Friday, December 17, 2010

FBI anti-terrorist "stings" bring flashback to COINTELPRO days

In his book “War at Home,” Brian Glick discussed the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program—“COINTELPRO”—a program during the 1960s that “secretly instructed its field offices to propose schemes to ‘expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize’ specific individuals and groups.” Nor were these activities merely a rogue operation within the bureau: “Close coordination with local police and prosecutors was strongly encouraged. Other recommended collaborators included friendly news media, business and foundation executives, and university, church, and trade union officials, as well as such "patriotic" organizations as the American Legion.” The principle target of COINTELPRO operations were militant black groups like the Black Panthers, and the early morning murder by Chicago police of Panther leader Fred Hampton while he was apparently asleep was almost certainly one these operations. But any left-leaning organization could be a target, whether “radical” Chicanos, “New Left” white students or “socialist” political parties. Agents under J. Edgar Hoover’s direction infiltrated these groups, planting seeds of distrust within and among “leftist” groups, while the FBI’s law enforcement cohorts supplied the “muscle,” officially sanctioned assassinations and deliberately perjured testimony before juries. Various means were used by the FBI to make these attacks “acceptable” to the mainstream public, often by putting out forged, faked or misleading information to the media. During congressional hearings in the 1970s, the FBI admitted to about 2,500 of these operations, but there were thousands more of a highly irregular and highly illegal nature that they didn’t admit to.

Although the FBI did investigate a few high profile civil rights murders when white victims were involved (such as the Neshoba County, Mississippi murder of three civil rights workers in 1964), the FBI was more likely to employ white supremacists. “Under the cover of being even-handed and going after violent right-wing groups, the FBI actually gave covert aid to the Ku Klux Klan, Minutemen, Nazis, and other racist vigilantes. These groups received substantial funds, information, and protection-and suffered only token FBI harassment-so long as they directed their violence against COINTELPRO targets," writes Glick. "They were not subjected to serious disruption unless they breached this tacit understanding and attacked established business and political leaders." It is also useful to point out that during the 1990s and 2000s, when domestic terrorists like the Unabomber, Timothy McVeigh, the Anthrax letter sender and Joe Stark—all white—flew completely under the FBI’s radar, white supremacists involved in killings and harassment were also not surprisingly not brought to justice by the FBI, but through the efforts of civil rights organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Today, the FBI, having repeated failures to uncover real terrorist acts like 9-11 and the shoe bomber, have returned to the old ways of the 1960s, if not necessarily the same tactics. It still targets the “usual” suspects per white paranoia, often by merely surfing the internet for crackpots and people with vaguely “anti-American” sentiments, meaning minorities unhappy with the state of society. Once a suitable “suspect” has been identified, he or his “cell” is infiltrated, given misleading information, provided phony material and then after an arrest the media is given a suitably propagandized cover story. Thus the Miami 7 and Jose Padilla were essentially framed by the FBI; the 7 were merely a pseudo-religious organization that frightened the neighbors, with strange ideas but no substance, while Padilla was tortured for years without charge until federal prosecutors were essentially forced to abandon their original rationale for arresting him, and invented a charge based largely on law enforcement testimony that one suspects was perjured or “enhanced.”

More recently, the FBI appears to be even more brazen in its attempts to manufacture minority “terrorists.” The charging of a 19-year-old Somali, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, and 21-year-old Antonio Martinez on terrorism charges suggests FBI invention. Neither appears to have had the means, the contacts or more to the point the desire to go beyond their angry bluster without this “intervention.” Undercover FBI agents found these youths easy marks for entrapment. It was the agents—not the suspects—who from first to last established first the idea, then the time, place and material; what the evidence suggests is that the suspects were merely along for the ride. Without FBI involvement, even the potential for a crime occurring at all is barely debatable. In a recent USA Today cover story, it was noted that even the FBI’s most inflammatory evidence against Martinez—an alleged conversation with an agent in which he expressed the desire to go “operational” but needed the training—was oddly not recorded, due to “technical difficulties.”

Like its predecessor in the 1960s, the FBI is engaging in racial-targeting, in keeping with prevailing stereotypes and paranoia; it is also taking advantage of the media’s refusal to examine the culture behind discontent both domestically and internationally. But unlike the COINTELPRO operations, today the FBI—while not engaged in assassinating “militants” or undermining liberal organizations (the corporate media does that just fine)—is perhaps engaging in something much more sinister: instead of stopping “terrorists,” it is creating them for public consumption, a ruse to “prove” that they are engaging in effective counter-terrorism. While the hardcore terrorists keep tight-knit company with only those operatives they know, the FBI is entrapping susceptible young men and teenagers who left to their own devices would simply be guilty of nothing more than having bad attitudes and bravado.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately Cointelopro never ended - at least not in Seattle. In 1981 the FBI colluded with Marcos agents to gun down Filipino cannery workers and union organizers Domingo and Viernes. Between 1981-2002, they infiltrated and shut down four organizations I worked with: CISPES, Seattle chapter of ISO, the African American Museum support committee, and Washington Single Payer action network. They were implicated in at least two "death squad" suspicious deaths of black activists. In one case, the 1989 murder of an African American postal worker and union activist, US intelligence blocked a homicide investigation by seizing the evidence file from the Seattle police. I write about all this in my recent memoir THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE ( I currently live in exile in New Zealand.