This complete document can be purchased from the AGWVA. Just click on the above banner for more info.
SUPPLEMENTARY DETAILED STAFF REPORTS
THE FBI'S COVERT ACTION PROGRAMS
|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|
|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|
|B. The programs||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|
|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|
|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|
|4. Blurred distinction between counterintelligence and investigation||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|
COINTELPRO: THE FBI'S COVERT ACTION PROGRAMS
AGAINST AMERICAN CITIZENS
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.
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
Gulf War Vets Home Page.