APRIL 23 (under authority of the order of April 14), 1976



COINTELPRO is the FBI acronym for a series of covert action programs directed against domestic groups. In these programs, the Bureau went beyond the collection of intelligence to secret action defined to "disrupt" and "neutralize" target groups and individuals. The techniques were adopted wholesale from wartime counterintelligence, and ranged from the trivial (mailing reprints of Reader’s Digest articles to college administrators) to the degrading (sending anonymous poison-pen letters intended to break up marriages) and the dangerous (encouraging gang warfare and falsely labeling members of a violent group as police informers).

This report is based on a staff study of more than 20,000 pages of Bureau documents, depositions of many of the Bureau agents involved in the programs, and interviews of several COINTELPRO targets. The examples selected for discussion necessarily represent a small percentage of the more than 2,000 approved COINTELPRO actions. Nevertheless, the cases demonstrate the consequences of a Government agency’s decision to take the law into its own hands for the "greater good" of the country.

COINTELPRO began in 1956, in part because of frustration with Supreme Court rulings limiting the Government’s power to proceed overtly against dissident groups; it ended in 1971 with the threat of public exposure. 1 In the intervening 15 years, the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence. 2

Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that. The unexpressed major premise of the programs was that a law enforcement agency has the duty to do whatever is necessary to combat perceived threats to the existing social and political order.

A. "Counterintelligence Program": A Misnomer for Domestic Covert Action

COINTELPRO is an acronym for "counterintelligence program."

Counterintelligence is defined as those actions by an intelligence agency intended to protect its own security and to undermine hostile intelligence operations. Under COINTELPRO certain techniques the Bureau had used against hostile foreign agents were adopted for use against perceived domestic threats to the established political and social order. The formal programs which incorporated these techniques were, therefore, also called "counterintelligence." 2a

"Covert action" is, however, a more accurate term for the Bureau’s programs directed against American citizens. "Covert action" is the label applied to clandestine activities intended to influence political choices and social values. 3

B. Who Were the Targets?

1. The Five Targeted Groups

The Bureau’s covert action programs were aimed at five perceived threats to domestic tranquility: the "Communist Party, USA" program (1956-71) ; the "Socialist Workers Party" program (1961-69) ; the "White Hate Group" program (1964-71) ; the "Black Nationalist-Hate Group" program (1967-71) ; and the "New Left" program (1968-71).

2. Labels Without Meaning

The Bureau’s titles for its programs should not be accepted uncritically. They imply a precision of definition and of targeting which did not exist.

Even the names of the later programs had no clear definition. The Black Nationalist program, according to its supervisor, included "a great number of organizations that you might not today characterize as black nationalist but which were in fact primarily black." 3a Indeed, the nonviolent Southern Christian Leadership Conference was labeled as a Black Nationalist "Hate Group.” 4 Nor could anyone at the Bureau even define "New Left," except as "more or less an attitude." 5

Furthermore, the actual targets were chosen from a far broader group than the names of the programs would imply. The CPUSA program targeted not only Party members but also sponsors of the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee 6 and civil rights leaders allegedly under Communist influence or simply not "anti-Communist." 7 The Socialist Workers Party program included non-SWP sponsors of antiwar demonstrations which were cosponsored by the SWP or the Young Socialist Alliance, its youth group. 8 The Black Nationalist program targeted a range of organizations from the Panthers to SNCC to the peaceful Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 9 and included most black student groups. 10 New Left targets ranged from the SDS 11 to the Interuniversity Committee for Debate on Foreign Policy, 12 from all of Antioch College ("vanguard of the New Left") 13 to the New Mexico Free University 14 and other "alternate" schools, 15 and from underground newspapers 16 to students protesting university censorship of a student publication by carrying signs with four-letter words on them. 17

C. What Were the Purposes of COINTELPRO?

The breadth of targeting and lack of substantive content in the descriptive titles of the programs reflect the range of motivations for COINTELPRO activity: protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order by "disrupting" and "neutralizing" groups and individuals perceived as threats.

1. Protecting National Security

The first COINTELPRO, against the CPUSA, was instituted to counter what the Bureau believed to be a threat to the national security. As the chief of the COINTELPRO unit explained it:

We were trying first to develop intelligence so we would know what they were doing [and] second, to contain the threat…. To stop the spread of communism, to stop the effectiveness of the Communist Party as a vehicle of Soviet intelligence, propaganda and agitation. 17a

Had the Bureau stopped there, perhaps the term "counterintelligence" would have been an accurate label for the program. The expansion of the CPUSA program to non-Communists, however, and the addition of subsequent programs, make it clear that other purposes were also at work.

2. Preventing Violence

One of these purposes was the prevention of violence. Every Bureau witness deposed stated that the purpose of the particular program or programs with which he was associated was to deter violent acts by the target groups, although the witnesses differed in their assessment of how successful the programs were in achieving that goal. The preventive function was not, however, intended to be a product of specific proposals directed at specific criminal acts. Rather, the programs were aimed at groups which the Bureau believed to be violent or to have the potential for violence.

The programs were to prevent violence by deterring membership in the target groups, even if neither the particular member nor the group was violent at the time. As the supervisor of the Black Nationalist COINTELPRO put it, "Obviously you are going to prevent violence or a greater amount of violence if you have smaller groups." (Black Nationalist supervisor deposition, 10/17/75, p. 24.) The COINTELPRO unit chief agreed: "We also made an effort to deter or counteract the propaganda … and to deter recruitment where we could. This was done with the view that if we could curb the organization, we could curb the action or the violence within the organization." 17b In short, the programs were to prevent violence indirectly, rather than directly, by preventing possibly violent citizens from joining or continuing to associate with possibly violent groups. 18

The prevention of violence, is clearly not, in itself, an improper purpose; preventing violence is the ultimate goal of most law enforcement. Prosecution and sentencing are intended to deter future criminal behavior, not only of the subject but also of others who might break the law. In that sense, law enforcement legitimately attempts the indirect prevention of possible violence and, if the methods used are proper, raises no constitutional issues. When the government goes beyond traditional law enforcement methods, however, and attacks group membership and advocacy, it treads on ground forbidden to it by the Constitution. In Brandenberg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), the Supreme Court held that the government is not permitted to "forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or law violation except where such advocacy is directed toward inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action." In the absence of such clear and present danger, the government cannot act against speech nor, presumably, against association.

3. Maintaining the Existing Social and Political Order

Protecting national security and preventing violence are the purposes advanced by the Bureau for COINTELPRO. There is another purpose for COINTELPRO which is not explicit but which offers the only explanation for those actions which had no conceivable rational relationship to either national security or violent activity. The unexpressed major premise of much of COINTELPRO is that the Bureau has a role in maintaining the existing social order, and that its efforts should be aimed toward combating those who threaten that order. 19

The "New Left" COINTELPRO presents the most striking example of this attitude. As discussed earlier, the Bureau did not define the term "New Left," and the range of targets went far beyond alleged "subversives" or "extremists." Thus, for example, two student participants in a "free speech" demonstration were targeted because they defended the use of the classic four-letter-word. Significantly, they were made COINTELPRO subjects even though the demonstration "does not appear to be inspired by the New Left" because it "shows obvious disregard for decency and established morality." 20 In another case, reprints of a newspaper article entitled "Rabbi in Vietnam Says Withdrawal Not the Answer" were mailed to members of the Vietnam Day Committee "to convince [them] of the correctness of the U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam." 21 Still another document weighs against the "liberal press and the bleeding hearts and the forces on the left" which were "taking advantage of the situation in Chicago surrounding the Democratic National Convention to attack the police and organized law enforcement agencies." 22 Upholding decency and established morality, defending the correctness of U.S. foreign policy, and attacking those who thought the Chicago police used undue force have no apparent connection with the expressed goals of protecting national security and preventing violence. These documents, among others examined, compel the conclusion that Federal law enforcement officers looked upon themselves as guardians of the status quo. The attitude should not be a surprise; the difficulty lies in the choice of weapons.

D. What Techniques Were Used?

1. The Techniques of Wartime

Under the COINTELPRO programs, the -rsenal of techniques used against foreign espionage agents was transferred to domestic enemies. As William C. Sullivan, former Assistant to the Director, put it,

This is a rough, tough, dirty business, and dangerous. It was dangerous at times. No holds were barred…. We have used [these techniques] against Soviet agents. They have used [them] against us. . . . [The same methods were] brought home against any organization against which we were targeted. We did not differentiate. This is a rough, tough business. 23

Mr. Sullivan’s description — rough, tough, and dirty — is accurate. In the course of COINTELPRO’s fifteen-year history, a number of individual actions may have violated specific criminal statutes; 24 a number of individual actions involved risk of serious bodily injury or death to the targets (at least four assaults were reported as "results" ; 25 and a number of actions, while not illegal or dangerous, can only be described as "abhorrent in a free Society." 26 On the other hand, many of the actions were more silly than repellent.

The Bureau approved 2,370 separate counterintelligence actions. 27 Their techniques ranged from anonymously mailing reprints of newspaper and magazine articles (sometimes Bureau-authored or planted) to group members or supporters to convince them of the error of their ways, 28 to mailing anonymous letters to a member’s spouse accusing the target of infidelity ; 29 from using informants to raise controversial issues at meetings in order to cause dissent, 30 to the "snitch jacket" (falsely labeling a group member as an informant) 31 and encouraging street warfare between violent groups ; 32 from contacting members of a "legitimate group to expose the alleged subversive background of a fellow member 33 to contacting an employer to get a target fired; 34 from attempting to arrange for reporters to interview targets with planted questions, 35 to trying to stop targets from speaking at all ; 36 from notifying state and local authorities of a target’s criminal law violations, 37 to using the IRS to audit a professor, not just to collect any taxes owing, but to distract him from his political activities. 38

2. Techniques Carrying A Serious Risk of Physical, Emotional, or Economic Damage.

The Bureau recognized that some techniques were more likely than others to cause serious physical, emotional, or economic damage to the targets. Any proposed use of those techniques was scrutinized carefully by headquarters supervisory personnel, in an attempt to balance the "greater good" to be achieved by the proposal against the known or risked harm to the target. If the "good" was sufficient, the proposal was approved. 39 For instance, in discussing anonymous letters to spouses, the agent who supervised the New Left COINTELPRO stated:

[Before recommending approval] I would want to know what you want to get out of this, who are these people. If it’s somebody, and say they did split up, what would accrue from it as far as disrupting the New Left is concerned? Say they broke up, what then….

[The question would be] is it worth it? 39a

Similarly, with regard to the "snitch jacket" technique — falsely labeling a group member as a police informant — the chief of the Racial Intelligence Section stated:

You have to be able to make decisions and I am sure that labeling somebody as an informant, that you’d want to make certain that it served a good purpose before you did it and not do it haphazardly. . . . It is a serious thing. . . . As far as I am aware, in the black extremist area, by using that technique, no one was killed. I am sure of that. 40

Moore was asked whether the fact that no one was killed was the result of "luck or planning." He answered:

"Oh, it just happened that way, I am sure." 41

It is thus clear that, as Sullivan said, "No holds were barred, 42 although some holds were weighed more carefully than others. When the willingness to use techniques which were concededly dangerous or harmful to the targets is combined with the range of purposes and criteria by which these targets were chosen, the result is neither "within bounds" nor "justified" in a free society. 43

E. Legal Restrictions Were Ignored

What happened to turn a law enforcement agency into a law violator? Why do those involved still believe their actions were not only defensible, but right? 44

The answers to these questions are found in a combination of factors: the availability of information showing the targets’ vulnerability gathered through the unrestrained collection of domestic intelligence; the belief both within and without the Bureau that it could handle any problem; and frustration with the apparent inability of traditional law enforcement methods to solve the problems presented.

There is no doubt that Congress and the public looked to the Bureau for protection against domestic and foreign threats. As the COINTELPRO unit chief stated:

At this time [the mid-1950s] there was a general philosophy too, the general attitude of the public at this time was you did not have to worry about Communism because the FBI would take care of it. Leave it to the FBI.

I hardly know an agent who would ever go to a social affair or something, if he were introduced as FBI, the comment would be, "we feel very good because we know you are handling the threat." We were handling the threat with what directives and statutes were available. There did not seem to be any strong interest of anybody to give us stronger or better defined statutes. 45

Not only was no one interested in giving the Bureau better statutes (nor, for that matter, did the Bureau request them), but the Supreme Court drastically narrowed the scope of the statutes available. The Bureau personnel involved trace the institution of the first formal counterintelligence program to the Supreme Court reversal of the Smith Act convictions. The unit chief testified:

The Supreme Court rulings had rendered the Smith Act technically unenforceable…. It made it ineffective to prosecute Communist Party members, made it impossible to prosecute Communist Party members at the time. 46

This belief in the failure of law enforcement produced the subsequent COINTELPROs as well. The unit chief continued:

The other COINTELPRO programs were opened as the threat arose in areas of extremism and subversion and there were not adequate statutes to proceed against the organization or to prevent their activities. 47

Every Bureau witness deposed agreed that his particular COINTELPRO was the result of tremendous pressure on the Bureau to do something about a perceived threat, coupled with the inability of law enforcement techniques to cope with the situation, either because there were no pertinent federal statutes, 48 or because local law enforcement efforts were stymied by indifference or the refusal of those in charge to call the police.

Outside pressure and law enforcement frustration do not, of course, fully explain COINTELPRO. Perhaps, after all, the best explanation was proffered by George C. Moore, the Racial Intelligence Section chief:

The FBI’s counterintelligence program came up because there was a point — if you have anything in the FBI, you have an action-oriented group of people who see something happening and want to do something to take its place. 49

F. Command and Control

1. 1956-71

While that "action-oriented group of people" was proceeding with fifteen years of COINTELPRO activities, where were those responsible for the supervision and control of the Bureau? Part of the answer lies in the definition of "covert action"– clandestine activities. No one outside the Bureau was supposed to know that COINTELPRO existed. Even within the Bureau, the programs were handled on a "need-to-know" basis.

Nevertheless, the Bureau has supplied the Committee with documents which support its contention that various Attorneys General, advisors to Presidents, members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee, and, in 1958, the Cabinet were at least put on notice of the existence of the CPUSA and White Hate COINTELPROs. The Bureau cannot support its claim that anyone outside the FBI was informed of the existence of the Socialist Workers Party, Black Nationalist, or New Left COINTELPROs, and even those letters or briefings which referred (usually indirectly) to the CPUSA and White Hate COINTELPROs failed to mention the use of techniques which risked physical, emotional, or economic damage to their targets. In any event, there is no record that any of these officials asked to know more, and none of them appears to have expressed disapproval based on the information they were given.

As the history of the Domestic Intelligence Division shows, the absence of disapproval has been interpreted by the Bureau as sufficient authorization to continue an activity (and occasionally, even express disapproval has not sufficed to stop a practice). Perhaps, however, the crux of the "command and control" problem lies in the testimony by one former Attorney General that he was too busy to know what the Bureau was doing, 50 and by another that, as a matter of political reality, he could not have stopped it anyway. 51

2. Post-1971

Whether the Attorney General can control the Bureau is still an open question. The Peterson Committee, which was formed within the Justice Department to investigate COINTELPRO at Attorney General Saxbe’s request, worked only with Bureau-prepared summaries of the COINTELPRO files. 52 Further, the fact that the Department of Justice must work with the Bureau on a day-to-day basis may influence the Department’s judgment on Bureau activities. 53

G. Termination

If COINTELPRO had been a short-lived aberration, the thorny problems of motivation, techniques, and control presented might be safely relegated to history. However, COINTELPRO existed for years on an "ad hoc" basis before the formal programs were instituted, and more significantly, COINTELPRO-type activities may continue today under the rubric of "investigation."

1. The Grey Area Between Counterintelligence and Investigation

The word "counterintelligence" had no fixed meaning even before the programs were terminated. The Bureau witnesses agreed that there is a large grey area between "counterintelligence" and "aggressive investigation," and that, headquarters supervisors sometimes had difficulty in deciding which caption should go on certain proposals. 54

Aggressive investigation continues, and may be even more disruptive than covert action. An anonymous letter (COINTELPRO) can be ignored as the work of a crank; an overt approach by the Bureau ("investigation") is not so easily dismissed. 55 The line between information collection and harassment can be extremely thin.

2. Is COINTELPRO Continuing?

COINTELPRO-type activities which are clearly not within the "grey area" between COINTELPRO and investigation have continued on at least three occasions. Although all COINTELPROs were officially terminated "for security reasons" on April 27, 1971, the documents discontinuing the program provided:

In exceptional circumstances where it is considered counterintelligence action is warranted, recommendations should be submitted to the Bureau under the individual case caption to which it pertains. These recommendations will be considered on an individual basis. 56

The Committee requested that the Bureau provide it with a list of any "COINTELPRO-type" actions Since April 28,1971. The Bureau first advised the Committee that a review failed to develop any information indicating post termination COINTELPRO activity. Subsequently, the Bureau located and furnished to the Committee two instances of COINTELPRO-type operations. 57 The Committee has discovered a third instance; four months after COINTELPRO was terminated, information on an attorney’s political background was furnished to friendly newspaper sources under the so-called "Mass Media Program," intended to discredit both the attorney and his client. 58

The Committee has not been able to determine with any greater precision the extent to which COINTELPRO may be continuing. Any proposals to initiate COINTELPRO-type action would be filed under the individual case caption. The Bureau has over 500,000 case files, and each one would have to be searched. In this context, it should be noted that a Bureau search of all field office COINTELPRO files revealed the existence of five operations in addition to those known to the Petersen committee. 59 A search of all investigative files might be similarly productive.

3. The Future of COINTELPRO

Attitudes within and without the Bureau demonstrate a continued belief by some that covert action against American citizens is permissible if the need for it is strong enough. When the Petersen Committee report on COINTELPRO was released, Director Kelley responded, "For the FBI to have done less under the circumstances would have been an abdication of its responsibilities to the American people." He also restated his "feeling that the FBI’s counterintelligence programs had an impact on the crises of the time and, therefore, that they helped to bring about a favorable change in this country." 60 In his testimony before the Select Committee, Director Kelley continued to defend COINTELPRO, albeit with some reservations:

What I said then, in 1974, and what I believe today, is that the FBI employees involved in these programs did what they felt was expected of them by the President, the Attorney General, the Congress, and the people of the United States. . . .

Our concern over whatever abuses occurred in the Counterintelligence Programs, and there were some substantial ones, should not obscure the underlying purpose of those programs.

We must recognize that situations have occurred in the past and will arise in the future where the Government may well be expected to depart from its traditional role, in the FBI’s case, as an investigative and intelligence-gathering agency, and take affirmative steps which are needed to meet an imminent threat to human life or property. 62

Nor is the Director alone in his belief that faced with sufficient threat, covert disruption is justified. The Department of Justice promulgated tentative guidelines for the Bureau which would have permitted the Attorney General to authorize "preventive action" where there is a substantial possibility that violence will occur and "prosecution is impracticable." Although those guidelines have now been dropped, the principle has not been rejected.


A. Origins

The origins of COINTELPRO are rooted in the Bureau’s jurisdiction to investigate hostile foreign intelligence activities on American soil. Counterintelligence, of course, goes beyond investigation; it is affirmative action taken to neutralize hostile agents.

The Bureau believed its wartime counterattacks on foreign agents to be effective — and what works against one enemy will work against another. In the atmosphere of the Cold War, the American Communist Party was viewed as a deadly threat to national security.

In 1956, the Bureau decided that a formal counterintelligence program, coordinated from headquarters, would be an effective weapon in the fight against Communism. The first COINTELPRO was therefore initiated. 63

The CPUSA COINTELPRO accounted for more than half of all approved proposals. 64 The Bureau personnel involved believed that the success of the program — one action was described as "the most effective single blow ever dealt the organized communist movement" — made counterintelligence techniques the weapons of choice whenever the Bureau assessed a new and, in its view, equally serious threat to the country.

As noted earlier, law enforcement frustration also played a part in the origins of each COINTELPRO. In each case, Bureau witnesses testified that the lack of adequate statutes, uncooperative or ineffective local police, or restrictive court rulings had made it impossible to use traditional law enforcement methods against the targeted groups.

Additionally, a certain amount of empire building may have been at work. Under William C. Sullivan, the Domestic Intelligence Division greatly expanded its jurisdiction. Klan matters were transferred in 1964 to the Intelligence Division from the General Investigative Division; black nationalist groups were added in 1967; and, just as the Old Left appeared to be dying out, 66 the New Left was gradually added to the work of the Division’s Internal Security Section in the late 1960s.

Finally, it is significant that the five domestic COINTELPROs were started against the five groups which were the subject of intensified investigative programs. Of course, the fact that such intensive investigative programs were started at all reflects the Bureau’s process of threat assessment: the greater the threat, the more need to know about it (intelligence) and the more impetus to counter it (covert action). More important, however, the mere existence of the additional information gained through the investigative programs inevitably demonstrated those particular organizational or personal weaknesses which were vulnerable to disruption. COINTELPRO demonstrates the dangers inherent in the overbroad collection of domestic intelligence; when information is available, it can be — and was — improperly used.

B. The Programs

Before examining each program in detail, some general observations may be useful. Each of the five domestic COINTELPROs had certain traits in common. As noted above, each program used techniques learned from the Bureau’s wartime efforts against hostile foreign agents. Each sprang from frustration with the perceived inability of law enforcement to deal with what the Bureau believed to be a serious threat to the country. Each program depended on an intensive intelligence effort to provide the information used to disrupt the target groups.

The programs also differ to some extent. The White Hate program, for example, was very precisely targeted; each of the other programs spread to a number of groups which do not appear to fall within any clear parameters. 67 In fact, with each subsequent COINTELPRO, the targeting became more diffuse.

The White Hate COINTELPRO also used comparatively few techniques which carried a risk of serious physical, emotional, or economic damage to the targets, while the Black Nationalist COINTELPRO used such techniques extensively. The New Left COINTELPRO, on the other hand, had the highest proportion of proposals aimed at preventing the exercise of free speech. Like the progression in targeting, the use of dangerous, degrading, or blatantly unconstitutional techniques also appears to have become less restrained with each subsequent program.

1. CPUSA. — The first official COINTELPRO program, against the Communist Party, USA, was started in August 1956 with Director Hoover’s approval. Although the formal program was instituted in 1956, COINTELPRO-type activities had gone on for years. The memorandum recommending the program refers to prior actions, constituting "harassment," which were generated by the field during the course of the Bureau’s investigation of the Communist Party." These prior actions were instituted on all ad hoc basis as the opportunity arose. As Sullivan testified, "[Before 1956] we were engaged in COINTELPRO tactics, divide, confuse, weaken in diverse ways, all organization. . . . [Before 1956] it, was more sporadic. It depended on a given office. . . ." 69

In 1956, a series of field conferences was held to discuss the development of new security informants. The Smith Act trials and related proceedings had exposed over 100 informants, leaving the Bureau’s intelligence apparatus in some disarray. During the field conferences, a formal counterintelligence program was recommended, partly because of the gaps in the informant ranks. 70

Since the Bureau had evidence that until the late 1940s the CPUSA had been "blatantly" involved in Soviet espionage, and believed that the Soviets were continuing to use the Party for "political and intelligence purposes," 71 there was no clear line of demarcation in the Bureau’s switch from foreign to domestic counterintelligence. The initial areas of concentration were the use of informants to capitalize on the conflicts within the Party over Nikita Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin; to prevent the CP’s efforts to take over (via a merger) a broad-based socialist group; to encourage the Socialist Workers Party in its attacks on the CP; and to use the IRS to investigate underground CP members who either failed to file, or filed under false names.

As the program proceeded, other targets and techniques were developed, but until 1960 the CPUSA targets were Party members, and the techniques were aimed at the Party organization (factionalism, public exposure, etc.)

2. The 1960 Expansion. — In March 1960, CPUSA COINTELPRO field offices received a directive to intensify counterintelligence efforts to prevent Communist infiltration ("COMINFIL") of mass organizations, ranging from the NAACP 72 to a local scout troop. 73 The usual technique would be to tell a leader of the organization about the alleged Communist in its midst, the target, of course, being the alleged Communist rather than the organization. In an increasing number of cases, however, both the alleged Communist and the organization were targeted, usually by planting a news article about Communists active in the organization. For example, a newsman was given information about Communist participation in a SANE march, with the express purpose being to discredit SANE as well as the participants, and another newspaper was alerted to plans of Bettina Aptheker to join a United Farm Workers picket line. 74 The 1960 "COMINFIL" memorandum marks the beginning of the slide from targeting CP members to those allegedly under CP "influence" (such civil right’s leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr.) to "fellow travelers" (those, taking positions supported by the Communists, such as school integration, increased minority hiring, and opposition to HUAC.) 75

3. Socialist Workers Party. — The Socialist Workers Party ("SWP") COINTELPRO program was initiated on October 12, 1961, by the headquarters supervisor handling the SWP desk (but with Hoover’s concurrence) apparently on a theory of even-handed treatment: if the Bureau has a program against the CP, it was only fair to have one against the Trotskyites. (The COINTELPRO unit chief, in response to a question about why the Bureau targeted the SWP in view of the fact that the SWP’s hostility to the Communist Party had been useful in disrupting the CPUSA, answered, "I do not think that the Bureau discriminates against subversive organizations.") 76

The program was not given high priority — only 45 actions were approved — and was discontinued in 1969, two years before the other four programs ended. (The SWP program was then subsumed in the New Left COINTELPRO.) Nevertheless, it marks an important departure from the CPUSA COINTELPRO: although the-SWP had contacts with foreign Trotskyite groups, there was no evidence that the SWP was involved in espionage. These were, in C. D. Brennans phrase, "home grown tomatoes." 77 The Bureau has conceded that the SWP has never been engaged in organizational violence, nor has it taken any criminal steps toward overthrowing the country. 78

Nor does the Bureau claim the SWP was engaged in revolutionary acts. The Party was targeted for its rhetoric; significantly, the originating letter points to the SWPs "open" espousal of its line, "through running candidates for public office" and its direction and/or support of "such causes as Castro’s Cuba and integration problems arising in the South." Further, the American people had to be alerted to the fact that "the SWP is not just another socialist group but follows the revolutionary principles of Marx, Lenin, and Engles as interpreted by Leon Trotsky." 79

Like the CPUSA COINTELPRO, non-Party members were also targeted, particularly when the SWP and the Young Socialist Alliance (the SWP’s youth group) started to co-sponsor antiwar marches. 80

4. White Hate. — The Klan COINTELPRO began on July 30, 1964, with the transfer of the "responsibility for development of informants and gathering of intelligence on the KKK and other hate groups" from the General Investigative Division to the Domestic Intelligence Division. The memorandum recommending the reorganization also suggested that, "counterintelligence and disruption tactics be given further study by DID and appropriate recommendations made." 81

Accordingly, on September 2, 1964, a directive was sent to seventeen field offices instituting a COINTELPRO against Klan-type and hate organizations "to expose, disrupt, and otherwise neutralize the activities of the various Klans and hate organizations, their leadership, and adherents." 82 Seventeen Klan organizations and nine "hate" organizations (e.g., American Nazi Party, National States Rights Party, etc.) were listed as targets. The field offices were also instructed specifically to consider "Action Groups" — "the relatively few individuals in each organization who use strong arm tactics and violent actions to achieve their ends." 83 However, counterintelligence proposals were not to be limited to these few, but were to include any influential member if the opportunity arose. As the unit chief stated:

The emphasis was on determining the identity and exposing and neutralizing the violence prone activities of "Action Groups," but also it was important to expose the unlawful activities of other Klan organizations. We also made an effort to deter or counteract the propaganda and to deter violence and to deter recruitment where we could. This was done with the view that if we could curb the organization, we could curb the action or the violence within the organization. 84

The White Hate COINTELPRO appears to have been limited, with few exceptions, 85 to the original named targets. No "legitimate" right wing organizations were drawn into the program, in contrast with the earlier spread of the CPUSA and SWP programs to non members. This precision has been attributed by the Bureau to the superior intelligence on "hate" groups received by excellent informant penetration.

Bureau witnesses believe the Klan program to have been highly effective. The unit chief stated:

I think the Bureau got the job done.. I think that one reason we were able to get the job done was that we were able to use counterintelligence techniques. It is possible that we eventually could have done the job without counterintelligence techniques. I am not sure we could have done it as well or as quickly. 86

This view was shared by George C. Moore, Section Chief of the Racial Intelligence Section, which had responsibility for the White Hate and Black Nationalist COINTELPROs:

I think from what I have seen and what I have read, as far as the counterintelligence program on the, Klan is concerned, that it was effective. I think it was one of the most effective programs I have ever seen the Bureau handle as far as any group is concerned. 87

5. Black Nationalist-Hate Groups. 88 — In marked contrast to prior COINTELPROs, which grew out of years of intensive intelligence investigation, the Black Nationalist COINTELPRO and the racial intelligence investigative section were set up at about the same time in 1967.

Prior to that time, the Division’s investigation of "Negro matters" was limited to instances of alleged Communist infiltration of civil rights groups and to monitoring civil rights protest activity. However, the long, hot summer of 1967 led to intense pressure on the Bureau to do something to contain the problem, and once again, the Bureau heeded the call.

The originating letter was sent out to twenty-three field offices on August 25, 1967, describing the program’s purpose as

… to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist, hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters, and to counter their propensity for violence and civil disorder. . . . Efforts of the various groups to consolidate their forces or to recruit new or youthful adherents must be frustrated. 89

Initial group targets for "intensified attention" were the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Revolutionary Action Movement, Deacons for Defense and Justice, Congress of Racial Equality, and the Nation of Islam. Individuals named targets were Stokely Carmichael, H. "Rap" Brown, Elijah Muhammed, and Maxwell Stanford. The targets were chosen by conferring with Headquarters personnel supervising the racial cases; the list was not intended to exclude other groups known to the field.

According to the Black Nationalist supervisor, individuals and organizations were targeted because of their propensity for violence or their "radical or revolutionary rhetoric [and] actions":

Revolutionary would be [defined as] advocacy of the overthrow of the Government…. Radical [is] a loose term that might cover, for example, the separatist view of the Nation of Islam, the influence of a group called U.S. Incorporated…. Generally, they wanted a separate black nation…. They [the NOI] advocated formation of a separate black nation on the territory of five Southern states. 90

The letter went on to direct field offices to exploit conflicts within and between groups; to use news media contacts to disrupt, ridicule, or discredit groups; to preclude "violence-prone" or "rabble rouser" leaders of these groups from spreading their philosophy publicly; and to gather information on the "unsavory backgrounds" — immorality, subversive activity, and criminal activity– of group members. 91

According to George C. Moore, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was included because

… at that time it was still under investigation because of the communist infiltration. As far as I know, there were not any violent propensities, except that I note … in the cover memo [expanding the program] or somewhere, that they mentioned that if Martin Luther King decided to go a certain way, he could cause some trouble…. I cannot explain it satisfactorily . . . this is something the section inherited. 92

On March 4, 1968, the program was expanded from twenty-three to forty-one field offices. 93 The letter expanding the program lists five long-range goals for the program:

(1) to prevent the "coalition of militant black nationalist groups," which might be the first step toward a real "Mau Mau" in America;

(2) to prevent the rise of a "messiah" who could "unify, and electrify," the movement, naming specifically Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, and Elijah Muhammed;

(3) to prevent violence on the part of black nationalist groups, by pinpointing "potential troublemakers" and neutralizing them "before they exercise their potential for violence;"

(4) to prevent groups and leaders from gaining "respectability" by discrediting them to the "responsible" Negro community, to the white community (both the responsible community and the "liberals" — the distinction is the Bureau’s), and to Negro radicals; and

(5) to prevent the long range growth of these organizations, especially among youth, by developing specific tactics to "prevent these groups from recruiting young people." 94

6. The Panther Directives. — The Black Panther Party ("BPP") was not included in the first two lists of primary targets (August 1967 and March 1968) because it had not attained national importance. By November 1968, apparently the BPP had become sufficiently active to be considered a primary target. A letter to certain field offices with BPP activity dated November 25, 1968, ordered recipient offices to submit "imaginative and hard-hitting counterintelligence measures aimed at crippling the BPP." Proposals were to be received every two weeks. Particular attention was to be given to capitalizing upon the differences between the BPP and US, Inc. (Ron Karenga’s group), which had reached such proportions that "it is taking on the aura of gang warfare with attendant threats of murder and reprisals." 95

On January 30, 1969, this program against the BPP was expanded to additional offices, noting that the BPP was attempting to create a better image. In line with this effort, Bobby Seale was conducting a "purge" 96 of the party, including expelling police informants. Recipient offices were instructed to take advantage of the opportunity to further plant the seeds of suspicion concerning disloyalty among ranking officials. 97

Bureau witnesses are not certain whether the Black Nationalist program was effective. Mr. Moore stated:

I know that the … overall results of the Klan [COINTELPRO] was much more effective from what I have been told than the Black Extremism [COINTELPRO] because of the number of informants in the Klan who could take action which would be more effective. In the Black Extremism Group . . . we got a late start because we did not have extremist – activity [until] ’67 and ’68. Then we had to play catch-up…. It is not easy to measure effectiveness…. There were policemen killed in those days. There were bombs thrown. There were establishments burned with molotov cocktails…. We can measure that damage. You cannot measure over on the other side, what lives were saved because somebody did not leave the organization or suspicion was sown on his leadership and this organization gradually declined and [there was] suspicion within it, or this organization did not join with [that] organization as a result of a black power conference which was aimed towards consolidation efforts. All we know, either through their own ineptitude, maybe it emerged through counterintelligence, maybe, I think we like to think that that helped to do it, that there was not this development. . . . What part did counterintelligence [play?] We hope that it did play a part. Maybe we just gave it a nudge." 98

7. New Left. — The Internal Security Section had undergone a slow transition from concentrating on the "Old Left" — the CPUSA and SWP — to focusing primarily on the activities of the "New Left" — a term which had no precise definition within the Bureau. 99 Some agents defined "New Left" functionally, by connection with protests. Others defined it by philosophy, particularly antiwar philosophy.

On October 28, 1968, the fifth and final COINTELPRO was started against this undefined group. The program was triggered in part by the Columbia campus disturbance. Once again, law enforcement methods had broken down, largely (in the Bureau’s opinion) because college administrators refused to call the police on campus to deal with student demonstrations. The atmosphere at the time was described by the Headquarters agent who supervised the New Left COINTELPRO:

During that particular time, there was considerable public, Administration — I mean governmental Administration [and] news media interest in the protest movement to the extent that some groups, I don’t recall any specifics, but some groups were calling for something to be done to blunt or reduce the protest movements that were disrupting campuses. I can’t classify it as exactly an hysteria, but there was considerable interest [and concern]. That was the framework that we were working with…. It would be my impression that as a result of this hysteria, some governmental leaders were looking to the Bureau. 100

And, once again, the combination of perceived threat, public outcry, and law enforcement frustration produced a COINTELPRO.

According to the initiating letter, the counterintelligence program’s purpose was to "expose, disrupt, and otherwise neutralize," the activities of the various New Left organizations, their leadership, and adherents, with particular attention to Key Activists, "the moving forces behind the New Left." The final paragraph contains an exhortation to a "forward look, enthusiasm, and interest" because of the Bureau’s concern that "the anarchist activities of a few can paralyze institutions of learning, induction centers, cripple traffic, and tie the arms of law enforcement officials all to the detriment of our society." The internal memorandum recommending the program further sets forth the Bureau’s concerns:

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 document continues:

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. 101

Based on those factors, the Bureau decided to institute a new COINTELPRO.

8. New Left Directives. — The Bureau’s concern with "tying the hands of law enforcement officers," and with the perceived weakness of college administrators in refusing to call police onto the campus, led to a May 23, 1968, directive to all participating field offices to gather information on three categories of New Left activities:

(1) false allegations of police brutality, to "counter the wide-spread charges of police brutality that invariably arise following student-police encounters";

(2) immorality, depicting the "scurrilous and depraved nature of many of the characters, activities, habits, and living conditions representative of New Left adherents"; and

(3) action by college administrators, "to show the value of college administrators and school officials taking a firm stand," and pointing out "whether and to what extent faculty members rendered aid and encouragement."

The letter continues, "Every avenue of possible embarrassment must be vigorously and enthusiastically explored. It cannot be expected that information of this type will be easily obtained, and an imaginative approach by your personnel is imperative to its success." 103

The order to furnish information on "immorality" was not carried out with sufficient enthusiasm. On October 9, 1968, headquarters sent another letter to all offices, taking them to task for their failure to "remain alert for and to seek specific data depicting the depraved nature and moral looseness of the New Left" and to "use this material in a vigorous and enthusiastic approach to neutralizing them." 104 Recipient offices were again instructed to be "particularly alert for this type of data" 105 and told:

As the current school year commences, it can be expected that the New Left with its anti-war and anti-draft entourage will make every effort to confront college authorities, stifle military recruiting, and frustrate the Selective Service System. Each office will be expected, therefore, to afford this program continuous effective attention in order that no opportunity will be missed to destroy this insidious movement. 106

As to the police brutality and "college administrator" categories, the Bureau’s belief that getting tough with students and demonstrators would solve the problem, and that any injuries which resulted were deserved, is reflected in the Bureau’s reaction to allegations of police brutality following the Chicago Democratic Convention.

On August 28, 1968, a letter was sent to the Chicago field office instructing it to "obtain all possible evidence that would disprove these charges" [that the Chicago police used undue force] and to "consider measures by which cooperative news media may be used to counteract these allegations." The administrative "note" (for the file) states :

Once again, the liberal press and the bleeding hearts and the forces on the left are taking advantage of the situation in Chicago surrounding the Democratic National Convention to attack the police and organized law enforcement agencies…. We should be mindful of this situation and develop all possible evidence to expose this activity and to refute these false allegations. 107

In the same vein, on September 9, 1968, an instruction was sent to all offices which had sent informants to the Chicago convention demonstrations, ordering them to debrief the informants for information "indicating incidents were staged to show police reacted with undue force and any information that authorities were baited by militants into using force." 108 The offices were also to obtain evidence of possible violations of anti-riot laws. 109

The originating New Left letter had asked all recipient offices to respond with suggestions for counterintelligence action. Those responses were analyzed and a letter sent to all offices on July 6, 1968, setting forth twelve suggestions for counterintelligence action which could be utilized by all offices. Briefly the techniques are:

(1) preparing leaflets designed to discredit student demonstrators, using photographs of New Left leadership at the respective universities. "Naturally, the most obnoxious pictures should be used";

(2) instigating "personal conflicts or animosities" between New Left leaders;

(3) creating the impression that leaders are "informants for the Bureau or other law enforcement agencies";

(4) sending articles from student newspapers or the "underground press" which show the depravity of the New Left to university officials, donors, legislators, and parents. "Articles showing advocation of the use of narcotics and free sex are ideal";

(5) having members arrested on marijuana charges;

(6) sending anonymous letters about a student’s activities to parents, neighbors, and the parents’ employers. "This could have the effect of forcing the parents to take action";

(7) sending anonymous letters or leaflets describing the "activities and associations" of New Left faculty members and graduate assistants to university officials, legislators, Boards of Regents, and the press. "These letters should be signed ‘A Concerned Alumni,’ or ‘A Concerned Taxpayer’";

(8) using cooperative press contacts" to emphasize that the "disruptive elements" constitute a "minority" of the students. "The press should demand an immediate referendum on the issue in question";

(9) exploiting the "hostility" among the SDS and other New Left groups toward the SWP, YSA, and Progressive Labor Party;

(10) using "friendly news media” and law enforcement officials to disrupt New Left coffeehouses near military bases which are attempting to "influence members of the Armed Forces";

(11) using cartoons, photographs, and anonymous letters to "ridicule" the New Left, and

(12) using "misinformation" to "confuse and disrupt" New Left activities, such as by notifying members that events have been cancelled. 110

As noted earlier, the lack of any Bureau definition of "New Left" resulted in targeting almost every anti-war group, 111 and spread to students demonstrating against anything. One notable example is a proposal targeting a student who carried an "obscene" sign in a demonstration protesting administration censorship of the school newspaper, and another student who sent a letter to that paper defending the demonstration. 112 In another article regarding "free love" on a university campus was anonymously mailed to college administrators and state officials since free love allows "an atmosphere to build up on campus that will be a fertile field for the New Left." 113

None of the Bureau witnesses deposed believes the New Left COINTELPRO was generally effective, in part because of the imprecise targeting.


The origins of COINTELPRO demonstrate that the Bureau adopted extralegal methods to counter perceived threats to national security and public order because the ordinary legal processes were believed to be insufficient to do the job. In essence, the Bureau took the law into its own hands, conducting a sophisticated vigilante operation against domestic enemies.

The risks inherent in setting aside the laws, even though the, purpose seems compelling at the time, were described by Tom Charles Huston in his testimony before the Committee: 114

The risk was that you would get people who would be susceptible to political considerations as opposed to national security considerations, or would construe political considerations to be national security considerations, to move from the kid with a bomb to the kid with a picket sign, and from the kid with the picket sign to the kid with the bumper sticker of the opposing candidate. And you just keep going down the line. 115

The description is apt. Certainly, COINTELPRO took in a staggering range of targets. As noted earlier, the choice of individuals and organizations to be neutralized and disrupted ranged from the violent elements of the Black Panther Party to Martin Luther King, Jr., who the Bureau concedes was an advocate of nonviolence; from the Communist Party to the Ku Klux Klan; and from the advocates of violent revolution such as the Weathermen, to the supporters of peaceful social change, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Inter-University Committee for Debate on Foreign Policy.

The breadth of targeting springs partly from a lack of definition for the categories involved, and partly from the Bureau’s belief that dissident speech and association should be prevented because they were incipient steps toward the possible ultimate commission of an act which might be criminal. Thus, the Bureau’s self-imposed role as protector of the existing political and social order blurred the line between targeting criminal activity and constitutionally protected acts and advocacy.

The clearest example of actions directly aimed at the exercise of constitutional rights are those targeting speakers, teachers, writers or publications, and meetings or peaceful demonstrations. 116 Approximately 18 percent of all approved COINTELPRO proposals fell into these categories. 117

The cases include attempts (sometimes successful) to get university and high school teachers fired; to prevent targets from speaking on campus; to stop chapters of target groups from being formed; to prevent the distribution of books, newspapers, or periodicals; to disrupt news conferences; to disrupt peaceful demonstrations, including the SCLCs Washington Spring Project and Poor People’s Campaign, and most of the large antiwar marches; and to deny facilities for meetings or conferences.

A. Efforts to Prevent Speaking

An illustrative example of attacks on speaking concerns the plans of a dissident stockholders’ group to protest a large corporation’s war production at the annual stockholders meeting. 118 The field office was authorized to furnish information about the group’s plans (obtained from paid informants in the group) to a confidential source in the company’s management. The Bureau’s purpose was not only to "circumvent efforts to disrupt the corporate meeting," but also to prevent any attempt to "obtain publicity or embarrass" corporate officials. 119

In another case, 120 anonymous telephone calls were made to the editorial desks of three newspapers in a Midwestern city, advising them that a lecture to be given on a university campus was actually being sponsored by a Communist-front organization. The university had recently lifted its ban on Communist speakers on campus and was experiencing some political difficulty over this decision. The express purpose of the phone calls was to prevent a Communist-sponsored speaker from appearing on campus and, for a time, it appeared to have worked. One of the newspapers contacted the director of the university’s conference center. He in turn discussed the meeting with the president of the university who decided to cancel the meeting. 121 The sponsoring organization, supported by the ACLU, took the case to court, and won a ruling that the university could not bar the speaker. (Bureau headquarters then ordered the field office to furnish information on the judge.) Although the lecture went ahead as scheduled, headquarters commended the field office for the affirmative results of its suggestion: the sponsoring organization had been forced to incur additional expense and attorneys’ fees, and had received newspaper exposure of its "true communist character."

B. Efforts to Prevent Teaching

Teachers were targeted because the Bureau believed that they were in a unique position to "plant the seeds of communism [or whatever ideology was under attack] in the minds of unsuspecting youth." Further, as noted earlier, it was believed that a teacher’s position gave respectability to whatever cause he supported. In one case, a high school teacher was targeted for inviting two poets to attend a class at his school. The poets were noted for their efforts in the draft resistance movement. This invitation led to an investigation by the local police, which in turn provoked sharp criticism from the ACLU. The field office was authorized to send anonymous letters to two local newspapers, to the city Board of Education, and to the high school administration, suggesting that the ACLU should not criticize the police for probing into high school activities, "but should rather have focused attention on [the teacher] who has been a convicted draft dodger." The letter continued, "[the teacher] is the assault on academic freedom and not the local police." The purpose of the letter, according to Bureau documents, was "to highlight [the teacher’s] antidraft activities at the local high school" and to "discourage any efforts" he may make there. The letter was also intended to "show support for the local police against obvious attempts by the New Left to agitate in the high schools." 122 No results were reported.

In another case, 123 a university professor who was "an active participant in New Left demonstrations" had publicly surrendered his draft card and had been arrested twice, (but not convicted) in antiwar demonstrations. The Bureau decided that the professor should be "removed from his position" at the university. The field office was authorized to contact a "confidential source" at a foundation which contributed substantial funds to the university, and "discreetly suggest that the [foundation] may desire to call to the attention of the University administration questions concerning the advisability of [the professor’s] continuing his position there." The foundation official was told by the university that the professor’s contract would not be renewed, but in fact the professor did continue to teach. The following academic year, therefore, the field office was authorized to furnish additional information to the foundation official on the professor’s arrest and conviction (with a, suspended sentence) in another demonstration. No results were reported.

In a third instance, the Bureau attempted to "discredit and neutralize" a university professor and the Inter-University Committee for Debate on Foreign Policy, in which lie was active. The field office was authorized to send a fictitious name letter to influential state political figures, the mass media, university administrators, and the Board of Regents, accusing the professor and "his protesting cohorts" of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy," and wondering "if the strategy is to bleed the United States white by prolonging the war in Vietnam and pave the way for a takeover by Russia." No results were reported. 124

C. Efforts to Prevent Writing and Publishing

The Bureau’s purpose in targeting attempts to speak was explicitly to prevent the "propagation" of a target’s philosophy and to deter "recruitment" of new members. Publications and writers appear to have been targeted for the same reasons. In one example, 125 two university instructors were targeted solely because they were influential in the publication of and contributed financial support to a student "underground" newspaper whose editorial policy was described as "left-of-center, anti-establishment, and opposed [to] the University administration." The Bureau believed that if the two instructors were forced to withdraw their support of the newspaper, it would "fold and cease publication. . . . This would eliminate what voice the New Left has in the area." Accordingly, the field office was authorized to send an anonymous letter to a university official furnishing information concerning the instructors’ association with the newspaper, with a warning that if the university did not persuade the instructors to cease their support, the letter’s author would be forced to expose their activities publicly. The field office reported that as a result of this technique, both teachers were placed on probation by the university president, which would prevent them from getting any raises.

Newspapers were a common target. The Black Panther Party paper was the subject of a number of actions, both because of its contents and because it was a source of income for the Party. 126 Other examples include contacting the landlord of premises rented by two "New Left" newspapers in an attempt to get them evicted; 121 an anonymous letter to a state legislator protesting the distribution on campus of an underground newspaper "representative of the type of mentality that is following the New Left theory of immorality on certain college campuses"; 128 a letter signed "Disgusted Taxpayer and Patron" to advertisers in a student newspaper intended to "increase pressure on the student newspaper to discontinue the type of journalism that had been employed” (an article had quoted a demonstrator’s "vulgar Ianguage"); 129 and proposals (which, according to the Bureau’s response to a staff inquiry, were never carried out) to physically disrupt printing plants. 130

D. Efforts to Prevent Meeting

The Bureau also attempted to prevent target groups from meeting. Frequently used techniques include contacting the, owner of meeting facilities in order to have him refuse to rent to the group; 131 trying to have a group’s charter revoked; 132 using the press to disrupt a "closed" meeting by arriving unannounced; 133 and attempting to persuade sponsors to withdraw funds. 134 The most striking examples of attacks meeting, however, involve the use of "disinformation." 135

In one "disinformation" case, the Chicago Field Office duplicated blank forms prepared by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam ("NMC") soliciting housing for demonstators coming to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention. Chicago filled out 217 of these forms with fictitious names and addresses and sent them to the NMC, which provided them to demonstrators who made "long and useless journeys to locate these addresses." The NMC then decided to discard all replies received on the housing forms rather than have out-of-town demonstrators try to locate nonexistent addresses. 136 (The same program was carried out when the Washington Mobilization Committee distributed housing forms for demonstrators coming to Washington for the 1969 Presidential inaugural ceremonies.) 137

In another case, during the demonstrations accompanying inauguration ceremonies, the Washington Field Office discovered that NMC marshals were using walkie-talkies to coordinate their movements and activities. WFO used the same citizen band to supply the marshals with misinformation and, pretending to be an NMC unit, countermanded NMC orders. 138

In a third case 139 a midwest field office disrupted arrangements for state university students to attend the 1969 inaugural demonstrations by making a series of anonymous telephone calls to the transportation company. The calls were designed to confuse both the transportation company and the SDS leaders as to the cost of transportation and the time and place for leaving and returning. This office also placed confusing leaflets around the campus to show different times and places for demonstration-planning meetings, as well as conflicting times and dates for traveling to Washington.

In a fourth instance, the "East Village Other" planned to bomb the Pentagon with flowers during the 1967 NMC rally in Washington. The New York office answered the ad for a pilot, and kept up the pretense right to the point at which the publisher showed up at the airport with 200 pounds of flowers, with no one to fly the plane. Thus, the Bureau was able to prevent this "agitational-propaganda activity as relates to dropping flowers over Washington." 140

The cases discussed above are just a few examples of the Bureau’s direct attack on speaking, teaching, writing and meeting. Other instances include targeting the New Mexico Free University for teaching, among other things, "confrontation politics" and "draft counseling training." 141 In another case, an editorial cartoonist for a northeast newspaper was asked to prepare a cartoon which would "ridicule and discredit" a group of antiwar activists who traveled to North Vietnam to inspect conditions there; the cartoon was intended to "depict [the individuals] as traitors to their country for traveling to North Vietnam and making utterances against the foreign policy of the United States." 142 A professor was targeted for being the faculty advisor to a college group which circulated "The Student As Nigger" on campus."’ A professor conducting a study on the effect and social costs of McCarthyism was targeted because he sought information and help from the American Institute of Marxist Studies. 144 Contacts were made with three separate law schools in an attempt to keep a teaching candidate from being hired, or once hired, from getting his contract renewed. 145

The attacks on speaking, teaching, writing, and meeting have been examined in some detail because they present, in their purist form, the consequences of acting outside the legal process. Perhaps the Bureau was correct in its assumption that words lead to deeds, and that larger group membership produces a greater risk of violence. Nevertheless, the law draws the line between criminal acts and constitutionally protected activity, and that line must be kept. 146 As Justice Brandeis declared in a different context fifty years ago:

Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people, by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law: it invites every man to become a law unto himself. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means — to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of the private criminal — would bring terrible retribution. Against the pernicious doctrine this Court should resolutely set its face. Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 439,485 (1927)


The techniques used in COINTELPRO were — and are — used against hostile foreign intelligence agents. Sullivan’s testimony that the "rough, tough, dirty business” 147 of foreign counterintelligence was brought home against domestic enemies was corroborated by George Moore, whose Racial Intelligence Section supervised the White Hate and Black Nationalist COINTELPROs:

You can trace [the origins] up and back to foreign intelligence, particularly penetration of the group by the individual informant. Before you can engage in counterintelligence you must have intelligence …. If you have good intelligence and know what it’s going to do, you can seed distrust, sow misinformation. The same technique is used in the foreign field. The same technique is used, misinformation, disruption, is used in the domestic groups, although in the domestic groups you are dealing in ’67 and ’68 with many, many more across the country … than you had ever dealt with as far as your foreign groups. 148

The arsenal of techniques used in the Bureau’s secret war against domestic enemies ranged from the trivial to the life endangering. Slightly more than a quarter of all approved actions were intended to promote factionalization within groups and between groups; a roughly equal number of actions involved the creation and dissemination of propaganda. 149 Other techniques involved the use of federal, state, and local agencies in selective law enforcement, and other use (and abuse) of government processes; disseminating derogatory information to family, friends, and associates; contacting employers; exposing "communist infiltration" or support of target groups; and using organizations which were hostile to target groups to disrupt meetings or otherwise attack the targets.

A. Propaganda

The Bureau’s COINTELPRO propaganda efforts stem from the same basic premise as the attacks on speaking, teaching, writing and meeting: propaganda works. Certain ideas are dangerous, and if their expression cannot be prevented, they should be countered with Bureau-approved views. Three basic techniques were used: (1) mailing reprints of newspaper and magazine articles to group members or potential supporters intended to convince them of the error of their ways; (2) writing articles for or furnishing information to "friendly" media sources to "expose" target groups; 150 and (3) writing, printing, and disseminating pamphlets and fliers without identifying the Bureau as the source.

1. Reprint Mailings

The documents contain case after case of articles and newspaper clippings being mailed (anonymously, of course) to group members. The Jewish members of the Communist Party appear to have been inundated with clippings dealing with Soviet mistreatment of Jews. Similarly, Jewish supporters of the Black Panther Party received articles from the BPP newspaper containing anti-Semitic statements. College administrators received reprints of a Reader’s Digest article 151 and a Barron’s article on campus disturbances intended to persuade them to "get tough." 152

Perhaps only one example need be examined in detail, and that only because it clearly sets forth the purpose of propaganda reprint mailings. Fifty copies of an article entitled "Rabbi in Vietnam Says Withdrawal Not the Answer," escribed as "an excellent article in support of United States foreign policy in Vietnam," were mailed to certain unnamed professors and members of the Vietnam Day Committee "who have no other subversive organizational affiliations." The purpose of the mailing was "to convince [the recipients] of the correctness of the U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam." 153

Reprint mailings would seem to fall under Attorney General Levi’s characterization of much of COINTELPRO as "foolishness." 154 They violate no one’s civil rights, but should the Bureau be in the anonymous propaganda business?

2. "Friendly” Media

Much of the Bureau’s propaganda efforts involved giving information or articles to "friendly" media sources who could be relied upon not to reveal the Bureau’s interests. 155 The Crime Records Division of the Bureau was responsible for public relations, including all headquarters contacts with the media. In the course of its work (most of which had nothing to do with COINTELPRO) the Division assembled a list of "friendly" news media sources — those who wrote pro-Bureau stories. 156 Field offices also had "confidential sources" (unpaid Bureau informants) in the media, and were able to ensure their cooperation.

The Bureau’s use of the news media took two different forms: placing unfavorable articles and documentaries about targeted groups, and leaking derogatory information intended to discredit individuals. 157

A typical example of media propaganda is the headquarters letter authorizing the Boston Field Office to furnish "derogatory information about the Nation of Islam (NOI) to established source [name excised)": 158

Your suggestions concerning material to furnish [name] are good. Emphasize to him that the NOI predilection for violence, preaching of race hatred, and hypocrisy, should be exposed. Material furnished [name] should be either public source or known to enough people as to protect your sources. Insure the Bureau’s interest in this matter is completely protected by [name]. 160

In another case, information on the Junta of Militant Organizations ("JOMO", a Black Nationalist target) was furnished to a source at a Tampa television station. 161 Ironically, the station manager, who had no knowledge of the Bureau’s involvement, invited the Special Agent in Charge, his assistant, and other agents to a preview of the half-hour film which resulted. The SAC complimented the station manager on his product, and suggested that it be made available to civic groups. 162

A Miami television station made four separate documentaries (on the Klan, Black Nationalist groups, and the New Left) with materials secretly supplied by the Bureau. One of the documentaries, which had played to an estimated audience of 200,000, was the subject of an internal memorandum "to advise of highly successful results of counterintelligence, exposing the black extremist Nation of Islam."

[Excised] was elated at the response. The station received more favorable telephone calls from viewers than the switchboard could handle. Community leaders have commented favorably on the program, three civic organizations have asked to show the film to their members as a public service, and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office plans to show the film to its officers and in connection with its community service program.

This expose showed that NOI leaders are of questionable character and live in luxury through a large amount of money taken as contributions from their members. The extreme nature of NOI teachings was underscored. Miami sources advised the expose has caused considerable concern to local NOI leaders who have attempted to rebut the program at each open meeting of the NOI since the program was presented. Local NOI leaders plan a rebuttal in the NOI newspaper. Attendance by visitors at weekly NOI meetings has dropped 50%. This shows the value of carefully planned counterintelligence action. 163

The Bureau also planted derogatory articles about the Poor People’s Campaign, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Southern Students Organizing Committee, the National Mobilization Committee, and a host of other organizations it believed needed to be seen in their "true light."

3. Bureau-Authored Pamphlets and Fliers.

The Bureau occasionally drafted, printed, and distributed its own propaganda. These pieces were usually intended to ridicule their targets, rather than offer "straight" propaganda on the issue. Four of these fliers are reproduced in the following pages.

NOTE: Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 1/14/70; memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 1/20/70.

NOTE: Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/7/69; memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 2/14/69.

NOTE: Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 1/21/69; memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 1/24/69.

NOTE: Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 8/5/69; memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 8/11/69.

B. Effects to Promote Enmity and Factionalism Within Groups or Between Groups

Approximately 28% of the Bureau’s COINTELPRO efforts were designed to weaken groups by setting members against each other, or to separate groups which might otherwise be allies, and convert them into mutual enemies. The techniques used included anonymous mailings (reprints, Bureau-authored articles and letters) to group members criticizing a leader or an allied group; 164 using informants to raise controversial issues; forming a "notional" — a Bureau run splinter group — to draw away membership from the target organization; encouraging hostility up to and including gang warfare between rival groups; and the "snitch jacket."

1. Encouraging Violence Between Rival Groups

The Bureau’s attempts to capitalize on active hostility between target groups carried with them the risk of serious physical injury to the targets. As the Black Nationalist supervisor put it:

It is not easy [to judge the risks inherent in this technique]. You make the best judgment you can based on all the circumstances and you always have an element of doubt where you are dealing with individuals that I think most people would characterize as having a degree of instability. 65

The Bureau took that risk. The Panther directive instructing recipient officers to encourage the differences between the Panthers and U.S., Inc. which were "taking on the aura of gang warfare with attendant threats of murder and reprisals," 166 is just one example.

A separate report on disruptive efforts aimed at the Panthers will examine in detail the Bureau’s attempts to foment violence. These efforts included anonymously distributing cartoons which pictured the U.S. organization gloating over the corpses of two murdered Panthers, and suggested that other BPP members would be next, 167 and sending a New Jersey Panther leader the following letter which purported to be from an SDS member: 168

"To Former Comrade [name]

"As one of ‘those little bourgeois, snooty nose’ — ‘little schoolboys’ — ‘Iittle sissies’ Dave Hilliard spoke of in the ‘Guardian’ of 8/16/69, I would like to say that you and the rest of you black racists can go to hell. I stood shoulder to shoulder with Carl Nichols last year in Military Park in Newark and got my a— whipped by a Newark pig all for the cause of the wineheads like you and the rest of the black pussycats that call themselves Panthers. Big deal, you have to have a three hour educational session just to teach those … (you all know what that means don’t you! It’s the first word your handkerchief head mamma teaches you) how to spell it.

"Who the hell set you and the Panthers up as the vanguard of the revolutionary and disciplinary group. You can tell all those wineheads you associate with that you’ll kick no one’s ‘… a—,’ because you’d have to take a three year course in spelling to know what an a— is and three more years to be taught where it’s located.

"Julius Lester called the BPP the vanguard (that’s leader) organization so international whore Cleaver calls him racist, now when full allegiance is not given to the Panthers, again racist. What the hell do you want? Are you getting this? Are you lost? If you’re not digging then you’re really hopeless.

"Oh yes! We are not concerned about Hilliard’s threats.

"Brains will win over brawn. The way the Panthers have retaliated against US is another indication. The score: US-6: Panthers-0.

"Why, I read an article in the Panther paper where a California Panther sat in his car and watched his friend get shot by Karenga’s group and what did he do? He run back and write a full page story about how tough the Panthers are and what they’re going to do. Ha Ha — B — S –.

"Goodbye [name] baby-and watch out. Karenga’s coming.

"’Right On’ as they say."

An anonymous letter was also sent to the leader of the Blackstone Rangers, a Chicago gang "to whom violent type activity, shooting, and the like, are second nature," advising him that "the brothers that run the Panthers blame you for blocking their thing and there’s supposed to be a hit out for you." The letter was intended to "intensify the degree of animosity between the two groups" and cause "retaliatory action which could disrupt the BPP or lead to reprisals against its leadership." 169


What’s with this bull—- SDS outfit? I’ll tell you what they has finally showed there true color White. They are just like the commies and all the other white radical groups that suck up to the blacks and use us. We voted at our meeting in Oakland for community control over the pigs but SDS says no. Well we can do with out them mothers. We can do it by ourselfs.


Soul Brother Jake

In another case, the Bureau tried to promote violence, not between violent groups, but between a possibly violent person and another target. The field office was given permission to arrange a meeting between an SCLC officer and the leader of a small group described as "anti-Vietnam black nationalist [veterans’] organization." The leader of the veterans’ group was known to be upset because he was not receiving funds from the SCLC. He was also known to be on leave from a mental hospital, and the Bureau had been advised that he would be recommitted if he were arrested on any charge. It was believed that "if the confrontation occurs at SCLC headquarters," the veterans’ group leader "will lose his temper, start a fight," and the "police will be called in." The purpose was to "neutralize" the leader by causing his commitment to a mental hospital, and to gain "unfavorable publicity for the SCLC." 170

At least four assaults — two of them on women — were reported as "results" of Bureau actions. The San Diego field office claimed credit for three of them. In one case, US members "broke into" a BPP meeting and "roughed up" a woman member. 171

In the second instance, a critical newspaper article in the Black Panther paper was sent to the US leader. The field office noted that "the possibility exists that some sort of retaliatory actions will be taken against the BPP." 172 The prediction proved correct; the field office reported that as a result of this mailing, members of US assaulted a Panther newspaper vendor. 173 The third assault occurred after the San Diego Police Department, acting on a tip from the Bureau that "sex orgies" were taking place at Panther headquarters, raided the premises. (The police department conducted a "research project," discovered two outstanding traffic warrants for a BPP member, and used the warrants to gain entry.) The field office reported that as a "direct result" of the raid, the woman who allowed the officers into the BPP headquarters had been "severely beaten up" by other members." 174

In the fourth case, the New Haven field office reported that an informant had joined in a "heated conversation" between several group members and sided with one of the parties "in order to increase the tension." The argument ended with members hitting each other. The informant "departed the premises at this point, since he felt that he had been successful, causing a flammable situation to erupt into a fight." 175

2. Anonymous Mailings

The Bureau’s use of anonymous mailings to promote factionalism range from the relatively bland mailing of reprints or fliers criticizing a group’s leaders for living ostentatiously or being ineffective speakers, to reporting a chapter’s infractions to the group’s headquarters intended to cause censure or disciplinary action.

Critical letters were also sent to one group purporting to be from another, or from a member of the group registering a protest over a proposed alliance.

For instance, the Bureau was particularly concerned with the alliance between the SDS and the Black Panther Party. A typical example of anonymous mailing intended to separate these groups is a letter sent to the Black Panther newspaper: 176 [sic – report did not contain text of letter. – PW]

In a similar vein, is a letter mailed to Black Panther and New Left leaders. 177

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Since when do us Blacks have to swallow the dictates of the honky SDS? Doing this only hinders the Party progress in gaining Black control over Black people. We’ve been over by the white facists pigs and the Man’s control over our destiny. We’re sick and tired of being severly brutalized, denied our rights and treated like animals by the white pigs. We say to hell with the SDS and its honky intellectual approaches which only perpetuate control of Black people by the honkies.

The Black Panther Party theory for community control is the only answer to our problems and that is to be followed and enforced by all means necessary to insure control by Blacks over all police departments regardless of whether they are run by honkies or uncle toms.

The damn SDS is a paper organization with a severe case of diarhea of the mouth which has done nothing but feed us lip service. Those few idiots calling themselves weathermen run around like kids on halloween. A good example is their "militant" activities at the Northland Shopping Center a couple of weeks ago. They call themselves revolutionaries but take a look at who they are. Most of them come from well heeled families even by honky standards. They think they’re helping us Blacks but their futile, misguided and above all white efforts only muddy the revolutionary waters.

The time has come for an absolute break with any non-Black group and especially those

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