COINTELPRO: The FBI vs. the Black Liberation Movement

Hi,

Sharing some FBI documents from the COINTELPRO operations during the 1960’s. This is a fascinating read 🙂

This is the memo from Hoover initiating the COINTELPRO against the Black Liberation Movement

August 25, 1967, FBI Director (Hoover) to all offices.

Counterintelligence Program
Black Nationalist – Hate Groups
Internal Security

The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalists, hate-type organizations and grouping, their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters, and to counter their propensity for violence and civil disorder. The activities of all such groups of intelligence interest to this Bureau must be followed on a continuous basis so we will be in a position to promptly take advantage of all opportunities for counterintelligence and to inspire action in instances where circumstances warrant. The pernicious background of such groups, their duplicity, and devious maneuvers must be exposed to public scrutiny where such publicity will have a neutralizing effect.

P.92

In 1965, the FBI ponders the “removal” of MLK from the “national picture”.

December 1, 1965

Subject: Martin Luther King, Jr.

[Redacted] stated to DeLoach that he was faced with the difficult problem of taking steps to remove King from the national picture. He indicates in his comments a lack of confidence that he, along, could be successful. It is, therefor, suggested that consideration be given to the following course of action:

That DeLeach have a further discussion with [Redacted] and offer to be helpful to [Redacted] in connection with the problem of the removal of King from the national scene;

P.98

In 1968, Hoover outlined specific goals and targets of COINTELPRO. Notice how fearful they were of a united black movement. They were also extremely fearful of any leader that would unify the movement.

March 4, 1968, FBI Director (Hoover) to all offices.

Counterintelligence Program
Black Nationalist – Hate Groups
Racial Intelligence

Goals:

Prevent the coalition of militant black nationalists groups. In unity there is strength; a truism that is no less valid for all its triteness. An effective coalition of black nationalists groups might be the first step toward a real “Mau Mau” in America, the beginning of a true black revolution.

Prevent the rise of a “messiah” who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement. Malcolm X might have been such a “messiah;” he is that martyr of the movement today. Martin Luther Kin, Stokely Carmichael and Elijah Muhammad all aspire to this position. Elijah Muhammad is less of a threat because of his age. King could be a very real contender for this position should he abandon his supposed “obedience” to “white, liberal doctrines” (nonviolence) and embrace black nationalism. Carmichael has the necessary charisma to be a real threat in this way.

Prevent violence on the part of black nationalists groups. This is of primary importance, and is, of course, a goal of our investigative activity; it should also be a goal of the Counterintelligence Program. Through counterintelligence it should be possible to pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralize them before they exercise their potential for violence.

Prevent militant black nationalists groups and leaders from gaining respectability, by discrediting them to three separate segments of the community. The goal of discrediting black nationalists must be handled tactically in three ways. You must discredit these groups and individuals to, first, the responsible Negro community. Second, they must be discredited to the White community, both the responsible community and to “liberals” who have vestiges of sympathy for militant nationalists simply because they are Negroes. Third, these groups must be discredited in the eyes of Negro radicals, the followers of the movement. This last area requires entirely difference tactics from the first two. Publicity about violent tendencies and radical statements merely enhance black nationalists to the last group, it adds “respectability” in a difference way.

Targets:

Primary targets of the Counterintelligence Program, Black Nationalists-Hate Groups, should be the most violent and radical groups and their leaders. We should emphasize those leaders and organizations that are nationwide in scope and are most capable of disrupting this country. These targets include the radical violence-prone leaders, members, and followers of the:

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM)
Nation of Islam (NOI)

P.108-111

Excerpt from a 1969 report summarizing the accomplishments in San Diego:

August 20, 1969, SAC [Special Agent in Charge] Los Angeles to FBI Director (Hoover).

Counterintelligence Program
Black Nationalist – Hate Groups
Racial Intelligence

Shootings, beatings, and a high degree of unrest continues to prevail in the ghetto area of southeast San Diego. Although no specific counterintelligence action be credited with contributing to this over-all situation, is is felt that a substantial amount of the unrest is directly attributed to this program.

P.133

In 1969, Hoover reprimanded the San Francisco office for its lack of vigor in pursuing COINTELPRO operations against the Black Panthers:

May 27, 1969, FBI Director (Hoover) to SAC, San Francisco.

Counterintelligence Program
Black Nationalist – Hate Groups
Racial Intelligence

You state that while the Department of Justice considers the BPP [Black Panther Party] as a violence-prone organization seeking to overthrow the Government by revolutionary mean, “There seems to be little likelihood of this.” All information developed to date leads to the obvious conclusion that this group is dedicated to the principle of violent overthrow and will go to any length to further this aim

You must recognize that one of our primary aims in counterintelligence as it concerns the BPP is to keep this group isolated from the moderate black and white community which may support it.

You state that the Bureau under the CIP should not attack programs of community interest such as the BPP “Breakfast for Children.” You state that this is because many prominent “humanitarians,” both white and black, are interested in the program as well as churches which are actively supporting it. You obviously missed the point. The BPP is not engaged in the “Breakfast for Children” program for humanitarian reasons. This program was formed by the BPP for obvious reasons, including their efforts to create an image of civility, assume community control of Negroes, and to fill adolescent children with their insidious poison.

P.144-145

By 1970, the FBI was brutally honest:

September 16, 1970

Purposed of counterintelligence action is to disrupt BPP and it is immaterial whether facts exist to substantiate the charge.

P.150

Any questions?

Notes:

FBI Vault on COINTELPRO:
https://vault.fbi.gov/cointel-pro/cointel-pro-black-extremists/cointelpro-black-extremists-part-01-of/view

The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States, Churchill and Wall, South End Press, Second Edition, 2002

One response to “COINTELPRO: The FBI vs. the Black Liberation Movement”

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