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From: Dan Clore
Subject: The FBI's Dirty Secrets
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2002 15:56:01 -0700
Organization: The Soylent Green Party
News for Anarchists & Activists:
Spying and lying: the FBI’s dirty secrets
By Mark Weisbrot
It seems that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is
likely to be rewarded for the missed warnings, fumbled
intelligence, and bureaucratic foul-ups that preceded Sept.
11. Attorney General John Ashcroft has announced that the
FBI is changing its rules so that it can spy on domestic
organizations, even where there is no evidence of specific
criminal activity. It is doubtful that the Administration
could get away with these changes if the real functioning of
the FBI as a political police force were better known. The
press has referred to the agency’s counterintelligence
program (COINTELPRO) operation of the 1960s and 70s as
though it were ancient history, a minor aberration of the
FBI’s quirky and fanatical director J. Edgar Hoover.
In fact COINTELPRO was a massive operation to infiltrate,
disrupt, harass, and otherwise interfere with the lawful
activities of civil rights advocates, peace activists,
religious organizations, and others. One of the FBI’s most
famous and hated targets was the late Reverend Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr. In a covert operation that now reads like a
B-grade movie script, the FBI actually made a serious effort
to blackmail Dr. King into committing suicide.
Less well known is that FBI operations against law-abiding
citizens did not end when these abuses were exposed in the
1970s. We know that they continued well into the 1980s, when
the Reagan and then Bush (the elder) administrations faced
mounting domestic opposition to their wars in Central
America. Death squads in El Salvador were murdering
religious workers and clergy, the Guatemalan military was
carrying out what is now acknowledged as genocide against
its indigenous population, and an army of terrorists was
trying to overthrow the government of Nicaragua.
The US government was supporting and sponsoring all of these
crimes with billions of dollars, and that did not sit well
with many Americans. I was one of them, and joined a student
group called the Latin American Solidarity Committee at the
University of Michigan. Unbeknownst to us, the watchful eyes
of the FBI were closely monitoring our actions.
So closely, in fact, that one of our members wrote a history
of the group’s activities with the help of documents
obtained from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act.
We enjoyed seeing all of our names in print, and pored over
the documents with a mixture of awe and laughter, amazed
that the federal government could have taken our little
student group so seriously as to keep track of everything we
did and who attended our meetings.
As it turned out, this was part of a nationwide spying
operation involving all 59 FBI field offices. The whole
thing might be secret to this day, if not for the fact that
one of the Bureau’s informants had a change of heart. He had
infiltrated a community of religious activists in Texas, and
later said that he had second thoughts when his supervisor
suggested that he sleep with a nun in order to discredit
The Dallas Morning News broke the story, and the FBI was
forced to conduct an internal investigation. FBI director
William S. Sessions (1987-93) told Congress that the
investigation had left "no stone unturned" and that his
G-men had stopped their "counter-terrorism" — yes, they
actually called it that — operations by June of 1985.
Sessions was lying: documents released to our local group
showed that their spying in Ann Arbor continued well beyond
that date. But the press accepted that the FBI had changed
its ways, and today the whole story of their illicit
activities in the 1980s has disappeared into the memory
That is a shame, because there is no evidence that the FBI
ever reformed itself, and now we have two new reasons to
worry about it. One is the blank check that Ashcroft has
handed to the FBI, which threatens our civil liberties. The
second is that after decades of crying "wolf" to justify its
functioning as an American KGB, the FBI is now charged with
protecting us from real terrorist threats.
There has never been an accounting of how much of the FBI’s
resources have been devoted to policing the constitutionally
protected activities of our citizens. Congress should demand
this accounting as it examines the massive intelligence
failure that preceded Sept. 11.
Historians like to say that we ignore the past at our own
peril; in the case of the FBI, it may be literally true.
Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and
Policy Research, in Washington, DC.
Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
Including all my fiction through 2001, and more.
News for Anarchists & Activists:
I've watched the dogs of war enjoying their feast
I've seen the western world go down in the east
The food of love became the greed of our time
But now we're living on the profits of crime
--Black Sabbath, "Hole in the Sky"
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