The COINTELPRO LegacyRevolutionary Worker #1206, July 6, 2003, posted at rwor.org
In the course of the late 1960s and early 1970s the FBI--working closely with the "red squads" of local police departments--conducted a massive campaign to undermine political opposition through its COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Programs) operations.
The Black Panther Party was targeted particularly viciously. FBI informants were sent to infiltrate the organization. Panthers were victims of police beatings, shootouts, break-ins, wiretaps, and murder. Leaders were a focus of attack. Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt), a Panther leader in California, was railroaded for murder and spent decades in prison. The FBI knew from their own wiretaps that Geronimo was 400 miles away from scene of the crime that he was accused of committing.
Chicago Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were assassinated in a 4 a.m. police raid on their apartment. The police were aided by an FBI informant who supplied the police with a floor plan and may have drugged Hampton before the raid to make him more vulnerable.
Also among the targets of the FBI's dirty work was the Revolutionary Union, the Maoist organization that was the forerunner of the Revolutionary Communist Party. FBI head J. Edgar Hoover himself noted that "The Revolutionary Union has been successful in attracting both high school and college activists."
The FBI extended its range far and wide, going after groups like the Quaker American Friends Service Committee, antiwar activists like Dr. Benjamin Spock, and artists like Leonard Bernstein. Jean Seberg, an actor who supported the Black Panther Party, was the target of an FBI campaign so vicious that she ultimately took her own life. The FBI threatened to reveal secrets about Martin Luther King's private life and sent a note to him saying "there is only one thing left for you to do"--essentially encouraging King to kill himself. (Frank Donner, The Age of Surveillance )
As a result of much exposure and struggle--and in an effort to stabilize the situation in the wake of the 1960s--the government curtailed this kind of FBI activity in the '70s. But such activity never completely stopped, as revealed by exposure of FBI provocateurs within the Central America solidarity movements of the 1980s.
Now, even the limited curtailment of COINTELPRO-type activity is being rolled back--a signal of the extreme direction things are headed.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online