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94th Congress
2d Session


No. 94-755













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






I. Introduction and Summary 3
    A. "Counterintelligence program": a misnomer for domestic covert action 4
    B. Who were the targets? 4
         1. The five targeted groups 4
         2. Labels without meaning 4
    C. What were the purposes of COINTELPRO 5
         1. Protecting national security 5
         2. Preventing violence 6
         3. Maintaining the existing social and political order 6
    D. What techniques were used? 7
         1. The techniques of wartime 7
         2. Techniques carrying a serious risk of physical, emotional, or economic damage 9
    E. Legal restrictions were ignored 10
    F. Command and control 11
         1. 1956 - 71 11
         2. Post 1971 12
    G. Termination 12
         1. The grey area between counterintelligence and investigation 12
         2. Is COINTELPRO continuing 13
         3. The future of COINTELPRO 14
II. The Five Domestic Programs 15
    A. Origins 15
    B. The programs 16
         1. CPUSA 16
         2. The 1960 expansion 17
         3. Socialist Workers Party 17
         4. White hate 18
         5. Black nationalist hate groups 20
         6. The Panther directives 22
         7. New Left 23
         8. New Left directives 24
III. The Goals of COINTELPRO: Preventing or Disrupting the Exercise of First Amendment Rights 27
    A. Efforts to prevent speaking 28
    B. Efforts to prevent teaching 29
    C. Efforts to prevent writing and publishing 30
    D. Efforts to prevent meeting 31
IV. COINTELPRO techniques 33
    A. Propaganda 34
         1. Reprint mailings 34
         2. "Friendly" media 35
         3. Bureau-authored pamphlets and fliers 37
    B. Efforts to promote enmity and factionalism within groups or between groups 40
         1. Encouraging violence between rival groups 40
         2. Anonymous mailings 43
         3. Interviews 44
         4. Using informants to raise controversial issues 44
         5. Fictitous organizations 45
         6. Labeling targets as informants 46
    C. Using hostile third parties against target groups 49
    D. Disseminating derogatory information to family, friends, and associates 50
    E. Contacts with employers 56
    F. Use and abuse of Government processes 57
         1. Selective law enforcement 57
         2. Interference with judicial process 58
         3. Candidates and political appointees 59
         4. Investigating committees 60
    G. Exposing "Communist infiltration" of groups 60
V. Command and Control: The Problem of Oversight 62
    A. Within the Bureau 62
         1. Internal administration 62
         2. Coordination 62
         3. Results 62
         4. Blurred distinction between counterintelligence and investigation 63
         5. Inspection 63
    B. Outside the Bureau: 1956 - 71 64
         1. Executive branch 65
         2. The cabinet 69
         3. Legilative branch 70
    C. Outside the Bureau: Post - 1971 73
VI. Epilogue 76





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 designed 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 this 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.

1 On March 8, 1971, the FBI resident agency in Media, Pennsylvania, was broken into. Documents stolen in the break-in were widely circulated and published by the press. Since some of the documents carried "COINTELPRO" caption -- a word unknown outside the Bureau -- Carl Steru, a reporter for NBC, commenced a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to compel the Bureau to produce other documents relating to the programs. The Bureau decided because of "security reasons" to terminate them on April 27, 1971. (Memorandum from C. D. Brennan to W. C. Sullivan, 4/27/71; Letter from FBI headquarters to all SAC's, 4/28/71.)
2 The Bureau's direct attacks on speaking, teaching, writing, and meeting are discussed at pp. 28-33, attempts to prevent the growth of groups are set forth at pp. 34-40.




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."

"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.

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." Indeed, the nonviolent Southern Christian Leadership Conference was labeled as a Black Nationalist "Hate Group." Nor could anyone at the Bureau even define "New Left," except as "more or less an attitude."

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



conducted with the knowledge of the Attorney General and were predicated on vague executive directives and broad statutes.24
  The FBI kept close watch on Dr. King and the SCLC long before opening its formal investigation. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover reacted to the formation of the SCLC in 1957 by reminding agents in the field of the need for vigilance.

In the absence of any indication that the Communist Party has attempted, or is attempting, to infiltrate this organization you should conduct no investigation in this matter. However, in view of the stated purpose of the organization, you should remain alert for public source information concerning it in connection with the racial situation.25

  In May 1962 the FBI had included Dr. King on "Section A of the Reserve Index" as a person to be rounded up and detained in the event of a "national emergency."26 During this same period the FBI

"(e) Communist Party program to infiltrate this organization and influence its policy."
"(f) Results of this program, including Communist Party affiliations of officers and members."
Clarence Kelley, the present Director of the FBI, was asked by the Committee:
"Taking the current manual and trying to understand its applicability laid against the facts in the Martin Luther King case, under section 87permission is granted to open investigations of the influence of non-subversive groups, and the first sentence reads: 'When information is received indicating that a subversive group is seeking to systematically infilltrate and control a non-subversive group or organization, an investigation can be opened.' "
"Now I take it that is the same standard that was used in opening the investigation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960's, so that investigation could still be opened today under the current FBI manual?"

Mr. Kelley. "I think so."
(Clarence Kelley testimony, 12/10/75, Hearings, Vol 6, p. 308.)
24 See Report on the Development of FBI Domestic Investigations, p. 479.
25 Memorandum from Director, FBI to Special Agent in Charge, Atlanta, 9/20/57. The "stated purpose" of the SCLC was to organize a register-and-vote campaign among Negroes in the South. (Trezz Anderson, Pittsburgh Courier, 8/17/57.) Considerable "public source" information was recorded in FBI files both before and after this date.
26 The action memorandum stated that Dr. King's name "should be placed in Section A of the Reserve Index and tabbed communist." (Memorandum from director, FBI, to SAC, Atlanta, 5/11/62.) Persons to be listed in Section A of the Reserve Index were described by the FBI as people "who in time of national emergency, are in a position to influence others against the national interest or are likely to furnish material financial aid to subversive elements dueto their subversive associations and ideology." The types of persons to be listed in Section A included:
"(a) Professors, teachers or leaders;
"(b) Labor union organizers or leaders;
"(c) Writers, lecturers, newsmen, entertainers, and others in the mass media field;
"(d) Lawyers, doctors, and scientists;
"(e) Other potentially influential persons on a local or national level;
"(f) Individuals who could potentially furnish material finacial aid." See
committee staff report on Development of FBI Domestic Intelligence Investigations.
Dr. King was placed on the Reserve Index despite the fact that as late as November 1961 the Atlanta Field Office had advised FBI Headquarters that there was "no information on which to base a security matter.


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