COINTELPRO: The FBI vs. the “New Left”


Here are the FBI documents from the COINTELPRO operations of the 1960’s discussion the “New Left”. If you want to read the FBI papers on the Black Liberation Movements, please read: COINTELPRO: The FBI vs. the Black Liberation Movement.

This program is initiated with the following memo:

May 9, 1968, C.D. Brennan to W.C. Sullivan.

Counterintelligence Program
Internal Security
Security of the New Left

Our nation is undergoing an era of disruption and violence caused to a large extent by various individuals generally connected with the New Left. Some of these activists urge revolution in America and call for the defeat of the United States in Vietnam. They continually and falsely allege police brutality and do not hesitate to utilize unlawful acts to further their so-called causes. The New Left has on many occasions viciously and scurrilously attacked the Director and the Bureau in an attempt to hamper our investigation of it and to drive us off the college campuses. With this in mind, it is out recommendation that new Counterintelligence Program be designed to neutralize the New Left and the Key Activists. The Key Activists are those individuals who are the moving forces behind the New Left and whom we have intensified our investigations.

The purpose of this program is to expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize the activists of this group and persons connected with it. It is hoped that with this new program their violent and illegal activities may be reduced if not curtailed.

P. 177

Just a few days later, Hoover writes to one of his special agents:

May 27, 1967, FBI Director (Hoover) to SAC [Special Agent in Charge] Newark

Counterintelligence Program
Internal Security
Disruption of the New Left

It is believed that in attempting to expose, disrupt, and otherwise neutralize the activities of the “new left” by counterintelligence methods, the Bureau is faced with a rather unique task. Because, first, the “new left” is difficult to actually define; and second, of the complete disregard by “new left” members for moral and social laws and social amenities.

It is believed that the nonconformism in dress and speech, neglect of personal cleanliness, use of obscenities (printed and uttered), publicized sexual promiscuity, experimenting with and the use of drugs, filthy clothes, shaggy hair, wearing sandals, beads, and unusual jewelry tend to negate any attempt to hold these people up to ridicule. The American press has been doing this with no apparent effect or curtailment of “new left” activities. These individuals are apparently getting strength and more brazen n their attempts to destroy American society, as noted in the takeover recently at Columbia University, New York City, and other universities in the U.S.

It is believed therefore, that they must be destroyed or neutralized from the inside.

P. 181

By July of 1968, the Bureau had assembled a 12-point “master plan” through which it intended to destroy the new left.

July 5, 1968, SAC Albany to FBI Director (Hoover).

Counterintelligence Program
Internal Security
Disruption of the New Left (COINTELPRO – New Left)

Bulet 5/10/68 requested suggestions for counterintelligence action against the New Left. The replies to the Bureau’s request have been analyzed and it is felt that the following suggestions for counterintelligence action can be utilized by all offices.

1- Preparation of a leaflet designed to counteract the impression that Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and other minority groups speak for the majority of students at universities. The leaflets should contain photographs of New Left leadership at the respective university. Naturally, the most obnoxious pictures should be used.

2- The instigating of or the taking advantage of personal conflicts or animosities existing between New Left leaders.

3- The creating of impressions that certain New Left leaders are informants for the Bureau or other law enforcement agencies.

4- The use of articles from student newspapers and/or the “underground press” to show the depravity of New Left leaders and members. In this connection, articles showing advocation for the use of narcotics and free sex are ideal to send to university officials, wealthy donors, members of the legislature and parents of students who are active in New Left matters.

5- Since the use of marijuana and other narcotics is widespread among members of the New Left, you should be alert to opportunities to have them arrested by local authorities on drug charges. Any information concerning the fact that individuals have marijuana or are engaging in a narcotics party should be immediately furnished to local authorities and they should be encouraged to take action.

6- The drawing up of anonymous letters regarding individuals active in the New Left. These letters should set out their activities and should be sent to their parents, neighbors, and the parents’ employers. This could have the effect of forcing the parents to take action.

7- Anonymous letters of leaflets describing faculty members and graduate assistants in the various institutions of higher learning who are active in New Left matters. The activities and associations of the individual should be set out. Anonymous mailing should be made to university officials, members of the state legislature, Board of Regents, and to the press. Such letters could be signed “A Concerned Alumni” or “A Concerned Taxpayer”.

8- Whenever New Left groups engage in disruptive activities on college campuses, cooperative press contacts should be encouraged to emphasize that the disruptive elements constitute a minority of the students and do not represent the conviction of the majority. The press should demand an immediate student referendum on the issue in question. Inasmuch as the overwhelming majority of students is not active in New Left matters, it is felt that this technique, used in carefully selected cases, could put an end to lengthy demonstrations and could cause embarrassment to New Left elements.

9- There is a definite hostility among SDS and other New Left groups toward the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA), and the Progressive Labor Party (PLP). This hostility should be exploited wherever possible.

10- The field was previously advised that New Left groups are attempting to open coffeehouses near military bases in order to influence members of the Armed Forces. Wherever these coffeehouses are, friendly news media should be alerted to them and their purpose. In addition, various drugs such as marijuana, will probably be utilized by individuals running the coffeehouses or frequenting them. Local law enforcement authorities should be promptly advised whenever to receive an indication that this is being done.

11- Consider the use of cartoons, photographs, and anonymous letters which will have the effect of ridiculing the New Left. Ridicule is one of the most potent weapons which we can use against it.

12- Be alert for opportunities to confuse and disrupt New Left activities by misinformation. For example, when events are planned, notification that the event has been cancelled or postponed could be sent to various individuals.

Ensure that this Program is assigned to an Agent with an excellent knowledge of both New Left groups and individuals. It must be approached with imagination and enthusiasm if it is to be successful.

P. 183-184

Any questions?



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

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