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Fbi's Plan To Disrupt Political Groups

Fbi's Plan To Disrupt Political Groups image
Parent Issue
Day
11
Month
January
Year
1974
OCR Text

Counter intelligence against the American people is nothing new to the FBI. Accusations to this effect have often been passed off as meaningless rhetoric in the past. Now, however, documents and evidence are coming to the public eye that should make these illegal FBI activities apparent to all. Two documents, released as a result of a suit filed by Ralph Nader's Freedom of Information Clearing House, a public interest law group, on behalf of Cari Stern, NBC investigative reporter, were the directives through which the late FBI czar J. Edgar Hoover set up and then discontinued a counter intelligence program against the New Left as well as six other "subversive" groups. The attack of the New Left was initiated on May 8, 1968 and discontinued on April 28, 1971 . Hoover directed the termination of these programs apparently as part of the Bureau's response to the first revelations from the so-called Media Files. On March 8, 1971, a still-unknown group, called the Citizens' Commission to Investígate the FBI, burglarized the Media, Pennsylvania office of the FBI. They took all files, bulletins, dossiers and Bureau internal documents - everything but the toilet paper - while the agents and practically every other red-blooded American boy were home watching the Ali-Patterson fight. Threé weeks later, they began to mail these internal FBI documents to newsmen and lawmakers, revealing the FBI's policies and programs of political repression. The Citizens' Commission, still unapprehended today, sent out batches of documents over the following several months with a devastating effect upon the Bureau's public image. (Led by the Washington Post, which ignored threats and pleas from then Attorney General John Mitchell and Hoover, the press spread before the nation the first hard documentary evidence of the extent to which the FBI had become a political pólice agency). "EXPOSÉ, DISRUPT AND NEUTRALIZE" . A Hoover directive of the May 14th, 1968 set forth the goals and purposes of the counter-intelligence policies against the New Left (called Cointelpro-New Left). "The purpose of this program is to exposé, disrupt, and otherwise neutralize the activities of the various New Left organizations, their leadership and adherents," wrote Hoover. "We must frústrate every effort of these groups and individuals to consolídate their forces or to recruit new or youthful adherents. "In every instance, consideration should be given to disrupting the organized activity of these groups and no opportunity should be missed to capitalize upon orgahizational and personal conflicts in their leadership." All Bureau offices, Hoover ordered, must follow the activities of New Left organizations and its key activists "on a continuous basis" to take advantage of all counter intelligence opportunities and "also inspire action where circumstances warrant." The unexplained phrase "inspired action" is understood by veteran bureau watchers to refer to agent provocateur activity - such as that documented in the activities of Boyd Douglas in the Berrigan Case in Harrisburg and of Robert Hardy in the Camden 28 case - where the FBI infiltrator became the prime mover in initiating and organizing illegal activity to trap antigovernment activists. The "immediate termination" on all seven programs - a typical action by Hoover, who governed the Bureau with blunt sweeping directives - may have played into the internal bureaucratie war ongoing in the Bureau at that time. The order itself, however, brings to mind the rash of Hoover memos in March of '67 limiting oncampus FBI activity after a Ramparts exposé on CIA funding and infiltration of the National Student Association caused a public uproar. THE HUSTON PLAN Hoover - fearful of the flak from the Media exposures - terminated the programs at a time when the thrust of Nixon administration policy and internal Bureau politics was pushing for more, not less, "infíltrate and disrupt" programs. Hoover ended the programs in May, 1971. Previously, in July, 1970, presidential security ad visor Torn Charles Huston had received President Nixon's approval of a domestic security program which called for increased illegal electronic surveillance, illegal mail inspection, break-ins, and intensified informer tactics against dissident American citizens. Putting all his prestige oritñelihe'áña'reportedly threatening to expose the Nixon-ordered "Kissinger taps" of' newsmen and high government officials, Hoover forced Nixon to withdraw the Huston plan. Huston continued to maintain a drumbeat of White House criticism that the FBI was being too soft on domestic dissent. It was after Hoover issued the directive cancelling the counter-intelligence operations that the deputy director of the FBI, William Sullivan, stole the records of the "Kissinger taps" from the FBI files and delivered them to Asst. Attorney General Robert Mardian. Sullivan's theft was apparently an attempt to disarm Hoover and gain White House support for himself as Hoover's successor. Hoover wiped out his bureau opposition in the fall of 1971, firing Sullivan and demoting Chester Brennan, then head of the Domestic Intelligence División. In August, 1970, after Hoover had torpedoed the Huston plans the Bureau held an important internal policy conference on the New Left. From the circulated Media files, it is obvious that the Bureau responded directly to the threat and advanced criticism by Huston. The FBI ordered agents to restructure coverage of the left into a split jurisdiction, the "New Left" and the "old" left. Agents stepped up interviews whh young left activists to "heighten the endemic paranoia and strengthen the fear that there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox." Hoover also first authorized at this time the recruitment of informers under 21 years of age. (In the same Media memos, circulated on September 9, 1970, agents were warned to keep a tighter rein on agent provacateurs. "There have been a few nstances where security informers got carried away, during a demonstration, assaulted pólice, etc.") Academicians, working with the Bureau in the summer of 1971 , report that top Bureau officials were willing to admit that the agency was still using counter-intelligence agents to infíltrate and factionalize the Black Panthers. "Bureau informers within the Black Panthers had been told to align themselves with either the Clever faction or the Newton faction and intensify the split," said one college professor who had consulted with Bureau officials. Even in the Cointelpro termination memo, Hoover noted that "in exceptional instances where it is considered counterintelligence actions are warranted . . . (such action) will be considered on an individual basis." DIVIDE AND CONQUER Counter-intelligence programs enjoyed almost universal success. The New Left, the Communist Party, White Hate groups like the KKK and "Black extremists" like the Black Panthers liave all been wracked with bloody factioning, scliisms and v ship splits. It is a cliché today tliat the New al Left factionalized itself to death; perhaps now more thought ought to be given to the hand of the Bureau in all that. The story is the same among the Black Power groups, leadership squabbles,. petty bickering, bloody in-fighting (literally, with assassinations and 1 play between rival organizers and ideologues) reduced and finally destroyed many militant Black groups. When the President personally 9 proves a policy of burglary - as Nixon admitted when he said he approved the Huston plan - any aware citizen can realize that activists in dissident and minority political groups are i jected to surveillance, mailcover, wiretapping, and infiltration. It is difficult to recognize the scale involved. Next to wiretapping, infiltrators and informers have drawn the most public aimniiun. rei ior au me aozens 01 ceiebrated informers which the government has brought forward - from Douglas, to Lemmer, a state coördinator for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, to Torn Mosher, a white who became so important to the Panthers that in 1971 they refused to meet with Weatherman representatives without hiin present - there is still reason to believe that the surface is barely scratched. Almost all the informers who have been revealed are almost palpably crazy - schizoid paranoids; and there has been talk tliat this is tKe standard species for the role. Unlikely. Long-standing Bureau policy has been to reveal only expendable infiltrators unless absolutely necessary to do otherwise. And no one familiar with the Media files which document a plan to get an informer on every block of the Philadelphia ghetto - can doubt that they have numbers to choose from. We have some glimpses of divisive tactics used by the counter-intelligence programs on the record. The use of informers to split the groups, as in the Panthers, is obvious. More sophisticated tactics were also used. Robert Wall, a former FBI agent who resigned alter fiveyears service in 1970 has reponed how he was assigned to Cointelpro - New Left in Washington, D.C. One of the divisive ploys he recounted involved a letter written to the leaders of the National Mobilization Committee in D.C. It threatened that the Blacks in Washington would not support an upcoming rally unless a "security bond" of $20,000 was given to a black organization. The Bureau forged the signature of the leader of the black organization, and had its informers in the black organization suggest the idea of a security bond to the leaders of the black group informally. "Later," said Wall, "through informants in the NMC, we learned that the letter had caused a great deal of confusión and had a significant effect on planning for the march." Wall also revealed that the Cointerpro relied heavily on leaking "confidential" FBI files and "sometimes just fanciful lies" to sympathetic media contacts. Hoover's memo setting up the New Left-Cointel stresses covert use of the media as a Bureau policy to be implemented loca lly. The FBI fought a nine-month court battle attempting to withhold these documents, but the D.C. federal court found the Bureau's claim suspicious. The court ordered these files revealed as agency "policy and programs" under the Freedom of Information Act. For the first time the courts compelled the Justice Dept. to make a Freedom of Information revelation. Although the court ruled in September, the FBI delayed release until a week ago - in the last week of the Congressional session and on the same day that Gerald Ford was sworn in as vice-president. The Bureau apparently hoped to avoid Congressional inquiry and to have the news left in the flood of copy about the Ford oath. On both counts, for the time being. the Bureau can be credijb ted with meticulous k planning and succesí 3 ful implementation.