The Exceptionally Naughty Business of COINTELPRO

by Timothy Chilman


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

- The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

The villain of the piece

COINTELPRO stands for counter-intelligence program, and is the collective name for 2,370 covert action programs directed at US domestic groups by the FBI from 1956-1971.

Here, the FBI acted beyond the realm of intelligence collection and resorted to action to “neutralize” or at least “disrupt” targeted groups or individuals. The FBI intended to prevent the exercise of First Amendment rights of free speech, free press, association, and protest, positing that preventing the expansion of undesirable groups propagating dangerous ideas would protect national security by deterring violence. In Brandenberg v Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), the Supreme Court declared actions of this nature to be illegal.

COINTELPRO was investigated by the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities – the Church Committee. More than 20,000 pages of FBI documents were reviewed, depositions were taken from many of the FBI agents involved, and targets were interviewed. The 35,339 words of the Church Committee’s final report are alarming, and are summarized here at slightly more than one sixth of the original length.

COINTELPRO sought to attend to people for whom traditional law enforcement methods were ineffective due to inadequate statutes, ineffective local police, or restrictive court rulings. Every FBI witness deposed by the Church Committee believed his particular COINTELPRO was the product of considerable pressure on their organization to deal with some perceived threat. The head of COINTELPRO said that in the 1950s there was a widespread feeling that “you did not have to worry about Communism because the FBI would take care of it. Leave it to the FBI.”

The CPUSA logo

The program was aimed at five “perceived threats to domestic tranquility”: the Communist Party, USA (1956-71) ; the Socialist Workers Party (1961-69); White Hate (1964-71); Black Nationalists (1967-71) ; and the New Left (1968-71).

The FBI used methods which had worked in wartime against foreign agents and which the Soviets had employed in return. Former Assistant to the Director William C. Sullivan said it was “a rough, tough, dirty business” where “no holds were barred.” Examples of every activity mentioned by the Church Committee are given here, however where possible additional instances of one method have been omitted for the sake of brevity, not to mention excitement.

More than half of all proposals to receive approval related to the CPUSA. The Bureau possessed evidence that the CPUSA had been “blatantly” involved in Soviet espionage and that the Soviet Union continued to use the party for political or intelligence purposes. While activities under the name COINTELPRO began only in 1956, similar activities had been underway for some years, with efforts differing by office. COINTELPRO endeavors against the CPUSA included not just party members but also sponsors, for instance the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee, and civil rights leaders who were insufficiently anti-Communist.

The logo of the NAACP

It was in March 1960 that CPUSA COINTELPRO field offices were issued a directive ordering an increase in efforts to staunch Communist infiltration of mass movements varying from the NAACP to a local scout troop.. This memorandum signifies a move toward the targeting of not only CP members but people supposedly bending to CP will – like Martin Luther King Jr, whom the agency acknowledged advocated non-violence. It was enough to adopt a position also supported by communists, for instance increased minority hiring, opposition to the House Unamerican Activities Committee, and school integration. In one case, a reporter was passed details of communist involvement in a Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, to lower the standing of SANE and the participants.

The Socialist Worker Party COINTELPRO had low priority, seeing only 45 operations approved. It ended in 1969, upon which it was combined with the New Left COINTELPRO. The FBI acknowledged that the SWP had never engaged in violence or taken other criminal steps, but it did support Cuba. Targeting of the Socialist Workers Party included people unconnected with the SWP who had sponsored anti-war demonstrations along with the SWP.

The White Hate COINTELPRO kicked off on July 30 1964. Seventeen Klan bodies and nine “hate” organizations (e.g., National States Rights Party, the American Nazi Party) were listed as targets of the White Hate COINTELPRO. The FBI sought to deter or counteract propaganda and deter violence and recruitment. No “legitimate” right wing organizations where encompassed by the program, in contrast to the treatment of the CPUSA and SWP.. Operations against White Hate targets were very precise thanks to extensive informer penetration.

Previously, investigation of “negro matters” had been limited to specific instances of communist penetration, but pressures on the Bureau during what the Church Committee called the “long, hot summer of 1967” led it to behave more proactively that same year. Starting almost from square one in this way was a departure, as every other COINTELPRO was an intensification of existing operations which had lasted for years.

Elijah Muhammed, considered by the Bureau to be a potential Black Nationalist messiah figure

The Black Nationalist COINTELPRO had several objectives. It aimed to prevent a “coalition of militant black nationalist groups,” which was thought to be the first step toward establishing something like the Mau Mau in America. The Mau Mau fought the British in Kenya, then known as British East Africa. COINTELPRO aimed to prevent the rise of a messiah figure able to “unify and electrify” the population, with Elijah Muhammed, Stokely Carmichael, and Martin Luther King Jr. considered candidates. Violence was to be prevented by identifying “potential troublemakers” and neutralizing them before they committed violent acts. COINTELPRO intended to prevent leaders or groups from becoming respected within the black or white communities. The latter was divided into “the responsible community” and “liberals.” Recruitment of young people by Black Nationalist groups was to be hindered.

Per its supervisor, the Black Nationalist movement included many organizations that while pretty black were not very nationalist: the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a non-violent body, was labeled a black nationalist “hate group” after allegations of communist infiltration. Others investigated were the Nation of Islam, the Congress of Racial Equality, Deacons for Defense and Justice, the Revolutionary Action Movement, and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). While the Black Panthers were included, so were most black student groups.

BPP members

The Black Panther Party (BPP) was excluded from the first two lists of Black Nationalist primary targets (August 1967, March 1968) as it had yet to attain national significance. But by November of that year it had made it and was regarded as a primary target. A letter to field offices dated November 25, 1968 ordered recipients to prepare “imaginative and hard-hitting” measures to cripple the BPP. Rapt attention was to be devoted to capitalization upon the differences between the BPP and Ron Kenga’s US, Inc., which had already assumed “the aura of gang warfare” with concomitant threads of murder and the like. By January 1969, the BPP was cultivating an improved image and was attempting to purge itself of police informants. FBI offices were advised to play upon suspicions.

The fifth and final COINTELPRO was initiated against the nebulous New Left, in response to concerns amongst the government and citizens resulting from media coverage of campus protests. The New Left was defined as “more or less an attitude,” which attitude was heavily anti-war. Students were targeted who published underground newspapers, protested university censorship of student publications, or, horror of horrors, carried signs bearing cuss words.

The Bureau wished to target people urging revolution in the US and US defeat in Vietnam, falsely alleging excessive use of force by police (hey, they deserved it), frustrating conscription, and committing other unlawful acts while they were at it.

Much was made of the New Left’s “immorality.” All that fucking, one supposes. Headquarters did not believe enough had been done in this direction, and on October 9 1968 a letter went out from HQ, criticizing field offices for failing to “remain alert for and to seek specific data depicting the nature and moral looseness of the New Left.”

Methods used against the New Left varied. Leaflets attempted to discredit student demos. Personal conflict between party leaders and whole parties was instigated. The impression was created that leaders were FBI or police informants. University-published articles were sent to authorities and anonymous letters to parents, neighbors, parents’ employers and university authorities to inform them of all that sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. People were arrested for marijuana possession. Cartoons, photographs and anonymous letters ridiculed the New Left. Disinformation was employed to disrupt New Left activities, for instance notifying members that events had been canceled. The New Left COINTELPRO included the highest proportion of proposals intended to prevent free speech.

Two students participating in a demonstration for defending the use of swear words were targeted. The FBI did not believe the demonstration was inspired by the New Left, but that the students showed “obvious disregard for decency and established morality.”

Nine percent of all approved proposals for COINTELPRO were for “selective law enforcement.” Local, state, and federal law enforcement was “guided.” While the Bureau was not ordinarily interested in health violations, it became so if the perpetrator was a target. The Bureau claimed that passing information to other authorities was not counter-intelligence but a regular part of its job, but the lie is given to that by the case of a “key figure” Communist with a history of homosexuality. The plan was to arrest him and embarrass CPUSA, but the Bureau lost interest when the target ceased to work for the Party.

Bureau-run splinter groups were formed to bleed membership from the target organization. One “notional” organization in a Southern city was a chapter of the W.E.B. DuBois Club. Its members were all Bureau informants or fictions. The aim was to cause CPUSA to incur expense in sending organizers to an area and funding out-of-town CP meetings. The chapter later deviated from the Party line in the hope of being expelled, enabling them to claim they were victims of a Stalinesque purge. It was thought that the whole operation would be over in 18 months.

Certain persons to the forefront of race relations in the United States

A second form of “notional” would have some genuine members, as when a Klan organization was established which, at its peak, diverted 250 people from the United Klans of America. The third form was entirely fictitious, but its name could be used on newsletters, such as one attacking CPUSA from a “Marxist right” viewpoin

The Bureau acted to prevent US citizens from petitioning the government for a redress of grievances. A mid-west field office discombobulated the effort of state university students to attend the 1969 inaugural demonstrations by means of anonymous telephone calls to the transport service provider. The calls attempted to flummox both the company and the student leaders concerning the cost of transport and the place and time of departure and return. The office also distributed confusing leaflets around the campus showing different places and times for demonstration planning meetings.

Another protest nullified was the plan to drop flowers over the Pentagon from an airplane at the time of the 1967 National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (NMC) rally in Washington. The New York field office answered the NMC’s ad seeking a pilot, and maintained the pretense until protestors turned up at an airport with a 200 pound floral arrangement.

The Bureau sought to abridge the right of people peaceably to assemble. Oft-used techniques were to contact the owner of a building where a meeting was to take place and persuade him to refuse to rent to the target group; persuading sponsors to cease funding; and fomenting press interest in meetings.

The most egregious of attacks on the right to assemble peacefully, however, made use of “disinformation.” In one such case, Chicago’s field office copied blank forms for the volunteering of premises to the NMC for the purpose of housing out-of-town demonstrators. The office completed 217 forms with concocted names and addresses and sent them in. Supporters conducted long and fruitless journeys to locate the addresses. The NMC abandoned its effort to house demonstrators.

The same was performed with the Washington arm of the NMC when it organized protests around the 1969 Presidential inauguration. An additional twist was that marshals employed walkie-talkies to manage movement, and the Washington field office used compatible equipment to send spurious messages, for instance countermanding true instructions.

A technique used by all COINTELPROs was the “snitch jacket” – labeling a target as a snitch, i.e. informant. Often, this caused the target to be alienated from the group. One man was targeted because he took part in draft counseling at San Diego’s Message Information Center. By chance, the man had been present on two occasions when Selective Service violators were arrested. A Bureau informant suggested at a meeting that is was odd that two men had been apprehended by federal agents shortly after the target had become aware of their locations. The target was “completely ostracized” by people at the Center.

In October 1959, hearings were held in Philadelphia by a legislative committee into a resurgence of CPUSA activity in the vicinity. A target of the Bureau was subpoenaed to appear in front of the committee , although he was not called to testify. The field office suggested local CPUSA leaders be led to question how the target escaped testifying, so the target might be suspected of co-operating with the committee. The target was actually not a CPUSA member, but an infiltrator for a private anti-communist group who had aroused the ire of the Bureau for getting in their way.

Some of the groups upon whom the snitch jacket was used had been known to murder informants. The chairman of New York’s BPP chapter was suspected as an informant after another member was arrested for weapon possession. The Bureau dispatched anonymous letters to the BPP state headquarters, the wife of the arrestee and another person describing the target as a “fink.”

The Racial Intelligence Section chief, George C. Moore, said he was not aware of anyone the Bureau labeled as an informant coming to a sticky end, and that if it had happened, it would have been reported. When asked whether this was through luck or judgment, he replied, “Oh, it just happened that way, I am sure.”
The Bureau undertook a number of attempts to prompt organizations to cease funding targets. When the SNCC tried to obtain funds from the Episcopal Church for a “liberation school,” two letters were sent to the Church falsely alleging that SNCC was conducting a “fraudulent scheme” relating to the expected funds. The scheme was to place fictitious orders from local businessmen, who would split the money with the SNCC.
4 percent of COINTEL proposals were to expose “communist infiltration” of groups. Most often, groups such as a PTA, the Boy Scouts, or a civil rights organization would be informed anonymously that one of their members was a pinko fag commie subversive. Sometimes the group itself was the target, in which case the information was sent to the media.

One example was a professor who had recently been president of a local peace center which brought together anti-Vietnam groups. He had resigned to act instead as chairman of the state’s campaign to elect Eugene McCarthy for president in 1968, intending to return to the peace center post-election. The professor’s spouse had been a CPUSA member in the early 1950s, which information was supplied to a newspaper editor who had previously written an editorial describing Students for a Democratic Society and certain Black Nationalist groups as “professional revolutionists.”
28 percent of all COINTELPRO actions approved intended to increase factionalism between and within groups. The first ever COINTELPRO capitalized on divisions within CPUSA concerning Krushchev’s excoriation of Stalin. One method was for informants to raise controversial issues at meetings.

Hostility to the point of gang warfare between groups was encouraged. The supervisor of the Black Nationalist COINTELPRO admitted that physical harm could easily result. One example was the mailing of an anonymous letter to the leader of the Chicago-based Blackstone Rangers gang, a body to whom violent activity was, the Bureau said, “second nature.” The letter said the Panthers blamed the Rangers for “blocking their thing” and that there was said to be “a hit” out on the Rangers’ leader.

The Bureau reported at least four assaults, two on women, with the San Diego field office taking credit for three. The Bureau sent a critical article from the Black Panther newspaper to the leader of the opposing Black Nationalist group, US Incorporated, to prompt retaliatory action. This came to pass when US members assaulted a Panther newspaper vendor. In another instance, US Inc. members gained entry to a BPP meeting and assaulted a female member. The Bureau gave the San Diego police a tip that “sex orgies” were occurring at the headquarters of the Black Panthers. The police gained entry after discovering two outstanding traffic warrants for one BPP member. The woman who granted officers access to BPP HQ was “severely beaten up” by other members. An informant entered a “heated conversation” between group members and sided with one party to heighten tension. Members subsequently fought, upon which the informant “departed the premises.”

The logo of the SCLC

The Bureau arranged a meeting between a Southern Christian Leadership Conference official and the leader of a small “anti-Vietnam black nationalist [veterans'] organization.” The veteran’s group leader was on leave from a psychiatric hospital and was unhappy to not be receiving funds from the SCLC. It was hoped that he would lose his temper and initiate a fight, causing the police to be called. This would neutralize the small group’s leader and lower the standing of the SCLC.

Anonymous mailings were made. These could denigrate a leader, accusing them of living ostentatiously or being lackluster public speakers. Mailings could stoke resentment between groups, as when an attempt was made to frustrate the alliance between the Black Panthers and the SDS through a letter to BPP leaders lambasting SDS for “diarheaof the mouth” A chapter could be reported to its headquarters for rule infractions, leading to criticism or even disciplinary action.

Derogatory information was disseminated to family, friends and associates of targets. Perhaps the nastiest example was when a letter was sent to Mr. B., the husband of a woman who was both a Black Nationalist and New Left target. The lady led a branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, active in draft resistance and other New Left activities, and was an officer of ACTION, a biracial organization that had broken off from the Congress of Racial Equality.

Mr. B. had been making inquiries as to his wife’s relationship with black males in ACTION. The Bureau’s letter confirmed his suspicions, which were not known to be true. The Bureau dearly hoped the ensuing “marital tempest” would render the woman ineffective in her political roles. If Mr. and Mrs. B. shouted at each other, threw things, and had less sex, the Bureau believed this would constitute a “major blow” against both the WIL and ACTION. The couple split up, to which the Bureau believed it had “contributed very strongly.”

One informant implied that the leader of one SDS faction used group funds to support his drug habit, and that another leader embezzled funds from a school. Name calling and fist-fights ensued. Another informant questioned the sexuality of a 30 year-old, unmarried group leader.

The members of a group or its supporters were interviewed to promote jealousy or engender suspicion. The latter could result in purges. People who had been contacted by the Revolutionary Union were interviewed to lead them to believe the organization had been infiltrated by informants at a high-level. The same was tried with the Tougaloo College Political Action Committee, a student group affiliated to the Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee, resulting in reduced participation in its affairs.

Once, a target of Black Nationalist persuasion attempted to organize a youth group in Mississippi. Prospective leaders of the group were interviewed and the target’s background and “true intentions” made known. The target’s landlords were contacted, and three asked the target to end his tenancy.

One attack on free speech centered on a dissident group of stockholders seeking to protest a large corporation’s military production at the company’s Annual General Meeting. The Bureau aimed to prevent disruption of the AGM and avoid embarrassment to company officials. A field office obtained the group’s plans from paid informants and passed them to a company manager.

In one case, 120 anonymous telephone calls were placed to the editorial desks of three newspapers in a city in the Midwest. The calls advised that an upcoming lecture on a university campus was sponsored by an organization that was a front for the Communist Party. Only recently had that university lifted a ban on Communist speakers on campus, and the decision was debated.

For a time, the Bureau’s machinations appeared to be working. Staff from one of the newspapers contacted the director of the university’s conference center, who in turn spoke to the president of the university, who decided to cancel the meeting. The sponsoring organization, assisted by the ACLU, went to court and secured a ruling that the university could not bar the speaker. The decision caused the HQ to order its field office to supply information on the judge. While the lecture proceeded as planned, HQ praised the field office for its work: the sponsoring organization was obliged to rack up additional expenditure to pay its attorneys, and newspaper coverage had been obtained.

Teachers received the attention of the Bureau because they were believed to be uniquely placed to “plant the seeds of communismin the minds of unsuspecting youth.” It was also believed that the position of a teacher gave added respectability to a cause. In one instance, a high school teacher was targeted for arranging for two poets to attend one of his school’s classes. The poets had come to prominence for their efforts on behalf of the draft resistance movement. Authorization was given to the local field office to send anonymous letters to two local newspapers, the city’s Board of Education, and to the high school’s administrators pointing out that the teacher was a convicted draft dodger. No results were forthcoming.

The Bureau’s intention in targeting people’s right to speak was to prevent recruitment of new members. Writers and publications were targeted for this reason. Once, two university teachers were targeted only because they hand a considerable hand in the publication and funding of a student underground newspaper. Needless to say, this newspaper was anti-establishment, left-of-center, and opposed to the university’s administration. The Bureau was of the opinion that if the two teachers withdrew their support, the newspaper would fold and “This would eliminate what voice the New Left has in the area.” And so the field office sent an anonymous letter to a university officer passing on information of the teachers’ connection to the newspaper and warning that if the university did not cause the teachers’ to cease their support, the information would be made public. A strong blow was struck against the cause of Communism when the teachers were placed on probation, making them ineligible for a pay rise.

The Bureau often abridged the freedom of the press. The paper of the Black Panther Party was repeatedly targeted due to its contents and the revenue it earned for the Party. Contact was made with the landlord of premises rented by two New Left papers with the intention of ending their tenancy. An anonymous letter was sent to a state legislator bemoaning the distribution of an underground newspaper on certain campuses as it propagated “immorality.” A letter with the signature “Disgusted Taxpayer and Patron” was sent to advertisers in one student newspaper because of the paper’s editorial stance and “vulgar language.” Proposals to physically damage printing presses were drawn up but never enacted.

The New Mexico Free University aroused Bureau interest for teaching “draft counseling training” and “confrontation politics.” A cartoonist’s labors were solicited to create a cartoon to depict anti-war activists who traveled to North Vietnam as traitors. A professor was targeted because he was faculty adviser to a college group which distributed “The Student as Nigger.” A professor performing a study on the social costs of McCarthyism was targeted for seeking help from the American Institute of Marxist Studies. Three law schools were contacted to prevent the hiring or contract renewal of a teaching candidate.

Organizations hostile to targeted groups were used to inconvenience targets, for example by disrupting meetings.

Bureau propaganda used three basic techniques. Reprints of magazine or newspaper articles were mailed to group members and their potential supporters to dissuade them from protest. A list of amenable news sources was compiled and confidential sources (unpaid informants) were cultivated. Articles were written supplying information to these bodies in order to “expose” targets such as the National Mobilization Committee, the Southern Students Organizing Committee, the Institute for Policy Studies, and the Poor People’s Campaign

An American Legion meeting place

The provenance of distributed pamphlets and fliers, needless to say, went unmentioned. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion sometimes took ownership of Bureau-authored pamphlets, e.g. condemning the SDS. One group, “a militant anti-communist right wing organization, more of an activist group than is the more well known John Birch Society,” was used at least four times. Even unfriendly groups could be used, as when Operation Hoodwink attempted to pit La Cosa Nostra and CPUSA against each other.

Reprints of a news article entitled “Rabbi in Vietnam Says Withdrawal Not the Answer” were mailed to members of the Vietnam Day Committee to satisfy them of the wisdom of US foreign policy in Vietnam.

Information concerning the Junta of Militant Organizations was provided to a source at a television station in Tampa. A half-hour film was made as a result. A Miami television station produced documentaries on the New Left, Black Nationalist groups and the Ku Klux Klan using material secretly supplied by the Bureau. The documentary that highlighted the Nation of Islam left the Bureau “elated,” after the stations switchboard was overwhelmed by favorable calls. NOI leaders were forced to rebut the documentary at every meeting, where attendance dropped by 50 percent.

The Church committee acknowledged that anonymous propaganda violated no civil rights, but questioned whether the Bureau ought to devote time to it. Attorney General Levi labeled much of COINTELPRO as “foolishness,” and the Church committee felt propaganda richly merited this description.

Despite never having come close to election victory, candidates of the Socialist Workers Party were routinely selected for counter-intelligence. One SWP candidate for a state position inadvertently protected herself by stating at a news conference that she did not object to premarital sex, leading to the withdrawal of a field office’s proposal to publicize her common law marriage.

Another candidate targeted was a lawyer in the mid-west whose company stood for “subversives” – defendants in the Smith Act (Alien Registration Act) trials. The lawyer ran for City Council. He had been active in the South’s civil rights movement. The John Birch Society in his city had not long before mailed a book by the name of “It’s Very Simple – The True Story of Civil Rights” to a selection of clergymen. The Bureau sent an anonymous follow-up letter to recipients noting the pages where the candidate had been mentioned, highlighting his “Communist background” and describing him as a “charlatan.” Another letter went to a television station where the candidate would appear, detailing questions that should be asked. Although the candidate was defeated, he later successfully ran for a judgeship.

The Bureau made stringent efforts to exercise control over COINTELPRO. Every proposal had to be approved by the Seat of Government, the Bureau term for its HQ. A recommendation would be made by the relevant Section Chief, the next stage being approval by the Assistant Director, Domestic Intelligence Division or, more often, the Assistant to the Director or the Director hisself. While targets were not directly selected by HQ, directives were occasionally issued to target particular groups or individuals. When a favorable result was reported, the field office or even the leading agent himself received a letter of praise or incentive award.

The Assistant Director who then headed the Inspection Division stated that his job was to determine the efficacy rather than the propriety of proposals. The Bureau assembled for the Church Committee every document in its files which showed a member of the legislative or executive branches being informed.

On May 8 1958, two letters were sent by Director Hoover. One went to Robert Cutler, Eisenhower’s Special Assistant, and the other to Attorney General William Rogers. The letters stated that a program to disrupt CPUSA had been instigated. There is no record of a reply.

On January 10 1961, more letters emanated from the Director, this time to Byron White, Robert Kennedy, and Dean Rusk, the incoming Deputy Attorney General, Attorney General, and Secretary of State. Again, a “counterattack” against CPUSA was detailed.

On September 2 1965, Hoover this time wrote to Attorney General Katzenbach and Marvin Watson, President Johnson’s Special Assistant. The letters spoke of Bureau success in dealing with racial violence in the South. The Bureau’s declaration that it was “seizing every opportunity to disrupt the activities of Klan organizations” was taken as notification of the White Hate COINTELPRO. Katzenbach’s two-paragraph reply praised the Bureau. Mr. Katzenbach told the Church Committee that he had no knowledge of Hoover’s letter or his reply. He said it never occurred to him that the Bureau would conduct such operations.

On December 19 1967, a letter went from Hoover to Attorney General Ramsay Clark revealing accomplishments against the Ku Klux Klan. Its talk of removing senior Klan officers and “provoking scandal” should have indicated operations beyond the realm of standard investigative activity. There exists no record of a reply to this letter, and Clark could not remember receiving it.

A final letter was sent to Attorney General Mitchell on September 17 1969, with copies going to the Deputy Attorney General as well as the Assistant Attorneys General of three divisions. It described “significant progress” against the KKK.

The head of COINTELPRO declared that he was sure Hoover verbally briefed every President and Attorney General, because he composed “squibs” – talking points – for the Director’s use on these occasions. He could not, however, remember the dates of these briefings and the Bureau was unable to produce any “squibs,” which would not normally have been retained.
Cartha DeLoach, formerly Assistant to the Director, testified to “distinctly” recalling briefing Attorney General Clark “generally” about COINTELPRO. Clark retorted that this never occurred. The Bureau could not produce memoranda recording such briefings, although it was the practice of both Hoover and DeLoach to create these in this kind of situation.
The Bureau produced part of a briefing paper for the eyes of Hoover relating to his briefing of the Eisenhower Cabinet dated November 6 1958. The paper described efforts against CPUSA which included anonymous communications and use of informants.

The Bureau was unable to substantiate its claim that external authorities were informed of the New Left, Black Nationalist, or SWP COINTELPROs. The Black Nationalist efforts in particular made much heavier use of degrading, dangerous, or outright unconstitutional methods than did the communist or White Hate programs. What notification there was did not mention the risk of physical damage to targets. One ex-Attorney General said he was too busy to be aware of Bureau activities and that he could not have halted it anyway.

In January 1974, Attorney General Saxbe instructed Assistant Attorney General Henry Petersen to form a cross-departmental committee to study COINTELPRO. The committee comprised Department attorneys and Bureau agents. The committee found that most activities were legitimate, although some could “only be considered abhorrent in a free society” as they violated First Amendment rights. The committee recommended that no counter-intelligence program be initiated without the approval of the Attorney General. No such approval was ever given.

The Church Committee asked the Bureau for a list of any actions similar to COINTELPRO since April 28 1971. At first, the Bureau said none had transpired, but later found two examples. The Church Committee found a third.

J. Edgar Hoover, who is notorious for transvestism

The notorious transvestite, J. Edgar Hoover

Efforts against CPUSA included “the most effective single blow ever dealt the organized communist movement.” The Bureau took particular pride in its moves against the KKK. It is unsure of the efficacy of the Black Nationalist COINTELPRO. Moore said he hoped the Bureau had provided what he described as “a nudge.” No Bureau witness believed the New Left was much affected by COINTELPRO, partly due to imprecise targeting. The SWP COINTELPRO was a small-scale affair, and it is revealing that the program was discontinued two years before the others. The SWP Troskyites had actually at times been useful against CPUSA.

P.S. J. Edgar Hoover is widely-reputed to have been a transvestite



0 thoughts on “The Exceptionally Naughty Business of COINTELPRO

  1. [...] but the film does not make him out to be a fully-fledged tranny. But then, it never mentioned COINTELPRO, either. Hoover shortly before his appointment as head of the [...]