers (who are less well trained and harder to control)
because it had very few black, Hispanic or female agents,
and its strict dress and grooming code left white male
agents unable to look like activists. As a modern equal
opportunity employer, today's FBI has fewer such
What They Do: Some informers and infiltrators quietly
provide information while keeping a low profile and doing
whatever is expected of group members. Others attempt to
discredit a target and disrupt its work. They may spread
false rumors and make unfounded accusations to provoke or
exacerbate tensions and splits. They may urge divisive
proposals, sabotage important activities and resources, or
operate as "provocateurs" who lead zealous activists into
unnecessary danger. In a demonstration or other
confrontation with police, such an agent may break
discipline and call for actions which would undermine unity
and detract from tactical focus.
Infiltration As a Source of Distrust and Paranoia: While
individual agents and informers aid the government in a
variety of specific ways, the general use of infiltrators
serves a very special and powerful strategic function. The
fear that a group may be infiltrated often intimidates
people from getting more involved. It can give rise to a
paranoia which makes it difficult to build the mutual trust
which political groups depend on. This use of infiltrators,
enhanced by covertly initiated rumors that exaggerate the
extent to which a particular movement or group has been
penetrated, is recommended by the manuals used to teach
counter-insurgency in the U.S. and Western Europe.
Covert Manipulation to Make A Legitimate Activist Appear to
be an Agent: An actual agent will often point the finger at
a genuine, non collaborating and highly valued group member,
claiming that he or she is the infiltrator. The same effect,
known as a "snitch jacket," has been achieved by planting
forged documents which appear to be communications between
an activist and the FBI, or by releasing for no other
apparent reason one of a group of activists who were
arrested together. Another method used under COINTELPRO was
to arrange for some activists, arrested under one pretext or
another, to hear over the police radio a phony broadcast
which appeared to set up a secret meeting between the police
and someone from their group.
l. Establish a process through which anyone who suspects an
informer (or other form of covert intervention) can express
his or her fears without scaring others. Experienced people
assigned this responsibility can do a great deal to help a
group maintain its morale and focus while, at the same time,
centrally consolidating information and deciding how to use
it. This plan works best when accompanied by group
discussion of the danger of paranoia, so that everyone
understands and follows the established procedure.
2. To reduce vulnerability to paranoia and "snitch jackets",
and to minimize diversion from your main work, it generally
is best if you do not attempt to expose a suspected agent or
informer unless you are certain of their role. (For
instance, they surface to make an arrest, testify as a
government witness or in some other way admit their
identity). Under most circumstances, an attempted exposure
will do more harm than the infiltrator's continued presence.
This is especially true if you can discreetly limit the
suspect's access to funds, financial records, mailing lists,
discussions of possible law violations, meetings that plan
criminal defense strategy, and similar opportunities.
3. Deal openly and directly with the form and content of
what anyone says and does, whether the person is a suspected
agent, has emotional problems, or is simply a sincere, but
naive or confused person new to the work.
4. Once an agent or informer has been definitely identified,
alert other groups and communities by means of photographs,
a description of their methods of operation, etc. In the
60s, some agents managed even after their exposure in one
community to move on and repeat their performance in a
number of others.
5. Be careful to avoid pushing a new or hesitant member to
take risks beyond what that person is ready to handle,
particularly in situations which could result in arrest and
prosecution. People in this position have proved vulnerable
to recruitment as informers.
Bogus leaflets, pamphlets, etc.: COINTELPRO documents show
that the FBI routinely put out phony leaflets, posters,
pamphlets, etc. to discredit its targets. In one instance,
agents revised a children's coloring book which the Black
Panther Party had rejected as anti white and gratuitously
violent, and then distributed a cruder version to backers of
the Party's program of free breakfasts for children, telling
them the book was being used in the program.
False media stories: The FBI's documents expose collusion by
reporters and news media that knowingly published false and
distorted material prepared by Bureau agents. One such story
had Jean Seberg, a noticeably pregnant white film star
active in anti racist causes, carrying the child of a
prominent Black leader. Seberg's white husband, the actual
father, has sued the FBI as responsible for her resulting
still-birth, breakdown, and suicide.
Forged correspondence: Former employees have confirmed that
the FBI and CIA have the capacity to produce "state of the
art" forgery. The U.S. Senate's investigation of COINTELPRO
uncovered a series of letters forged in the name of an
intermediary between the Black Panther Party's national
office and Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, in exile in
Algeria. The letters proved instrumental in inflaming
intra-party rivalries that erupted into the bitter public
split that shattered the Party in the winter of 1971.
Anonymous letters and telephone calls: During the 60s,
activists received a steady flow of anonymous letters and
phone calls which turn out to have been from government
agents. Some threatened violence. Others promoted racial
divisions and fears. Still others charged various leaders
with collaboration, corruption, sexual affairs with other
activists' mates, etc. As in the Seberg incident,
inter-racial sex was a persistent theme. The husband of one
white woman involved in a bi-racial civil rights group
received the following anonymous letter authored by the FBI:
Look, man, I guess your old lady doesn't get enough at home
or she wouldn't be shucking and jiving with our Black Men in
ACTION, you dig? Like all she wants to integrate is the
bedroom and us Black Sisters ain't gonna take no second best
from our men. So lay it on her man or get her the hell off
[name]. A Soul Sister
False rumors: Using infiltrators, journalists and other
contacts, the Bureau circulated slanderous, disruptive
rumors through political movements and the communities in
which they worked.
Other misinformation: A favorite FBI tactic uncovered by
Senate investigators was to misinform people that a
political meeting or event had been canceled. Another was to
offer non- existent housing at phony addresses, stranding
out-of-town conference attendees who naturally blamed those
who had organized the event. FBI agents also arranged to
transport demonstrators in the name of a bogus bus company
which pulled out at the last minute. Such "dirty tricks"
interfered with political events and turned activists
against each other.
Fronts for the FBI: COINTELPRO documents reveal that a
number of Sixties' political groups and projects were
actually set up and operated by the FBI.
One, "Grupo pro-Uso Voto," was used to disrupt the fragile
unity developing in l967 among groups seeking Puerto Rico's
independence from the US. The genuine proponents of
independence had joined together to boycott a
US-administered referendum on the island's status. They
argued that voting under conditions of colonial domination
could serve only to legitimize US rule, and that no vote
could be fair while the US controlled the island's economy,
media, schools, and police. The bogus group, pretending to
support independence, broke ranks and urged independistas to
take advantage of the opportunity to register their opinion
at the polls.
Since FBI front groups are basically a means for penetrating
and disrupting political movements, it is best to deal with
them on the basis of the Guidelines for Coping with
Confront what a suspect group says and does, but avoid
public accusations unless you have definite proof. If you do
have such proof, share it with everyone affected.
1. Don't add unnecessarily to the pool of information that
government agents use to divide political groups and turn
activists against each other. They thrive on gossip about
personal tensions, rivalries and disagreements. The more
these are aired in public, or via a telephone which can be
tapped or mail which can be opened, the easier it is to
exploit a groups' problems and subvert its work. (Note that
the CIA has the technology to read mail without opening it,
and that the telephone network can now be programmed to
record any conversation in which specified political terms
2. The best way to reduce tensions and hostilities, and the
urge to gossip about them, is to make time for open, honest
discussion and resolution of "personal" as well as
3. Don't accept everything you hear or read. Check with the
supposed source of the information before you act on it.
Personal communication among estranged activists, however
difficult or painful, could have countered many FBI
operations which proved effective in the Sixties.
4. When you hear a negative, confusing or potentially
harmful rumor, don't pass it on. Instead, discuss it with a
trusted friend or with the people in your group who are
responsible for dealing with covert intervention.
5. Verify and double check all arrangements for housing,
transportation, meeting rooms, and so forth.
6. When you discover bogus materials, false media stories,
etc., publicly disavow them and expose the true source,
insofar as you can.
HARASSMENT, INTIMIDATION & VIOLENCE:
Pressure through employers, landlords, etc.: COINTELPRO
documents reveal frequent overt contacts and covert
manipulation (false rumors, anonymous letters and telephone
calls) to generate pressure on activists from their parents,
landlords, employers, college administrators, church
superiors, welfare agencies, credit bureaus, licensing
authorities, and the like.
Agents' reports indicate that such intervention denied
Sixties' activists any number of foundation grants and
public speaking engagements. It also cost underground
newspapers most of their advertising revenues, when major
record companies were persuaded to take their business
elsewhere. It may underlie recent steps by insurance
companies to cancel policies held by churches giving
sanctuary to refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala.
Burglary: Former operatives have confessed to thousands of
"black bag jobs" in which FBI agents broke into movement
offices to steal, copy or destroy valuable papers, wreck
equipment, or plant drugs.
Vandalism: FBI infiltrators have admitted countless other
acts of vandalism, including the fire which destroyed the
Watts Writers Workshop's multi-million dollar ghetto
cultural center in 1973. Late 60s' FBI and police raids laid
waste to movement offices across the country, destroying
precious printing presses, typewriters, layout equipment,
research files, financial records, and mailing lists.
Other direct interference: To further disrupt opposition
movements, frighten activists, and get people upset with
each other, the FBI tampered with organizational mail, so it
came late or not at all. It also resorted to bomb threats
and similar "dirty tricks".
Conspicuous surveillance: The FBI and police blatantly watch
activists' homes, follow their cars, tap phones, open mail
and attend political events. The object is not to collect
information (which is done surreptitiously), but to harass
Attempted interviews: Agents have extracted damaging
information from activists who don't know they have a legal
right to refuse to talk, or who think they can outsmart the
FBI. COINTELPRO directives recommend attempts at interviews
throughout political movements to "enhance the paranoia
endemic in these circles" and "get the point across that
there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox."
Grand juries: Unlike the FBI, the Grand Jury has legal power
to make you answer its questions. Those who refuse, and are
required to accept immunity from use of their testimony
against them, can be jailed for contempt of court. (Such
"use immunity" enables prosecutors to get around the
constitutional protection against self incrimination.)
The FBI and the US Dept. of Justice have manipulated this
process to turn the grand jury into an instrument of
political repression. Frustrated by jurors' consistent
refusal to convict activists of overtly political crimes,
they convened over 100 grand juries between l970 and 1973
and subpoenaed more than 1000 activists from the Black,
Puerto Rican, student, women's and anti-war movements.
Supposed pursuit of fugitives and "terrorists" was the usual
pretext. Many targets were so terrified that they dropped
out of political activity. Others were jailed without any
criminal charge or trial, in what amounts to a U.S. version
of the political internment procedures employed in South
Africa and Northern Ireland.
False arrest and prosecution: COINTELPRO directives cite the
Philadelphia FBI's success in having local militants
"arrested on every possible charge until they could no
longer make bail" and "spent most of the summer in jail."
Though the bulk of the activists arrested in this manner
were eventually released, some were convicted of serious
charges on the basis of perjured testimony by FBI agents, or
by co-workers who the Bureau had threatened or bribed.
The object was not only to remove experienced organizers
from their communities and to divert scarce resources into
legal defense, but even more to discredit entire movements
by portraying their leaders as vicious criminals. Two
victims of such frame ups, Native American activist Leonard
Peltier and 1960s' Black Panther official Elmer "Geronimo"
Pratt, have finally gained court hearings on new trial
Others currently struggling to re-open COINTELPRO
convictions include Richard Marshall of the American Indian
Movement and jailed Black Panthers Herman Bell, Anthony
Bottom, Albert Washington (the "NY3"), and Richard "Dhoruba"
Intimidation: One COINTELPRO communiqué urged that "The
Negro youths and moderates must be made to understand that
if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead
Others reported use of threats (anonymous and overt) to
terrorize activists, driving some to abandon promising
projects and others to leave the country. During raids on
movement offices, the FBI and police routinely roughed up
activists and threatened further violence. In August, 1970,
they forced the entire staff of the Black Panther office in
Philadelphia to march through the streets naked.
Instigation of violence: The FBI's infiltrators and
anonymous notes and phone calls incited violent rivals to
attack Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and other targets.
Bureau records also reveal maneuvers to get the Mafia to
move against such activists as black comedian Dick Gregory.
COINTELPRO memo reported that "shootings, beatings and a
high degree of unrest continue to prevail in the ghetto area
of southeast San Diego...it is felt that a substantial
amount of the unrest is directly attributable to this
Covert aid to right wing vigilantes: In the guise of a
COINTELPRO against "white hate groups," the FBI subsidized,
armed, directed and protected the klu Klux Klan and other
right wing groups, including a "Secret Army Organization" of
California ex-Minutemen who beat up Chicano activists, tore
apart the offices of the San Diego Street Journal and the
Movement for a Democratic Military, and tried to kill a
prominent anti-war organizer. Puerto Rican activists
suffered similar terrorist assaults from anti-Castro Cuban
groups organized and funded by the CIA.
Defectors from a band of Chicago based vigilantes known as
the "Legion of Justice" disclosed that the funds and arms
they used to destroy book stores, film studios and other
centers of opposition had secretly been supplied by members
of the Army's 113th Military Intelligence Group.
Assassination: The FBI and police were implicated directly
in murders of Black and Native American leaders. In Chicago,
police assassinated Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark
Clark, using a floor plan supplied by an FBI informer who
apparently also had drugged Hampton's food to make him
unconscious during the raid.
FBI records show that this accomplice received a substantial
bonus for his services. Despite an elaborate cover-up, a
blue ribbon commission and a U.S Court of Appeals found the
deaths to be the result not of a shoot out, as claimed by
police, but of a carefully orchestrated, Vietnam style
"search and destroy mission".
GUIDELINES FOR COPING WITH HARASSMENT, INTIMIDATION &
1. Establish security procedures appropriate to your group's
level of activity and discuss them thoroughly with everyone
involved. Control access to keys, files, letterhead, funds,
financial records, mailing lists, etc. Keep duplicates of
valuable documents. Safeguard address books, and do not
carry them when arrest is likely.
2. Careful records of break ins, thefts, bomb threats,
raids, arrests, strange phone noises (not always taps or
bugs), harassment, etc. will help you to discern patterns
and to prepare reports and testimony.
3. Don't talk to the FBI. Don't let them in without a
warrant. Tell others that they came. Have a lawyer demand an
explanation and instruct them to leave you alone.
4. If an activist does talk, or makes some other honest
error, explain the harm that could result. But do not
attempt to ostracize a sincere person who slips up.
Isolation only weakens a person's ability to resist. It can
drive someone out of the movement and even into the arms of
5. If the FBI starts to harass people in your area, alert
everyone to refuse to cooperate (see box). Call the Movement
Support Network's Hotline:(2l2) 614-6422. Set up community
meetings with speakers who have resisted similar harassment
elsewhere. Get literature, films, etc. through the
organizations listed in the back of this pamphlet. Consider
"Wanted" posters with photos of the agents, or guerilla
theater which follows them through the city streets.
6. Make a major public issue of crude harassment, such as
tampering with your mail. Contact your congressperson. Call
the media. Demonstrate at your local FBI office. Turn the
attack into an opportunity for explaining how covert
intervention threatens fundamental human rights.
7. Many people find it easier to tell an FBI agent to
contact their lawyer than to refuse to talk. Once a lawyer
is involved, the Bureau generally pulls back, since it has
lost its power to intimidate. If possible, make arrangements
with a local lawyer and let everyone know that agents who
visit them can be referred to that lawyer. If your group
engages in civil disobedience or finds itself under intense
police pressure, start a bail fund, train some members to
deal with the legal system, and develop an ongoing
relationship with a sympathetic local lawyer.
8. Organizations listed in the back of this pamphlet can
also help resist grand jury harassment. Community education
is important, along with legal, financial, child care, and
other support for those who protect a movement by refusing
to divulge information about it. If a respected activist is
subpoenaed for obviously political reasons, consider trying
to arrange for sanctuary in a local church or synagogue.
9. While the FBI and police are entirely capable of
fabricating criminal charges, any law violations make it
easier for them to set you up. The point is not to get so
up-tight and paranoid that you can't function, but to make a
realistic assessment based on your visibility and other
10. Upon hearing of Fred Hampton's murder, the Black
Panthers in Los Angeles fortified their offices and
organized a communications network to alert the community
and news media in the event of a raid. When the police did
attempt an armed assault four days later, the Panthers were
able to hold off the attack until a large community and
media presence enabled them to leave the office without
casualties. Similar preparation can help other groups that
have reason to expect right wing or police assaults.
11. Make sure your group designates and prepares other
members to step in if leaders are jailed or otherwise
incapacitated. The more each participant is able to think
for herself or himself and take responsibility, the better
will be the group's capacity to cope with crises.
BROAD BASED STRATEGY: No one existing political organization
or movement is strong enough, by itself, to mobilize the
public pressure required to significantly limit the ability
of the FBI, CIA and police to subvert our work. Some
activists oppose covert intervention because it violates
fundamental constitutional rights. Others stress how it
weakens and interferes with the work of a particular group
or movement. Still others see covert action as part of a
political and economic system which is fundamentally flawed.
Our only hope is to bring these diverse forces together in a
single, powerful alliance.
Such a broad coalition cannot hold together unless it
operates with clearly defined principles. The coalition as a
whole will have to oppose covert intervention on certain
basic grounds such as the threat to democracy, civil
liberties and social justice, leaving its members free to
put forward other objections and analyses in their own
names. Participants will need to refrain from insisting that
only their views are "politically correct" and that everyone
else has "sold out."
Above all, we will have to resist the government's maneuvers
to divide us by moving against certain groups, while subtly
suggesting that it will go easy on the others, if only they
dissociate themselves from those under attack. This strategy
is evident in the recent Executive Order and Guidelines,
which single out for infiltration and disruption people who
support liberation movements and governments that defy U.S.
hegemony or who entertain the view that it may at times be
necessary to break the law in order to effectuate social
DIVERSE TACTICS: For maximum impact, local and national
coalitions will need a multi-faceted approach which
effectively combines a diversity of tactics, including:
l. Investigative research to stay on top of, and document,
just what the FBI, CIA and police are up to.
2. Public education through forums, rallies, radio and TV,
literature, film, high school and college curricula, wall
posters, guerilla theater, and whatever else proves
interesting and effective.
3. Legislative lobbying against administration proposals to
strengthen covert work, cut back public access to
information, punish government "whistle blowers", etc.
Coalitions in some cities and states have won legislative
restrictions on surveillance and covert action. The value of
such victories will depend our ability to mobilize
continuing, vigilant public pressure for effective
4. Support for the victims of covert intervention can reduce
somewhat the harm done by the FBI, CIA and police.
Organizing on behalf of grand jury resisters, political
prisoners, and defendants in political trials offers a
natural forum for public education about domestic covert
5. Lawsuits may win financial compensation for some of the
people harmed by covert intervention. Class action suits,
which seek a court order (injunction) limiting surveillance
and covert action in a particular city or judicial district,
have proved a valuable source of information and publicity.
They are enormously expensive, however, in terms of time and
energy as well as money. Out-of-court settlements in some of
these cases have given rise to bitter disputes which split
coalitions apart, and any agreement is subject to
reinterpretation or modification by increasingly
conservative, administration oriented federal judges.
The US Court of Appeals in Chicago has ruled that the
consent decree against the FBI there affects only operations
based "solely on the political views of a group or an
individual," for which the Bureau can conjure no pretext of
a "genuine concern for law enforcement."
6. Direct action, in the form of citizens' arrests, mock
trials, picket lines, and civil disobedience, has recently
greeted CIA recruiters on a number of college campuses.
Although the main focus has been on the Agency's
international crimes, its domestic activities have also
received attention. Similar actions might be organized to
protest recruitment by the FBI and police, in conjunction
with teach ins and other education about domestic covert
action. Demonstrations against Reagan's attempts to bolster
covert intervention, or against particular FBI, CIA or
police operations, could also raise public consciousness and
focus activists' outrage.
PROSPECTS: Previous attempts to mobilize public opposition,
especially on a local level, indicate that a broad
coalition, employing a multi-faceted approach, may be able
to impose some limits on the government's ability to
discredit and disrupt our work. It is clear, however, that
we currently lack the power to eliminate such intervention.
While fighting hard to end domestic covert action, we need
also to study the forms it takes and prepare ourselves to
cope with it as effectively as we can.
Above all, it is essential that we resist the temptation to
so preoccupy ourselves with repression that we neglect our
main work. Our ability to resist the government's attacks
depends ultimately on the strength of our movements. So long
as we continue to advocate and organize effectively, no
manner of intervention can stop us.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT POLITICAL SPYING
Organizations involved in controversial issues particularly
those who encourage or assist members to commit civil
disobedience should be alert to the possibility of
surveillance and disruption by police or federal agencies.
During the last three decades, many individuals and
organizations were spied upon, wiretapped, their personal
lives disrupted in an effort to draw them away from their
political work, and their organizations infiltrated.
Hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence from agencies
such as the FBI and CIA were obtained by Congressional
inquiries headed by Senator Frank Church and Representative
Otis Pike, others were obtained through use of the Freedom
of Information Act and as a result of lawsuits seeking
damages for First Amendment violations.
Despite the public outcry to these revelations, the
apparatus remains in place, and federal agencies have been
given increased powers by the Reagan Administration.
Good organizers should be acquainted with this sordid part
of American history, and with the signs that may indicate
their group is the target of an investigation.
HOWEVER, DO NOT LET PARANOIA immobilize you. The results of
paranoia and overreaction to evidence of surveillance can be
just as disruptive to an organization as an actual
infiltrator or disruption campaign.
This document is a brief outline of what to look for -- and
what to do if you think your group is the subject of an
investigation. This is meant to suggest possible actions,
and is not intended to provide legal advice
Visits by police or federal agents to politically involved
individuals, landlords, employers, family members or
business associates. These visits may be to ask for
information, to encourage or create possibility of eviction
or termination of employment, or to create pressure for the
person to stop his or her political involvement.
Uniformed or plainclothes officers taking pictures of people
entering your office or participating in your activities.
Just before and during demonstrations and other public
events, check the area including windows and rooftops for
People who seem out of place. If they come to your office or
attend your events, greet them as potential members. Try to
determine if they are really interested in your issues -- or
just your members!
People writing down license plate numbers of cars and other
vehicles in the vicinity of your meetings and rallies.
Despite local legislation and several court orders limiting
policy spying activities, these investigatory practices have
been generally found to be legal unless significant
"chilling" of constitutional rights can be proved.
Electronic surveillance equipment is now so sophisticated
that you should not be able to tell if your telephone
conversations are being monitored. Clicks, whirrs, and other
noises probably indicate a problem in the telephone line or
For example, the National Security Agency has the technology
to monitor microwave communications traffic, and to isolate
all calls to or from a particular line, or to listen for key
words that activate a recording device. Laser beams and
"spike" microphones can detect sound waves hitting walls and
window panes, and then transmit those waves for recording.
In these cases, there is little chance that the subject
would be able to find out about the surveillance.
Among the possible signs you may find are:
Hearing a tape recording of a conversation you, or someone
else in your home or office, have recently held.
Hearing people talking about your activities when you try to
use the telephone.
Losing service several days before
Government use of electronic surveillance is governed by two
laws, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act and the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Warrants for such
surveillance can be obtained if there is evidence of a
federal crime, such as murder, drug trafficking, or crimes
characteristic of organized crime, or for the purpose of
gathering foreign intelligence information available within
the U.S. In the latter case, an "agent of a foreign power"
can be defined as a representative of a foreign government,
from a faction or opposition group, or foreign based
Because of traditional difficulties with the U.S. Postal
Service, some problems with mail delivery will occur, such
as a machine catching an end of an envelope and tearing it,
or a bag getting lost and delaying delivery.
However, a pattern of problems may occur because of
political intelligence gathering:
Envelopes may have been opened prior to reaching their
destination; contents were removed and/or switched with
other mail. Remember that the glue on envelopes doesn't work
as well when volume or bulk mailings are involved.
Mail may arrive late, on a regular basis different from
others in your neighborhood.
Mail may never arrive. There are currently two kinds of
surveillance permitted with regards to mail: the mail cover,
and opening of mail. The simplest, and lest intrusive form
is the "mail cover" in which Postal employees simply list
any information that can be obtained from the envelope, or
opening second, third or fourth class mail. Opening of first
class mail requires a warrant unless it is believed to hold
drugs or "ticks." More leeway is given for opening first
class international mail.
common practice during the FBI's Counter- Intelligence
Program (COINTELPRO) was the use of surreptitious entries or
"black bag jobs." Bureau agents were given special training
in burglary, key reproduction, etc. for use in entering
homes and offices. In some cases, the key could be obtained
from "loyal American" landlords or building owners.
Typical indicators are:
Files, including membership and financial reports are
rifled, copied or stolen.
Items of obvious financial value are left untouched.
Equipment vital to the organization may be broken or stolen,
such as typewriters, printing machinery, and computers.
Signs of a political motive are left, such as putting a
membership list or a poster from an important event in an
obvious place. Although warrant less domestic security
searches are in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and any
evidence obtained this way cannot be used in criminal
proceedings, the Reagan Administration and most recent
Presidents (excepting Carter) have asserted the inherent
authority to conduct searches against those viewed as agents
of a foreign power
Information about an organization or individual can also be
obtained by placing an informer or infiltrator. This person
may be a police officer, employee of a federal agency,
someone who has been charged or convicted of criminal
activity and has agreed to "help" instead of serve time, or
anyone from the public.
Once someone joins an organization for the purposes of
gathering information, the line between data gathering and
participation blurs. Two types of infiltrators result --
someone who is under "deep cover" and adapts to the
lifestyle of the people they are infiltrating. These people
may maintain their cover for many years, and an organization
may never know whom these people are. Agents "provocateur"
are more visible, because they will deliberately attempt to
disrupt or lead the group into illegal activities. They
often become involved just as an event or crisis is
occurring, and leave town or drop out after the organizing
An agent may:
Volunteer for tasks which provide access to important
meetings and papers such as financial records, membership
lists, minutes and confidential files.
Not follow through or complete tasks, or else does them
poorly despite an obvious ability to do good work.
Cause problems for a group such as committing it to
activities or expenses without following proper channels;
urge a group to plan activities that divide group unity.
Seem to create or be in the middle of personal or political
difference that slow the work of the group.
Seek the public spotlight, in the name of your group, and
then make comments or present an image different from the
rest of the group.
Urge the use of violence or breaking the law, and provide
information and resources to enable such ventures.
Have no obvious source of income over a period of time, or
have more money available than his or her job should pay.
Charge other people with being agents, (a process called
snitch jackets), thereby diverting attention from him or
herself, and draining the group's energy from other work.
THESE ARE NOT THE ONLY SIGNS, NOR IS A PERSON WHO FITS
SEVERAL OF THESE CATEGORIES NECESSARILY AN AGENT. BE
EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS AND DO NOT CALL ANOTHER PERSON WITHOUT
HAVING SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE.
Courts have consistently found that an individual who
provides information, even if it is incriminating, to an
informer has not had his or her Constitutional rights
violated. This includes the use of tape recorders or
electronic transmitters as well.
Lawsuits in Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere, alleging
infiltration of lawful political groups have resulted in
court orders limiting the use of police informers and
infiltrators. However, this does not affect activities of
If you find evidence of surveillance: Hold a meeting to
discuss spying and harassment
Determine if any of your members have experienced any
harassment or noticed any surveillance activities that
appear to be directed at the organization's activities.
Carefully record all the details of these and see if any
Review past suspicious activities or difficulties in your
group. Has one or several people been involved in many of
these events? List other possible "evidence" of
Develop internal policy on how the group should respond to
any possible surveillance or suspicious actions. Decide who
should be the contact person(s), what information should be
recorded, what process to follow during any event or
demonstration if disruption tactics are used.
Consider holding a public meeting to discuss spying in your
community and around the country. Schedule a speaker or film
discussing political surveillance.
Make sure to protect important documents or computer disks,
by keeping a second copy in a separate, secret location. Use
fireproof, locked cabinets if possible.
Implement a sign-in policy for your office and/or meetings.
This is helpful for your organizing, developing a mailing
list, and can provide evidence that an infiltrator or
informer was at your meeting. Appoint a contact for spying
This contact person or committee should implement the policy
developed above and should be given to authority to act, to
get others to respond should any problems occur.
The contact should: Seek someone familiar with surveillance
history and law, such as the local chapter of the National
Lawyers Guild, the American Civil Liberties Union, the
National Conference of Black Lawyers or the American Friends
Service Committee. Brief them about your evidence and
suspicions. They will be able to make suggestions about
actions to take, as well as organizing and legal contacts.
Maintain a file of all suspected or confirmed experiences of
surveillance and disruption. Include: date, place, time, who
was present, a complete description of everything that
happened, and any comments explaining the context of the
event or showing what impact the event had on the individual
or organization. If this is put in deposition form and
signed, it can be used as evidence in court.
Under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy act,
request any files on the organization from federal agencies
such as the FBI, CIA, Immigration and Naturalization, Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, etc. File similar requests
with local and state law enforcement agencies, if your state
freedom of information act applies.
Prepare for major demonstrations and events
Plan ahead; brief your legal workers on appropriate state
and federal statutes on police and federal official spying.
Discuss whether photographing with still or video cameras is
anticipated and decide if you want to challenge it.
If you anticipate surveillance, brief reporters who are
expected to cover the event, and provide them with materials
about past surveillance by your city's police in the past,
and/or against other activists throughout the country.
Tell the participants when surveillance is anticipated and
discuss what the group's response will be. Also, decide how
to handle provocateurs, police violence, etc. and
incorporate this into any affinity group, Marshall or other
training. During the event: Carefully monitor the crowd,
looking for surveillance or possible disruption tactics.
Photograph any suspicious or questionable activities.
Approach police officer(s) seen engaging in questionable
activities. Consider having a legal worker and/or press
person monitor their actions. If you suspect someone is an
Try to obtain information about his or her background: where
s/he attended high school and college; place of employment,
and other pieces of history. Attempt to verify this
Check public records which include employment; this can
include voter registration, mortgages or other debt filings,
Check listings of police academy graduates, if available.
Once you obtain evidence that someone is an infiltrator:
Confront him or her in a protected setting, such as a small
meeting with several other key members of your group (and an
attorney if available). Present the evidence and ask for the
You should plan how to inform your members about the
infiltration, gathering information about what the person
did while a part of the group and determining any additional
impact s/he may have had.
You should consider contacting the press with evidence of
the infiltration. If you can only gather circumstantial
evidence, but are concerned that the person is disrupting
the group: Hold a strategy session with key leadership as to
how to handle the troublesome person.
Confront the troublemaker, and lay out why the person is
disrupting the organization. Set guidelines for further
involvement and carefully monitor the person's activities.
If the problems continue, consider asking the person to
leave the organization.
If sufficient evidence is then gathered which indicates s/he
is an infiltrator, confront the person with the information
in front of witnesses and carefully watch reactions.
Request an investigation or make a formal complaint
Report telephone difficulties to your local and long
distance carriers. Ask for a check on the lines to assure
that the equipment is working properly. Ask them to do a
sweep/check to see if any wiretap equipment is attached
(Sometimes repair staff can be very helpful in this way.) If
you can afford it, request a sweep of your phone and office
or home form a private security firm. Remember this will
only be good at the time that the sweep is done.
File a formal complaint with the U.S. Postal Service,
specifying the problems you have been experiencing, specific
dates, and other details. If mail has failed to arrive, ask
the Post Office to trace the envelope or package.
Request a formal inquiry by the police, if you have been the
subject of surveillance or infiltration. Describe any
offending actions by police officers and ask a variety of
questions. If an activity was photographed, ask what will be
done with the pictures. Set a time when you expect a reply
from the police chief. Inform members of the City Council
and the press of your request.
If you are not pleased with the results of the police
chief's reply, file a complaint with the Police Board or
other administrative body. Demand a full investigation. Work
with investigators to insure that all witnesses are
contacted. Monitor the investigation and respond publicly to
the conclusions. Initiate a lawsuit if applicable federal or
local statues have been violated.
Before embarking on a lawsuit, remember that most suits take
many years to complete and require tremendous amounts of
organizers' and legal workers' energy and money.
Always notify the press when you have a good story
Keep interested reporters updated on any new developments.
They may be aware of other police abuses, or be able to
obtain further evidence of police practices.
Press coverage of spying activities is very important,
because publicity conscious politicians and police chiefs
will be held accountable for questionable practices.
Action Did Not End in the 1970s
Director Webster's highly touted
reforms did not create a "new FBI." They served mainly to
modernize the existing Bureau and to make it even more
dangerous. In place of the backbiting competition with other
law enforcement and intelligence agencies which had
previously impeded coordination of domestic
counter-insurgency, Webster promoted inter-agency
cooperation. Adopting the mantle of an "equal opportunity
employer," his FBI hired women and people of color to more
effectively penetrate a broader range of political targets.
By cultivating a low visibility image and discreetly
avoiding public attack on prominent liberals, Webster
gradually restored the Bureau's respectability and won over
a number of its former critics.
State and local police similarly upgraded their repressive
capabilities in the 1970s while learning to present a more
friendly public face. The "red squads" that had harassed
1960s activists were quietly resurrected under other names.
Paramilitary SWAT teams and tactical squads were formed,
along with highly politicized "community relations" and
"beat rep" programs featuring conspicuous Black, Latin, and
female officers. Generous federal funding and sophisticated
technology became available through the Law Enforcement
Assistance Administration, while FBI led "joint anti
terrorist task forces" introduced a new level of
Meanwhile, the CIA continued to use university professors,
journalists, labor leaders, publishing houses, cultural
organizations, and philanthropic fronts to mold U.S. public
opinion. At the same time, Army Special Forces and other
elite military units began to train local police for
counterinsurgency and to intensify their own preparations,
following the guidelines of the secret Pentagon contingency
plans, "Garden Plot" and "Cable Splicer." They drew
increasingly on manuals based on the British colonial
experience in Kenya and Northern Ireland, which teach the
essential methodology of COINTELPRO under the rubric of "low
intensity warfare," and stress early intervention to
neutralize potential opposition before it can take hold.
While domestic covert operations were scaled down once the
1960s upsurge had subsided (thanks in part to the success of
COINTELPRO), they did not stop. In its April 27, 1971
directives disbanding COINTELPRO, the FBI provided for
future covert action to continue "with tight procedures to
ensure absolute security." The results are apparent in the
record of 1970s covert operations which have so far come to
Native American Movement:
1970s FBI attacks on resurgent Native American resistance
have been well documented by Ward Churchill and others. In
1973, the Bureau led a paramilitary invasion of the Pine
Ridge Reservation in South Dakota as American Indian
Movement (AIM) activists gathered there for symbolic
protests at Wounded Knee, the site of an earlier U.S.
massacre of Native Americans. The FBI directed the entire 71
day siege, deploying federal marshals, U.S. Army personnel,
Bureau of Indian Affairs police, local GOONs (Guardians of
the Oglala Nation, an armed tribal vigilante force), and a
vast array of heavy weaponry.
In the following years, the FBI and its allies waged all out
war on AIM and the Native people. From 1973-76, they killed
69 residents of the tiny Pine Ridge reservation, a rate of
political murder comparable to the first years of the
Pinochet regime in Chile. To justify such a reign of terror
and undercut public protest against it, the Bureau launched
a complementary program of psychological warfare.
Central to this effort was a carefully orchestrated campaign
to reinforce the already deeply ingrained myth of the
"Indian savage." In one operation, the FBI fabricated
reports that AIM "Dog Soldiers" planned widespread "sniping
at tourists" and "burning of farmers" in South Dakota. The
son of liberal U.S. Senator (and Arab American activist)
James Abourezk, was named as a" gun runner," and the Bureau
issued a nationwide alert picked up by media across the
To the same end, FBI undercover operatives framed AIM
members Paul "Skyhorse" Durant and Richard "Mohawk" Billings
for the brutal murder of a Los Angeles taxi driver. A bogus
AIM note taking credit for the killing was found pinned to a
signpost near the murder site, along with a bundle of hair
said to be the victim's "scalp." Newspaper headlines
screamed of "ritual murder" by "radical Indians." By the
time the defendants were finally cleared of the spurious
charges, many of AIM's main financial backers had been
scared away and its work among a major urban concentration
of Native people was in ruin.
In March 1975, a central perpetrator of this hoax, AIM's
national security chief Doug Durham, was unmasked as an
undercover operative for the FBI. As AIM's liaison with the
Wounded Knee Legal Defense/Offense Committee during the
trials of Dennis Banks and other Native American leaders,
Durham had routinely participated in confidential strategy
sessions. He confessed to stealing organizational funds
during his two years with AIM, and to setting up the arrest
of AIM militants for actions he had organized. It was Durham
who authored the AIM documents that the FBI consistently
cited to demonstrate the group's supposed violent
Prompted by Durham's revelations, the Senate Intelligence
Committee announced on June 23,1975 that it would hold
public hearings on FBI operations against AIM. Three days
later, armed FBI agents assaulted an AIM house on the Pine
Ridge reservation. When the smoke cleared, AIM activist Joe
Stuntz Killsright and two FBI agents lay dead. The media,
barred from the scene "to preserve the evidence," broadcast
the Bureau's false accounts of a bloody "Indian ambush, "and
the congressional hearings were quietly canceled.
The FBI was then free to crush AIM and clear out the last
pockets of resistance at Pine Ridge. It launched what the
Chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission described as "a
full scale military type invasion of the reservation"
complete with M-16s, Huey helicopters, tracking dogs, and
armored personnel carriers. Eventually AIM leader Leonard
Peltier was tried for the agents' deaths before a right wing
judge who met secretly with the FBI. AIM member Anna Mae
Aquash was found murdered after FBI agents threatened to
kill her unless she helped them to frame Peltier. Peltier's
conviction, based on perjured testimony and falsified FBI
ballistics evidence, was upheld on appeal. (The panel of
federal judges included William Webster until the very day
of his official appointment as Director of the FBI.) Despite
mounting evidence of impropriety in Peltier's trial, and
Amnesty International's call for a review of his case, the
Native American leader remains in maximum security prison.
Government covert action against Black activists also
continued in the 1970s. Targets ranged from community based
groups to the Provisional Government of the Republic of New
Afrika and the surviving remnants of the Black Panther
Party. In Mississippi, federal and state agents attempted to
discredit and disrupt the United League of Marshall County,
a broad based grassroots civil rights group struggling to
stop klan violence. In California, a notorious paid
operative for the FBI, Darthard Perry, code named "Othello,
"infiltrated and disrupted local Black groups and took
personal credit for the fire that razed the Watts Writers
Workshop's multi-million dollar cultural center in Los
Angeles in 1973. The Los Angeles Police Department later
admitted infiltrating at least seven 1970s community groups,
including the Black led Coalition Against Police Abuse. In
the mid-1970s, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms (ATF) conspired with the Wilmington, North Carolina
police to frame nine local civil rights workers and the Rev.
Ben Chavis, field organizer for the Commission for Racial
Justice of the United Church of Christ. Chavis had been sent
to North Carolina to help Black communities respond to
escalating racist violence against school desegregation.
Instead of arresting Klansmen, the ATF and police coerced
three young Black prisoners into falsely accusing Chavis and
the others of burning white owned property. Although all
three prisoners later admitted they had lied in response to
official threats and bribes, the FBI found no impropriety.
The courts repeatedly refused to reopen the case and the
Wilmington Ten served many years in prison before pressure
from international religious and human rights groups won
their release. As the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) began to
build autonomous Black economic and political institutions
in the deep South, the Bureau repeatedly disrupted its
meetings and blocked its attempts to buy land. On August 18,
1971, four months after the supposed end of COINTELPRO, the
FBI and police launched an armed pre dawn assault on
national RNA offices in Jackson, Mississippi. Carrying a
warrant for a fugitive who had been brought to RNA
Headquarters by FBI informer Thomas Spells, the attackers
concentrated their fire where the informer's floor plan
indicated that RNA President Imari Obadele slept. Though
Obadele was away at the time of the raid, the Bureau had him
arrested and imprisoned on charges of conspiracy to assault
a government agent.
The COINTELPRO triggered collapse of
the Black Panthers' organization and support in the winter
of 1971 left them defenseless as the government moved to
prevent them from regrouping. On August 21, 1971, national
Party officer George Jackson, world renowned author of the
political autobiography [Soledad Brother,] was murdered by
San Quentin prison authorities on the pretext of an
attempted jailbreak. In July 1972, Southern California
Panther leader Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt was successfully
framed for a senseless $70 robbery murder committed while he
was hundreds of miles away in Oakland, California, attending
Black Panther meetings for which the FBI managed to "lose"
all of its surveillance records. Documents obtained through
the Freedom of Information Act later revealed that at least
two FBI agents had infiltrated Pratt's defense committee.
They also indicated that the state's main witness, Julio
Butler, was a paid informer who had worked in the Party
under the direction of the FBI and the Los Angeles Police
Department. For many years, FBI Director Webster publicly
denied that Pratt had ever been a COINTELPRO target, despite
the documentary proof in his own agency's records. Also
targeted well into the 1970s were former Panthers assigned
to form an underground to defend against armed government
attack on the Party. It was they who had regrouped as the
Black Liberation Army (BLA) when the Party was destroyed.
FBI files show that, within a month of the close of
COINTELPRO, further Bureau operations against the BLA were
mapped out in secret meetings convened by presidential aide
John Ehrlichman and attended by President Nixon and Attorney
General Mitchell. In the following years, many former
Panther leaders were murdered by the police in supposed
"shoot outs" with the BLA. Others, such as
Dhoruba Al-Mujahid Bin Wahad (formerly Richard Moore), and
the New York3 (Herman Bell, Anthony "Jalil" Bottom, and
Albert "Nuh" Washington) were sentenced to long prison terms
after rigged trials.
Even in instances involving actual
armed struggle on the part of liberation movements leaving
aside the probability that earlier applications of
COINTELPRO tactics had done much to convince adherents that
no other route to effect positive social change lay open to
them - the Bureau had been duplicitous in its approach. One
need only examine the case of
(s/n: Joanne Chesimard) to get the picture. Publicly and
sensationally accused by the FBI of being the revolutionary
mother hen"of a BLA cell conducting a "series of
cold-blooded murders of NewYork City police officers,"
was made the subject of a nationwide manhunt in 1972. 16 On
May 2, 1973, she, BLA founder Zayd Malik Shakur (her
(s/n: Clark Squire) were subjected to one of the random
harassment stops of blacks on the New Jersey Turnpike for
which the Jersey state troopers are so deservedly
notorious. Apparently realizing who it was they'd pulled
over, the two troopers -Werner Foerster and James Harper -
opened fire, wounding
immediately. In the fight which followed, both Zayd Shakur
and trooper Foerster were killed, trooper Harper and
wounded. Both surviving BLA members were captured.
was, however, charged with none of the killings which had
ostensibly earned her such celebrated status as a
"terrorist." Instead, the government contended she had
participated in bank robberies, and the state of New York
accused her of involvement in the killing of a heroin dealer
in Brooklyn and the failed ambush of two cops in Queens on
January 23, 1973. She was acquitted of every single charge
in a series of trials lasting into 1977. Meanwhile, she was
held without bond, in isolation and in especially miserable
local jail facilities. Finally, having exhausted all other
possibilities of obtaining a conviction, the authorities
took her to trial in New Jersey in the death of trooper
Foerster. Despite the fact that Sundiata Acoli had
long-since been convicted of having fired the fatal bullets
- and medical testimony indicating her wounds had
incapacitated her prior to the firefight itself
was convicted of first degree murder by an all-white jury on
March 25, 1977. She was sentenced to life imprisonment. The
travesty imbedded in all this was unmistakable, and
circumstances remained the topic of much discussion and
debate. This became all the more true on the night of
November 2, 1979, when a combat unit of the BLA set the
prisoner free from the maximum security building of the
Clinton Women's Prison in New Jersey. It is instructive
that this organization of what the police and the FBI were
busily portraying as "mad dog killers" appear to have gone
considerably out of their way to insure that no one,
including the guards, was hurt during the prison break. For
- now hyped by the Bureau as "the nation's number one
terrorist fugitive" despite the state's failure to link her
to any concrete , act of terrorism, was quietly provided
sanctuary in Cuba where she remains today. In the case of
the New York 3, FBI ballistics reports withheld during their
mid-1970s trials show that bullets from an alleged murder
weapon did not match those found at the site of the killings
for which they are still serving life terms. The star
witness against them has publicly recanted his testimony,
swearing that he lied after being tortured by police (who
repeatedly jammed an electric cattle prod into his
testicles) and secretly threatened by the prosecutor and
judge. The same judge later dismissed petitions to reopen
the case, refusing to hold any hearing or to disqualify
himself, even though his misconduct is a major issue. As the
NY3 continued to press for a new trial, their evidence was
ignored by the news media while their former prosecutor's
one sided, racist" docudrama" on the case, (Badge of the
Assassin,) aired on national television.
Common Sense Security
As the movements for social change become more
sophisticated, the techniques of the state, corporations and
the right wing have also become more sophisticated.
Historically this has always been the case; caution in the
face of the concerted effort to stop us, however, is both
prudent and necessary.
Here are some useful suggestions:
If you wish to have a private conversation, leave your home
and your office and go outside and take a walk or go
somewhere public and notice who is near you. Never say
anything you don't want to hear repeated when there is any
possibility of being recorded.
Never leave one copy of a document or list behind; take a
minute to duplicate an irreplaceable document and keep the
duplicate in a safe place. Back up and store important
computer disks off site. Sensitive data and membership list
should be kept under lock and key.
Keep your mailing lists, donor lists and personal phone
books away from light fingered people. Always maintain a
Know your printer if you are about to publish.
Know your mailing house.
Know anyone you are trusting to work on any part of a
project that is sensitive.
Don't hire a stranger as a messenger.
Sweeps for electronic surveillance are only effective for
the time they are being done, and are only effective as they
are being done if you are sure of the person(s) doing the
Don't use code on the phone. If you are being tapped and the
transcript is used against you in court, the coded
conversation can be alleged to be anything. Don't say
anything on the phone you don't want to hear in open court.
Don't gossip on the phone. Smut is valuable to anyone
listening; it makes everyone vulnerable.
If you are being followed, get the tag number and
description of the car and people in the car. Photograph the
person(s) following you or have a friend do so.
If you are followed or feel vulnerable, call a friend; don't
"tough it out" alone. They are trying to frighten you. It is
frightening to have someone threatening your freedom.
Debrief yourself after each incident. Write details down:
time, date, occasion, incident, characteristics of the
person(s), impressions, anything odd about the situation.
Keep a "weirdo" file and keep notes from unsettling
situations and see if a pattern emerges.
Write for your file under the FOIA and pursue the agencies
until they give you all the documents filed under your name.
Brief your membership on known or suspected surveillance.
Report thefts of materials from your office or home to the
police as a criminal act.
Assess your undertaking from a security point of view;
understand your vulnerabilities; assess your allies and your
adversaries as objectively as possible; do not underestimate
the opposition. Do not take chances.
Recognize your organizational and personal strengths and
Discuss incidents with cohorts, family and membership. Call
the press if you have hard information about surveillance or
harassment. Discussion makes the dirty work of the
intelligence agencies and private spies overt.
Don't talk to the FBI ( or any government investigator)
without your attorney present. Information gleaned during
the visit can be used against you and your co-workers. Get
the names and addresses of the agents and tell them you will
have your attorney get in touch with them. They rarely set
up an interview under t hose circumstances.
Don't invite them into your home. Speak with the agents
outside. Once inside they glean information about your
perspective and life style.
Don't let them threaten you into talking. If the FBI intents
to impanel a grand jury, a private talk with you will not
change the strategy of the FBI.
Lying to the FBI is a criminal act. Any information you give
the FBI can and will be used against you.
Don't let them intimidate you. So what if they know where
you live or work and what you do? This is still a democracy
and we still have Constitutional rights. They intend to
frighten you; don't let them. They can only "neutralize" you
if you let them.
Remember. The United States prides itself in being a
democracy; we have Constitutional rights. Dissatisfaction
with the status quo and attempting to mobilize for change is
protected; surveillance and harassment are violations. Speak
Coming to grips with the FBI is of major
importance. The Bureau has long since made itself an absolutely
central ingredient in the process of repression in America, not
only extending its own operations in this regard, but providing
doctrine, training and equipment to state and local police,
organizing the special "joint task forces" which have sprouted
in every major city since 1970, creating the computer nets which
tie the police together nationally, and providing the main
themes of propaganda by which the rapid build-up in police power
has been accomplished in the U.S. Similarly, the FBI provides
both doctrinal and practical training to prison personnel -
especially in connection with those who supervise POWs and
political prisoners - which is crucial in the shaping of the
policies pursued within the penal system as a whole. Hence, so
long as the FBI is able to retain the outlook which defined
COINTELPRO, and to translate that outlook into "real world"
endeavors, it is reasonable to assume that both the police and
prison "communities" will follow right along. Conversely, should
the FBI ever be truly leashed, with the COINTELPRO mentality at
last rooted out once and for all, it may be anticipated that
the emergent U.S. police state apparatus will undergo
substantial unraveling Hence, we would would like to close with
what seems to us the only appropriate observation, paraphrasing
Huey P. Newton:
confronted with the necessity of a battle which must be
continued until it has been won. That choice has already been
made for us, and we have no option to simply wish it away. To
lose is to bring about the unthinkable, and there is no place to
run and hide. Under the circumstances, the FBI and its allies
must be combated by all means available, and by any means