The Long US Government War Against Americans

The Cointelpro Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States

by Ward Churchill* and Jim Vander Wall

South End Press (1990)

Free PDF: Cointelpro Papers

Book Review

As the authors describe, the FBI Cointelpro program first came to light in letters and memos seized when antiwar activists broke into an FBI field office in 1971 looking for draft cards. Using these and other documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the authors make it clear that the FBI has infiltrated and sabotaged every major citizens group since 1945.

The Cointelpro papers should be required reading for high school graduation. It’s essential to realize that government wire tapping, stalking, covert break-ins and infiltration of community groups didn’t start in 2002 when these activities first became “legal” under the Patriot Act. In fact, it’s extremely well documented (by University of Wisconsin professor Alfred McCoy – see Spying on Americans: the Ugly History) that it first began during the US occupation of the Philippines in 1898-1901.

This book had great personal importance in my life. There are a number of parallels between Jean Seberg’s case (see below) and the FBI harassment I began experiencing in 1987 related to my work with two former Black Panthers.** Along with four other African American activists, they had occupied an abandoned Seattle school in 1985 to transform it into a community-controlled African American Heritage Building and Cultural Center.

The section of Cointelpro Papers I found most illuminating describes the death squad activity that occurred on the Pine Ridge Sioux reservations during the 1970s – fifty-plus murders were never even investigated, much less prosecuted. Most Americans assume forced disappearances and extrajudicial assassinations only occur in Third World countries (thanks to the excellent CIA training their military officers receive at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning Georgia). Learning of scores of documented instances on US soil is extremely troubling.

The book also reproduces chilling FBI memos related to the coordinated FBI/police attack and murder of Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and the attempted murder of Los Angeles Black Panther leader Geronimo Pratt (who was subsequently imprisoned for 27 years on fictitious charges). The book goes on to recount to the brave refusal of Seattle mayor Wes Uhlman to consent to a similar FBI/police raid on the Black Panthers in Seattle (see The Mayor Who Said No to the Feds).

The saddest chapter describes the sadistic campaign of personal harassment Hoover undertook against actress Jean Seberg, a white actress who provided the Black Panthers with financial support. As a result of rumor campaigns and vicious gossip columns planted by the FBI, Seberg and her partner ultimately committed suicide.


*Ward Churchill is a well-known American Indian Movement (AIM) activist and former professor of ethnic studies at University of Colorado.

**Which I describe in my memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee

The US Taboo Against Socialism

America’s Unofficial Religion: the War on an Idea

Abby Martin (Empire Files) 2015

Film Review

America’s Unofficial Religion is a documentary about the origin of the American taboo against socialism.

At present, the US is the only western democracy without a prominent socialist party. This hasn’t always been the case. A powerful socialist movement arose alongside the progressive, populist and union movements of the late 19th century. All were a reaction to the brutal industrial oppression that characterized this period.

In 1912, the US had 13 socialist newspapers, 12 socialist monthlies and 57 socialist mayors 23 cities. Socialist Eugene Debs campaigned for president that year and won 6% of the popular vote (at a time when women and blacks were barred from voting).

Concerned about the detrimental effect of strong mass organizing on profits, the corporate elite leaned on president Woodrow Wilson to pass two laws – the Espionage Act, which criminalized dissent, and the Sedition Act, which made it a crime to oppose US involvement in World War I. Following passage of the Sedition Act, Eugene Debs was arrested for making an anti-war speech and sentenced to ten years in prison. The Wilson administration also imprisoned more than 90 International Workers of the World (IWW)* leaders, in addition to sanctioning the murder of IWW members by Pinkerton’s guards and organized lynch mobs.

US Organizing and Strikes in Response to Bolshevik Revolution

The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution would inspire a wave of organizing and strike activity in the US, leading one in five American workers to go out on strike in 1919.

Wilson responded by authorizing Attorney General Mitchell Palmer and his assistant J Edgar Hoover to launch the Palmer Raids, arresting more than 10,000 suspected socialist and communists and deporting thousands more.

In the 1930s, the cruel economic conditions of the Great Depression led to an enormous upsurge in mass organizing. Many historians argue that Roosevelt had no choice but to bring in sweeping New Deal legislation to prevent a socialist revolution.

Taft Hartley, HUAC and Cointelpro

Following World War II, during which US unions won major concessions, a Republican Congress passed the Taft Hartley Act, which made it illegal for union members to be socialists or communists (in 1945, roughly half the union leadership was socialist) and the Smith Act, which made Communist Party membership Illegal.

The enactment of these laws was accompanied by aggressive activity in the House on UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC). During the fifties many HUAC subpoenaed Hollywood actors, directors and producers – as well as teachers and college professors. Many were permanently blacklisted from working on the mere suspicion of socialist/communist sympathies.

In 1956 Hoover, a rabid anti-communist, would launch Cointelpro, a program conducting massive illegal surveillance, infiltration and sabotage of civil rights groups and other social change organization. Cointelpro also carried out clandestine assassinations and false imprisonment of numerous black liberation leaders, many of whom are still in prison.


*The International Workers of the World (IWW) is international labor union started in 1905 that has strong ties both to socialism and to anarchism.

Bobby Seal on the 50th Anniversary of the Black Panthers

In this presentation Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seal talks about the joint role he and Huey Newton played in forming the organization in 1966.

Seal’s genius as a grassroots organizer is what comes across most clearly in this talk. His initial vision in starting the Panthers was to use the 1965 Voting Rights Act to achieve “power” for African Americans by electing more black representatives to local, state and federal government. He maintains that monitoring police brutality and other tactics (like the children’s breakfast program) were merely a strategy towards this end.

Seal, who was employed in an Oakland jobs program for African American youth, recruited Huey (who had just started law school) because of his knowledge of the law. As brilliantly portrayed in Marvin Peeples 1995 film Panther, Huey became notorious for quoting large sections of the US Constitution and California law to Oakland police.

Seal is somewhat critical of Peeple’s docudrama, largely because it omits important historical details. An example is the crowd reaction – of supreme importance to Seal as an organizer – to the first confrontation between the Panthers and the cops. Another is the Nixon tape (which Seal, impersonating Nixon’s voice, describes in detail) in which the former president orders FBI director J Edgar Hoover to destroy the Panthers.

Seal also has some fascinating comments at the end about the Koch brothers and catastrophic climate change.

The film has an extremely long introduction and Seal’s talk begins at 21:00.

When Government Goes to War Against Us

Cointelpro 101: The Sabotage of Legitimate Dissent

By Andres Alegria, Prentis Hemphill, Anita Johnson and Claude Marks (2010)

Film Review

Cointelpro is the name given to the illegal counterinsurgency program FBI director J Edgar Hoover launched in the fifties and sixties against the civil rights movement, the American Indian Movement, the Puerto Rican independence movement, the Chicano/Mexicano rights movement, unions and different social justice movements. Its various tactics included illegal surveillance, wiretaps and break-ins, extrajudicial assassinations and plots to frame activists for crimes they didn’t commit.

The program had to be kept secret because it was illegal. The American public only learned about Cointelpro after antiwar activists broke into a Philadelphia office the FBI shared with the Selective Service in 1971. Intending to destroy draft registration documents, they accidentally stumbled across Cointelpro-related letters and memos and leaked them to the press.

Hoover’s War Against Black Empowerment

Cointelpro’s most high profile target was the civil rights and black liberation movement. Hoover openly wrote of his goal of “liquidating” the entire Black Panther leadership. Some Black Panther leaders were killed in cold blood. Chicago leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were shot in their sleep in 1969. The same year the FBI assassinated two Los Angeles Black Panther leaders at UCLA and two San Diego leaders while they were selling newspapers.

When Vietnam veteran Geronimo Pratt assumed leadership of the LA branch, the police (in cooperation with the FBI) tried to kill him via the armed assault and bombing of the LA Black Panther office. When this failed, they framed him on a murder charge, despite FBI surveillance records that placed him in Oakland at the time of the murder. Pratt spent twenty-seven years in prison before these records surfaced and exonerated him.

The Church Committee, a senate committed convened in the mid-seventies, identified more than two hundred criminal FBI attacks against Black Panther leaders, including murder, driving people insane and framing them on phony charges. No FBI operatives were ever prosecuted for these crimes, and more than a dozen black liberation activists (including Mumia Abu Jamal and Mike, Debbie and Janet Africa) remain in prison on trumped up charges.

The Reign of Terror at Pine Ridge

Following the rise of the American Indian Movement (AIM) to demand enforcement of treaty rights, Hoover launched a reign of terror (1973-76) on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. During this period, death squads killed or disappeared scores of residents who dared to challenge the corrupt tribal leadership. When reservation elders sought the protection of the AIM leadership, one them, Leonard Peltier, was wrongfully convicted of the double murder of two FBI agents. As in Pratt’s case, the FBI deliberately concealed evidence exonerating him. After nearly forty years, he, too, remains in prison.

Cointelpro Never Ended

Contrary to government claims, Cointelpro didn’t end in 1971 when it was exposed. In 1983, documents came to light revealing that the FBI had illegally infiltrated, spied and disrupted the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. The latter, a group I belonged to between 1982 and 1985, was a grassroots organization that campaigned against Reagan’s military support of El Salvador’s right wing dictatorship.

This documentary finishes by pointing out that many previously illegal Cointelpro activities – warrantless surveillance and wiretapping, clandestine break-ins and pre-emptive arrest for dissident political views – are now perfectly legal under the Patriot Act.

Is the President Being Blackmailed?

surveillance

 Whistleblower Reveals NSA Spied on Obama Before 2004

In 2005, NSA whistleblower Russ Tice exposed illegal and unconstitutional NSA involvement in widespread surveillance against lawmakers, the Supreme Court and the American public. In the video below, he reveals the NSA was spying on Barack Obama long before his 2004 election to the senate.

Back in 2005, the corporate media dismissed Tice’s allegations, based on NSA assertions he was mentally ill and a liar. Now, based on Edward Snowden’s momentous disclosures, he feels 75% of his claims have been vindicated. He promises there are even more shocking disclosures to come.

Tice states that the Washington Post informed the NSA two weeks before Snowden went public that they had a leak, necessitating Snowden’s urgent flight from Hawaii to Hong Kong.

He also reveals that NSA was already spying on Obama and his family and staff long even before he ran for the US senate. He hypothesizes the NSA may be blackmailing the President, just as former FBI director J Edgar Hoover used his extensive files on Kennedy’s sex life to blackmail John F Kennedy.

According to Tice, this may explain why Obama has reversed himself on so many of his campaign promises, especially those related to the restoration of constitutional civil liberties.

Former intelligence insider Wayne Madsen and other pundits have speculated that Obama is being blackmailed over gay sexual activity in his past.

photo credit: sea turtle via photopin cc

The NSA is the Tip of the Iceberg

barcode

Guest post by Steven Miller and Satish Musunuru

(Part 5 of a five-part post on the corporatization of Internet surveillance.)

The capitalist class deliberately distorts the class nature of the state. This is a scientific question, not an ideological one. Government is the administration of public money and resources in the name of society. The state is different. It is made up of the police, the courts and jails, the army, et al, and of course, the NSA. The capitalist class loves to present the state as a body that somehow stands above society, neutral to class interests, reigning with wisdom. One thing we have learned from Occupy, however, is that the police always seem to defend the corporations. They are hardly neutral. For both government and the state, law is simply the will of the ruling class, written down.

The purpose of the state is to defend the relations of production that are organized and imposed by the ruling class. Thus the state is a function of the relations of production, not the other way around. However, once established, it plays a formative role in organizing the relations of production for the class that rules the state.

In capitalism’s Industrial Era, J Edgar Hoover’s FBI collected dossiers on every politician, movement and individual that might pose a threat to state control. Today digital technology leads inexorably to the Surveillance State, actually only a small part of the entire state apparatus.

The US state has many manifestations: the military industrial complex, the media industrial complex that organizes the world’s most sophisticated propaganda war 24/7, the prison industrial complex, the corporate state, the surveillance state, the Migra, the militarized police we all saw at Occupies, open violations of the Constitution, the Department of Homeland Security, private prisons, secret ops, drones, extraordinary rendition, torture at every level, and so much more. Then of course we have the army, equipped with the world’s largest military budget, armed with some serious hardware, including the world’s largest supply of nuclear weapons. Corporations are inseparable from this. As they merge with the state, corporations today are rapidly developing police powers.

Social movements can sometimes reform the government, but state power does not permit you to reform the state. The idea that somehow the state will sit by passively while workers organize socialism is simply a fantasy. The state is programmed to intervene whenever the relations of production are threatened. Here and there, in relatively small-scale cases – Mondragon workers, for example, Kerala in India, Cuba, Nicaragua at one phase, etc – the nuisance is such that the state chooses not to intervene – but these are few and far between. The job of the state is to identify threats to capitalist control and move on them.

In the US today, the NSA works at one level; at another level, Homeland Security outsources police functions to corporations through contracts for profit. It’s budget for doing this has averaged over $30 billion a year since 2001. During Occupy, across the country, DHS has established “fusion centers”, often in corporations or banks, where police gathered surveillance and advised corporate leaders. Domain Centers (Oakland is the second, after New York City) are required for every port in the country.

The state’s response to the NSA scandal has been to go on a marketing campaign: “Resistance is Futile! We’ve got things coming at you that you can’t even imagine, way beyond Darth Vader!” This is a point worth considering. How can the American people possibly fight this?

The most basic step is to understand that things don’t have to be this way. Code can be changed and architectures can be re-designed. This is really an aspect of the tremendous battle of ideas that is breaking out in society. Every living system on Earth is in decline, except corporations. Corporations can be abolished by popular will if people are on the same accord, just as private property in slavery was abolished 150 years ago. These are historic times.

The American people have a long revolutionary history, but little recent experience with the process. Thus we don’t recognize the critical importance of these essential first steps of the battle that are appearing today. The future world will either be all corporate or all public. We can decide.

Here is how one of America’s great revolutionaries – John Adams, an outstanding exponent of capitalism – explained the process:

The American Revolution was not a common event. Its effects and consequences have already been awful over a great part of the globe. And when and where are they to cease?

But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced (emphasis added). The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations….

The people of America had been educated in an habitual affection for England, as their mother country; and while they thought her a kind and tender parent, (erroneously enough, however, for she never was such a mother,) no affection could be more sincere. But when they found her a cruel bedlam, willing like Lady Macbeth, to “dash their brains out,” it is no wonder if their filial affections ceased, and were changed into indignation and horror.

This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.”   (13)

Background and Notes

13)  John Adams to H. Niles, February 13, 1818

photo credit: paul.klintworth via photopin cc

Reposted from Daily Censored

Steven Miller has taught science for 25 years in Oakland’s Flatland high schools. He has been actively engaged in public school reform since the early 1990s. When the state seized control of Oakland public schools in 2003, they immediately implemented policies of corporatization and privatization that are advocated by the Broad Institute. Since that time Steve has written extensively against the privatization of public education, water and other public resources. You can email him at nanodog2@hotmail.com

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Satish Musunuru draws upon his training as an engineer and his experience as a professional in Silicon Valley to understand the relationship between technology and corporate capitalism and how it has brought us to the ecological and societal crisis we find ourselves in. You can email him at guruji323@hotmail.com