COINTELPRO: A secret system for liquidating dissent
When a former vice president of the United States begins to sound like major critics of the US imperial system, such as Ramsey Clark and Noam Chomsky, then you know that the situation is really bleak.
A few days ago, former Vice President Al Gore had told The Guardian that “the NSA spying revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden is unlawful because it violates the Constitution”.
What is far more injurious to human rights of religious, ethnic and ideological minorities is Federal Bureau of investigation’s (FBI) Counter Intelligence Programme popularly known as the COINTELPRO.
Although initiated by the FBI after the Russian Revolution as a secret system based on the deployment of illegal means and immoral methods to contain undesirable social movements, yet the fully integrated covert operation, under the label of COINTELPRO, officially didn’t begin till 1956 with the stated aim to “increase factionalism, cause disruption and win defections” inside the Communist Party USA.
In retrospect, it was built around ten sets of mutually-reinforcing covert activities against a historically particular ideological, ethnic, or religious group – chronologically, the communists, socialists, labour, African Americans, American Indians, Latino Americans, Arab Americans, environmentalists, peace groups, and now Muslim Americans – to liquidate any credible challenge to the US empire and to establish the tyranny of the majority over the targeted minority.
The above-mentioned ten sets of covert activities are: 1) Enlist the support of the “mainstream” media, academia and the intelligentsia for producing and popularising justifications for isolating, harassing, intimidating, and marginalising the targeted group, 2) Disrupt its internal unity, 3) Replace its authentic leadership with handpicked individuals, 4) Undermine its legitimate major institutions and organisations, 5) Deny it all means of respect, acceptance, and growth by stigmatising its values, beliefs and identity, 6) prevent access to mainstream media as well as social, political, educational, and government institutions, 7) Bleed it economically, 8) Delegitimise its very existence by organising systematic disinformation and misinformation campaigns to create inerasable negative images of the targeted group, 9) Infiltrate, intimidate, harass, entrap, bribe, blackmail, cheat, deceive and lie to subvert and “neutralise” the targeted group, and 10) Consequently, and most importantly, control its agenda of affinities and actions.
Amazingly, all of these ten sets of illegal activities are stacked in FBI’s two ‘Top-Secret’ internal memos penned in late 1960s.
The first memo, dated August 25, 1967, and authored by the FBI’s iron-fisted chief J Edgar Hoover, reveals a whole host of abusive activities as well as documents Hoover’s total disregard for any adverse impact on the “rights of Americans”.
1) “The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavour is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralise the activities of black nationalist hate-type organisations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters, and to counter their propensity for violence and civil disorder.”
2) “The activities of all such groups of intelligence interest to the 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 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.”
3) “No opportunity should be missed to exploit through counterintelligence techniques the organisational and personal conflicts of the leaderships of the groups and where possible an effort should be made to capitalise upon existing conflicts between competing black nationalist organisations.”
4) “When an opportunity is apparent to disrupt or neutralise black nationalist, hate-type organisations through the cooperation of established local news media contacts or through such contact with sources available… to insure the targeted group is disrupted, ridiculed, or discredited through the publicity and not merely publicized…”
5) “You are also cautioned that the nature of this new endeavour is such that under no circumstances should the existence of the programme be made known outside the bureau.”
The second memo, dated March 4, 1968, also authored and labelled by J Edgar Hoover as “Racial Intelligence” was issued “just one month before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.”
6. “Prevent the coalition of militant black nationalist groups. In unity there is strength; a truism that is no less valid for all its triteness. An effective coalition of black nationalist groups might be… the beginning of a true black revolution.”
7. “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 the martyr of the movement today. Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael and Elijah Muhammed all aspire to this position…. 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.”
8. [It] “should also be a goal of the Counterintelligence Programme to pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralise them before they exercise their potential for violence.”
9. “Prevent militant black nationalist groups and leaders from gaining respectability by discrediting them to three separate segments of the community…”
10. “A final goal should be to prevent the long-range growth of militant black organisations, especially among youth.”
In his book, Assault on the Left: The FBI and the Sixties Antiwar Movement, James K Davis points out: “These efforts devastated what was left of CPUSA. By 1971, the figure was down to about 3,000 members, a considerable number of those being undercover FBI informants.”
The immorality of this state-run “system of terror and oppression” is rendered obvious by Prof Noam Chomsky, who writes: “The lesson of Watergate is simple. American liberalism and the corporate media will defend themselves against attack. But their spirited acts of self-defence are not to be construed as a commitment to civil liberties or democratic principle, despite noble and self-serving rhetoric. Quite the contrary. They demonstrate a commitment to the principle that power must not be threatened or injured.”