Spying & Disruption
By Brian Glick
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 detention
-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 official
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
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
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
A HISTORY TO LEARN FROM:
WHAT WAS COINTELPRO?
"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.
HOW DO WE KNOW ABOUT IT?
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.
HOW DID IT WORK?
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.
WHO WERE THE MAIN TARGETS?
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 militance, 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
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, Phillipine, Arab- American,
and other activists, apparently without formal Counterintelligence
WHAT EFFECT DID IT HAVE?
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 political repression.
-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,
-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.
THE DANGER WE FACE:
DID COINTELPRO EVER REALLY END?
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 inpart 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 subsequent years:
-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
-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 Collective" (1972-76);
-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,Conn., 1975);
-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).
IS IT A THREAT TODAY?
All this, and maybe more, occured 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 security.
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
witchhunts he took part in during the 1950s.
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 abhorent, 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 years:
-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 critics.
-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
-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
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.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
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 oftheir method of government. It has become as institutional
in the US as the race, gender, class and imperial domination
it serves to uphold.
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 effectively.
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 ofthe 60s
and suggests steps we can take to deflect or reduce their
impact in the 80s.
A CHECK-LIST OF ESSENTIAL PRECAUTIONS:
-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 witchhunts
only help the government create distrust and paranoia.
-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.
WHAT THEY DO & HOW WE CAN PROTECT OURSELVES:
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 limitations.
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
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.
GUIDELINES FOR COPING WITH INFILTRATION:
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 lawviolations, 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 numberof 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
OTHER FORMS OF DECEPTION
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,
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
Other misinformation: A favorite FBI tactic uncovered
by Senate investigators was to misinform people that a political
meeting or event had been cancelled. 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 Infiltration
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.
GUIDELINES FOR COPING WITH OTHER FORMS OF DECEPTION:
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 are used.) 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 "political"
issues. 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 responsibile 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
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
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 surreptiously), but to harass and intimidate.
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 motions.
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" Moore.
Intimidation: One COINTELPRO communique urged that
"The Negro youths and moderates must be made to understand
that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will
be dead revolutionaries."
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.
A 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 program."
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
commision and a U.S Court of Appeals found the deaths to
be the result not of a shootout, as claimed by police, but of
a carefully orchestrated, Vietnam-style "search and
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 the police. 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 pertinent circumstances.
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 particpant is able to think for herself or
himself and take responsibility, the better will be the group's
capacity to cope with crises.
ORGANIZING PUBLIC OPPOSITION TO COVERT INTERVENTION
A BROAD-BASED STRATEGY: No one existing political organization
or movement is strong enough, by itself, to mobilize the public
pressure required to signficantly 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
manuevers 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 change.
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, wallposters, 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 enforcement. 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 action.
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
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, picketlines, 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 covertaction.
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'
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.