Home    Use mouse back button & arrows  to  navigate previous  How Cool is Google next    

(1 of 23) [6/14/2003 6:47:04 AM]

 John Edger Hover head decomposes in slime box of his owhe creation © Copyright 2003 Mingus Designs
COINTELPRO is an acronym for the FBI's domestic "counterintelligence programs" to
neutralize political dissidents. Although covert operations have been employed throughout
FBI history,  the formal COINTELPRO's of 1956-1971 were broadly targeted against radical
 political organizations.

The origins of COINTELPRO were rooted in the Bureau's operations against hostile foreign
intelligence services. Counterintelligence, of course, goes beyond investigation; it refers to
actions taken to neutralize enemy agents.
"Counterintelligence" was a misnomer for the FBI programs, since the targets were
American political dissidents, not foreign spies.

 In the atmosphere of the Cold War, the American Communist Party was seen as a serious threat to national security.

 Over the years, anti-Communist paranoia extended to civil rights, anti-war, and many other groups.

 As John Edgar Hoover, longtime Director of the FBI, put it The forces which are most
anxious to weaken our internal security are not always easy to identify.  Communists
 have been trained in deceit and secretly work toward the day when they hope to replace
 our American way of life with a Communist dictatorship.

They utilize cleverly camouflaged movements, such as peace groups and civil rights
 groups to achieve their sinister purposes.

While they as individuals are difficult to identify, the Communist party line is clear.
Its first concern is the advancement of Soviet Russia and the godless Communist

It is important to learn to know the enemies of the American way of life.

Although today this may sound ridiculous, the implications were deadly serious for the
 thousands of people who became COINTELPRO targets.

 After many years of investigating and disrupting these groups, the Bureau could not find
 evidence that any of them were foreign-controlled.
These programs were exposed to the public following an unsolved break-in into the FBI's
 Media, PA resident agency, separate lawsuits by NBC correspondent Carl Stern and the
Socialist Workers' Party, and then a US Senate investigation led by Senator Frank Church.
 Although the FBI's COINTELPRO's officially ended in 1971, there have been many
 examples of counterintelligence-type operations against political dissidents since.
http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/cointel.htm (1 of 10) [6/14/2003 6:46:54 AM].
The COINTELPRO PAPERS - Chapter 5: COINTELPRO - Black Liberation Movement
http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/copap5a.htm [8/19/2003 2:19:30 AM].


While the Justice Department was playing out its string of legal charades against
the new left leadership, the FBI was quite busily engaged in more clandestine
forms of repression. In the backwash of the Democratic convention in Chicago, it
quickly set about fostering the divisiveness and fragmentation of dissident groups,
a matter which is readily borne out in the accompanying August 28, 1968 memo
from the director to the SAC, Detroit, calling for the employment of various
COINTELPRO tactics against the Detroit Coalition Committee. Of particular
interest to the FBI in the Detroit area was John Sinclair, head of a Yippie! -oriented
organization called the White Panther Party, so much so that the Bureau
provided considerable assistance to the local red squad in setting Sinclair up to
receive an all but unprecedented nine-and-a-half year sentence for smoking
marijuana at a rock concert in the presence of two undercover police officers. 102
In a number of other cases across the country, there was strong evidence that
police had actually planted the "controlled substances" used to "judicially" effect
political neutralizations. 103 As Frank Donner, an ACLU expert on political
surveillance and counterintelligence was to put it in 1971, "The pot bust has
become a punitive sanction against political dissent and the threat of prosecution
[on drug charges] is a favorite method of 'hooking' student informers." 104
Another favorite tactic was arrest and sometimes prosecution of student activists
for "desecration of the flag." Despite clear first amendment protection, local
police red squads working in collusion with FBI COINTELPRO desks habitually
rousted demonstrators who incorporated the flag into their apparel, altered it to
include peace signs or other movement symbols, burned it, or even flew it upside
down (the international signal of distress). By May of 1971, the ACLU alone
reported that it had at least 100 "flag cases" under consideration. 105 Eventually,
defendants were tried and a number convicted in Hawaii, Minnesota, New York,
Colorado, Washington state, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and California before
the Supreme Court finally ruled in Spence v. Washington (1974) that such
prosecutions were unconstitutional. 106 Still, punishments on such grounds
continued to occur through juvenile courts, as when in August 1974 an Ohio judge
sentenced two teenaged girls to attend flag ceremonies for a week, observe a
six-month curfew, and not to communicate with one another in any way for a
year, all because they'd burned a flag during an anti-war demonstration. 107
The "underground press," both "cultural" and political, was also a primary target
during the early phases of COINTELPRO-New Left, as is made clear in the
accompanying September 9, 1968 letter from Hoover to the SAC, New York,
requesting a plan of attack; an October 7 proposal by the SAC; and Hoover's
October 21 reply approving the operation. Focused upon is Liberation News
Service (LNS), roughly the equivalent of Associated Press for the hundreds of
alternative tabloids - mainly community-based - which had emerged across the
country during the second half of the '60s. Between the point of inception of the
COINTELPRO and late 1971, scores of alternative press workers were arrested
(some repeatedly) on a variety of thoroughly bogus charges. 108 In one notable
example, Dallas police, accompanied by FBI "observers," raided the offices of
Dallas Notes in October of 1968, using a warrant which allowed them to search
for "pornographic" material. The raiders left with more than two tons of items,
including four typewriters and several credit cards, and ripped the electrical
wiring out of the walls before leaving. The paper's editor was subsequently
charged with "possession of pornography," an accusation which was thrown out
as groundless by a local judge. He was then charged with "obscenity," resulting in
another dismissal. Finally, he was brought into court, charged with "instigating a

COINTELPRO - New Left, Part 2

http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/copap5a.htm (6 of 46) [8/19/2003 2:19:30 AM]
The FBI and Martin Luther King
The stated objective of the SCLC, and the nature of its practical activities, was to
organize for the securing of black voting rights across the rural South, with an eye
toward the ultimate dismantlement of at least the most blatant aspects of the southern
U.S. system of "segregation" (apartheid). Even this seemingly innocuous agenda was,
however, seen as a threat by the FBI. In mid-September of 1957, FBI supervisor J.G.
.Kelly forwarded a newspaper clipping describing the formation of the SCLC to the
Bureau's Atlanta field office - that city being the location of SCLC headquarters -informing
local agents, for reasons which were never specified, the civil rights group
was "a likely target for communist infiltration," and that "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." 15
The Atlanta field office "looked into" the matter and ultimately opened a COMINFIL
investigation of the SCLC, apparently based on the fact that a single SWP member,
Lonnie Cross, had offered his services as a clerk in the organization's main office. 16
By the end of the first year of FBI scrutiny, in September of 1958, a personal file had
been opened on King himself, ostensibly because he had been approached on the steps
of a Harlem church in which he'd delivered a guest sermon by black CP member
Benjamin J. Davis. 17 By October 1960, as the SCLC call for desegregation and black
voting rights in the south gained increasing attention and support across the nation,
the Bureau began actively infiltrating organizational meetings and conferences. 18 In
less than a year, by July of 1961 FBI intelligence on the group was detailed enough to
recount that King had been affiliated with the Progressive Party in 1948 (while an
undergraduate at Atlanta's Morehouse College), and that executive director Wyatt Tee
Walker had once subscribed to a CP newspaper, The Worker. 19 Actual
counterintelligence operations against King and the SCLC more generally seem to
have begun with a January 8, 1962 letter from Hoover to Attorney General Robert F.
Kennedy, contending that the civil rights leader enjoyed a "close relationship" with
Stanley D. Levison, "a member of the Communist Party, USA," and that Isadore
Wofsy, "a high ranking communist leader," had written a speech for King. 20
On the night of March 15-16,1962, FBI agents secretly broke into Levison's New
York office and planted a bug; a wiretap of his office phone followed on March 20. 21
Among the other things picked up by this ELSURS surveillance was information that
Jack ODell, who also had an alleged "record of ties to the Communist party," had
been recommended by both King and Levison to serve as an assistant to Wyatt Tee
Walker. 22 Although none of these supposed communist affiliations were ever
substantiated, it was on this basis that SCLC was targeted within the Bureau's ongoing
COINTELPRO-CP,USA, beginning with the planting of five disinformational "news
stories" concerning the organization's "communist connections" on October 24, 1962.
23 By this point, Martin Luther King's name had been placed in Section A of the FBI
Reserve Index, one step below those individuals registered in the Security Index and
scheduled to be rounded up and "preventively detained" in concentration camps in the
event of a declared national emergency; 24 Attorney General Kennedy had also
authorized round-the-clock ELSURS surveillance of all SCLC offices, as well as
King's home. 25 Hence, by November 8,1963, comprehensive telephone taps had been
installed at all organizational offices, and King's residence. 26
The reasons for this covert but steadily mounting attention to the Reverend Dr. King
were posited in an internal monograph on the subject prepared by FBI
counterintelligence specialist Charles D. Brennan at the behest of COINTELPRO
head William C. Sullivan in September 1963. In this 11-page document, Brennan
found that, given the scope of support it had attracted over the preceding five years,
civil rights agitation represented a clear threat to "the established order" of the U.S.,
and that "King is growing in stature daily as the leader among leaders of the Negro
movement ... so goes Martin Luther King, and also so goes the Negro movement in
the United States." 27 This accorded well with Sullivan's own view, committed to
writing shortly after King's landmark "I Have a Dream" speech during the massive
civil rights demonstration in Washington, D.C., on August 28 of the same year:
We must mark [King] now, if we have not before, as the most dangerous Negro in the
future of this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national
security ... it may be unrealistic to limit [our actions against King] to legalistic proofs
that would stand up in court or before Congressional Committees. 28
By 1964, King was not only firmly established as a preeminent civil rights leader, but
was beginning to show signs of pursuing a more fundamental structural agenda of
social change. Correspondingly, as the text of the accompanying memo from Sullivan
to Joseph A. Sizoo makes plain, the Bureau's intent had crystallized into an
unvarnished intervention into the domestic political process, with the goal of bringing
about King's replacement with someone "acceptable" to the FBI. The means
employed in the attempt to accomplish this centered in continued efforts to discredit
King, maintaining a drumbeat of mass media-distributed propaganda concerning his
supposed "communist influences" and sexual proclivities, as well as the triggering of
a spate of harassment by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 29 When this strategy
failed to the extent that it was announced on October 14 of that year that King would
receive a Nobel Peace Prize as a reward for his work in behalf of the rights of
American blacks, the Bureau - exhibiting a certain sense of desperation by this
juncture - dramatically escalated its efforts to neutralize him.
Memo proposing the sending of an anonymous letter (below) to Martin Luther King in an
unsuccessful attempt to convince him to commit suicide.
Two days after announcement of the impending award, Sullivan caused a composite
audio tape to be produced, supposedly consisting of "highlights" taken from the taps
of King's phones and bugs placed in his various hotel rooms over the preceding two
years. The result, prepared by FBI audio technician John Matter, purported to
demonstrate the civil rights leader had engaged in a series of "orgiastic" trysts with
.prostitutes and, thus, "the depths of his sexual perversion and depravity." The finished
tape was packaged, along with the accompanying anonymous letter (prepared on
unwatermarked paper by Bureau Internal Security Supervisor Seymore F. Phillips on
Sullivan's instruction), informing King that the audio material would be released to
the media unless he committed suicide prior to bestowal of the Nobel Prize. Sullivan
then instructed veteran COINTELPRO operative Lish Whitson to fly to Miami with
the package; once there, Whitson was instructed to address the parcel and mail it to
the intended Victim. 30 When King failed to comply with Sullivan's anonymous
directive that he kill himself, FBI Associate Director Cartha D. "Deke" DeLoach
attempted to follow through with the threat to make the contents of the doctored tape
The Bureau Crime Records Division, headed by DeLoach, initiated a major campaign
to let newsmen know just what the Bureau [claimed to have] on King. DeLoach
personally offered a copy of the King surveillance transcript to Newsweek
Washington bureau chief Benjamin Bradlee. Bradlee refused it, and mentioned the
approach to a Newsday colleague, Jay Iselin. 31

Bradlee's disclosure of what the FBI was up to served to curtail the effectiveness of
DeLoach's operation, and Bureau propagandists consequently found relatively few
takers on this particular "story." More, in the face of a planned investigation of
electronic surveillance by government agencies announced by Democratic Missouri
Senator Edward V. Long, J. Edgar Hoover was forced to order the rapid dismantling
of the ELSURS coverage of both King and the SCLC, drying up much of the source
material upon which Sullivan and his COINTELPRO specialists depended for
"authenticity." Hoover's "weakness" on this matter appears to have infuriated
Sullivan, who seems to have felt that congress should simply have been defied, setting
in place a permanent rift between the two senior FBI officials. 33

Memo (above) proposing anonymous letter to disrupt the Poor People's Campaign. Text of
letter appears below.


Still, the Bureau's counterintelligence operations against King continued apace, right
up to the moment of the target's death by sniper fire on a Memphis hotel balcony on
April 4,1968. 34 Indeed, as the accompanying memo from Sullivan to George C.
Moore (head of the Bureau's "racial intelligence" squad) on May 22 of the same year
amply demonstrates, certain of King's projects - such as the Poor People's
Campaign -remained the focus of active COINTELPRO endeavors even after their
 leader's assassination.
By 1969, as has been noted elsewhere, "[FBI] efforts to ",expose' Martin Luther King, Jr.,
had not slackened even though King had been dead for a year. [The Bureau] furnished ammunition to conservatives to attack King's memory, and ... tried to block efforts to
honor the slain leader." 35

[  See my Bio/Res * MoMA Art exhibit CM3] ED.

Memo taking credit for the assassination of Malcolm X, killed in an FBI- provoked factional
dispute on February 14, 1965.]

King and the SCLC were, of course, hardly the only objects of the Bureau's de facto
COINTELPRO against the emerging black liberation movement during this period.
As Manning Marable has pointed out, the FBI also went after the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an affiliated but rather more radical civil rights
organization than the SCLC, very early on: "In late 1960, FBI agents began to monitor
SNCC meetings. [President Lyndon] Johnson's Attorney General, Nicholas
Katzenbach, gave approval for the FBI to wiretap all SNCC leaders' phones in 1965 ...
Hoover ordered the extensive infiltration and disruption of SNCC." 36 Another
instance concerns the Nation of Islam (NoI) or "Black Muslim" movement headed by
Elijah Muhammad (s/n: Elijah Poole):
The Bureau began wiretap surveillance of Elija Muhammed's [sic] Chicago residence
in 1957 ... on the grounds that members of the NoI "disavow allegiance to the United
States" and "are taught not to obey the laws of the United States" ... When Elija
Muhammed bought a winter home in Arizona in 1961, a wiretap and microphone
were installed there. Both forms of surveillance continued for years ... [The FBI]
played assorted COINTEL tricks on the organization as early as the late 1950s. 37
As was documented in Chapter 3, when Malcolm X, one of Elijah Muhammad's
principle lieutenants, broke away from the Nol in March of 1964 to establish a
separate church, the Muslim Mosque, Inc., and a consciously political black
organization, the Organization of Afro- American Unity (OAAU), the Bureau
undertook concerted COINTELPRO actions to block the development of alliances
between the OAAU and white radical organizations such as the SWP. By the point of
Malcolm's assassination during a speech in Harlem on the night of February 14,1965,
the FBI had compiled at least 2,300 pages of material on the victim in just one of its
files on him, the NoI and the OAAU. 38 Malcolm X was supposedly murdered by
former colleagues in the NoI as a result of the faction-fighting which had led to his
splitting away from that movement, and their "natural wrath" at his establishment of a
competing entity. However, as the accompanying January 22,1969 memo from the
SAC, Chicago, to the Director makes clear, the Nol factionalism at issue didn't "just
happen." Rather, it had "been developed" by deliberate Bureau actions - through
infiltration and the "sparking of acrimonious debates within the organization,"
rumor-mongering, and other tactics designed to foster internal disputes - which were
always the standard fare of COINTELPRO. 39 The Chicago SAC, Marlin Johnson,
who would shortly oversee the assassinations of Illinois Black Panther Party leaders
Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, makes it quite obvious that he views the murder of
Malcolm X as something of a model for "successful" counterintelligence operations.

Proposal to provoke the murder of comedian/activist Dick Gregory by "La Cosa Nostra"
a laCOINTELPRO - CPUSA's Operation Hoodwink.

Nor was it necessary for black spokespersons to be heading or forming political
organizations in order to be targeted for elimination by the FBI's "informal"
counterintelligence methods. As the accompanying May 15, 1968 memo from
Director Hoover to the Chicago SAC reveals, even independent activists such as the
writer/comedian Dick Gregory came in for potentially lethal treatment. In Gregory's
case, these assumed the form - a la COINTELPRO-CP, USA's Operation Hoodwink
(see Chapter 2) - of attempting to provoke "La Cosa Nostra" into dispensing with him.
A considerable body of circumstantial evidence suggests - although documents have
yet to be released - that the Bureau undertook comparably Machiavellian efforts to
achieve the neutralization of a number of other black leaders during the late 1960s and
early 1970s. These ranged from the Reverend Ralph Abernathy (King's replacement
in SCLC to Georgia Senator Julian Bond.

The War Against Black Liberation
As the 1960s unfolded, the true extent of official resistance to even the most moderate
improvements in the status of blacks - and concomitant alterations in the balance of
social, economic and political power in the U.S. - became increasingly apparent. This
recalcitrance on the part of the status quo was signified but hardly encompassed by
the repressive activities of the FBI vis a vis figures such as King. This official posture
gave rise to a spiral of frustration on the part of those whose objectives had initially
been merely the obtaining of such elemental rights as the ballot, equal pay for equal
work, use of public facilities and the like. In turn, this frustration both led to broad
acceptance of increasingly radical analyses of U.S. society on the part of black
activists and theorists. By the mid-60s, the primacy of those such as King who had
developed a mass following on the basis of appeals for "equal rights" was being
rapidly supplanted by that of younger leaders such as SNCC's Stokely Carmichael and
H. Rap Brown, who espoused a much more militant vision of "black power." 40
At the same time, not only conscious black power adherents, but the black community
as a whole, showed increasing signs of abandoning the posture of "principled
nonviolence" which had all along marked the SCLC performance. This was
manifested not only in Carmichael's and Brown's oversight of a change in SNCC's
name from Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to Student National
Coordinating Committee, but much more concretely, "in the streets." 41 This
corresponded with the rise of a generalized perception among blacks that, far from
being restricted to the former Confederate states of the "Old South," the problems
they confronted were fully national in scope:

Even before the assassination of Malcolm, many social critics sensed that nonviolent
direct action, a tactic of protest used effectively in the South, would have little appeal
in the Northern ghetto. Far more likely were a series of urban social upheavals which
could not be controlled or channeled by the civil rights leadership ... In the spring and
summer months of 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1968, massive black rebellions swept
across almost every major US city in the Northeast, Middle West and California. In
Watts and Compton, the black districts of Los Angeles, black men and women took
to the streets, attacking and burning white-owned property and institutions. The
[1965] Watts rebellion left $40 million in private property damage and 34 persons
killed. Federal authorities ordered 15,000 state police and National Guardsmen into
Detroit to quell that city's uprising of 1967. In Detroit 43 residents were killed;
almost 2,000 were injured; 2,700 white-owned businesses were broken into, and 50
per cent of these were gutted by fire or completely destroyed; fourteen square miles
of Detroit's inner city were torched; 5,000 black persons were left without homes.
Combining the total weight of socio-economic destruction, the ghetto rebellions from
1964 to 1972 led to 250 deaths, 10,000 serious injuries, and 60,000 arrests, at a cost
of police, troops, and other coercive measures taken by the state and losses to
business in the billions of dollars. 42

Given this, it is fair to say that, by 1967 at the latest, black Americans were in a state
of open insurgency against the Euroamerican society to whose interests they had all
along been subordinated. Established order in the U.S. was thereby confronted with its
most serious internal challenge since the period of the First World War. The response
of the status quo was essentially twofold. On the one hand, the government moved to
defuse the situation through a series of cooptive gestures designed to make it appear
that things were finally changing for the better. The executive branch, under President
Lyndon B. Johnson, declared "war on poverty" and launched a series of tokenistic and
soon to be forgotten programs such as "Project Build." 43 Congress cooperated in this
exercise in damage control by quickly enacting bits of legislation like the Voting
Rights Act of 1965 and revision of the Civil Rights Act in 1968, structured in such a
way as to convey a superficial impression of Iiprogress" to disgruntled blacks while
leaving fundamental social relations very much intact. 44
On the other hand, key government figures were astute enough to perceive that the
ghetto rebellions were largely spontaneous and uncoordinated outpourings of black
rage. Costly as the ghetto revolts were, real danger to the status quo would come only
when a black organizational leadership appeared with the capacity to harness and
direct the force of such anger. If this occurred, it was recognized, mere gestures would
be insufficient to contain black pressure for social justice. Already, activist concepts
and rhetoric had shifted from demands for black power within American society to
black liberation from U.S. "internal colonialism." 45 The task thus presented in
completing the federal counterinsurgency strategy was to destroy such
community-based black leadership before it had an opportunity to consolidate itself
and instill a vision of real freedom among the great mass of blacks. In this, of course,
the FBI assumed a central role. President Johnson publicly announced, in the wake of
the 1967 uprisings in Detroit and Newark, that he had issued "standing instructions"
that the Bureau should bring "the instigators" of such "riots" to heel, by any means at
its disposal, 46 while his attorney general, Ramsey Clark, instructed Hoover by memo
[U]se the [FBI's] maximum resources, investigative and intelligence, to collect and
report all facts bearing upon the question as to whether there has been or is a scheme
or conspiracy by any group of whatever size, effectiveness or affiliation to plan,
promote or aggravate riot activity. 47
Memorandum expanding COINTELPRO - Black Liberation Movement to fully National
The COINTELPRO PAPERS - Chapter 5: COINTELPRO - Black Liberation Movement


http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/copap7c.htm (30 of 45) [8/19/2003 3:16:22 AM].

he was aware well before the Peltier decision was tendered. 196 On
February 11, 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court refused, without explanation,
to review the lower court's decision. 197
In 1981, as a result of an FOIA suit filed by Peltier's attorneys, some
12,000 pages of previously classified FBI documents relating to the Peltier
case were released (another 6,000-odd pages were withheld under the aegis
of "national security" in this purely domestic matter). 198 Based upon
precedents that the withholding of exculpatory evidence - such as the
accompanying October 2, 1975 ballistics teletype - by the prosecution was
grounds for retrial, an appeals team filed a motion in this regard with
Judge Paul Benson in April of 1982. Since certain documents obtained
through the FOIA also revealed what appear to have been improper pretrial
meetings between the prosecution, the FBI and Benson, the judge was
simultaneously asked to remove himself from further involvement in the
proceedings. 199 This was essentially pro forma; given his previous record
in the Peltier case, few were surprised when Benson rejected both of these
motions on December 30, 1982.
A new appeal was then filed with the Eighth Circuit Court and, on April 4,
1984, the appeals court reversed Benson's decision. Citing the apparent
contradiction implied by the October 2, 1975 teletype, and the critical
nature of the .223 casing to the government's case, the court ordered an
evidentiary hearing on the ballistics evidence. 200 The hearing was held in
Paul Bensons regular courtroom in Bismarck, North Dakota at the end of
October 1984. There, a very nervous Evan Hodge explained that the
obvious conflict between his trial testimony and the documentary record
arose from a "misinterpretation." 201 Although Hodge steadily dug the hole
deeper and was eventually caught by William Kunstler committing what
would for "civilians" be described as outright perjury, Benson still allowed
the distraught agent to resume the stand and retract his testimony. 202 The
judge then ruled that Peltier's conviction would stand.
This decision was anticipated, and the appeals team went straight back to
the Eighth Circuit Court. In oral arguments heard before the court on
October 15,1985, prosecutor Lynn Crooks was forced to abandon his
flamboyant assertions - made at trial - that Peltier was a "cold blooded
murderer." Instead, as Crooks now admitted the government "[didn't]
really know who shot those agents." 203 Thus, he was willing to concede
that the murder case conjured up against the defendant by the FBI no
longer really existed. Peltier, the prosecutor now lamely contended again
in stark contrast to his trial presentations - wasn't even in prison for
murder, but rather for aiding and abetting in two murders. 204 Faced with
official contradictions of this magnitude, the appeals court deliberated for
nearly a year, finally handing down a decision on September 11, 1986.
Although they rejected Crooks' argument concerning aiding and abetting -
noting that Peltier had plainly been convicted of performing the murders
himself - while detailing how the evidentiary basis for such a conviction
had been eroded, probably beyond hope of repair, they still allowed the
conviction to stand. Their collective motivation in reaching this untenable
conclusion was put straightforwardly in one brief passage of their opinion:
There are only two alternatives ... to the government's contention that
the .223 casing was ejected into the trunk of Coler's car when the
Wichita AR-15 was fired at the agents. One alternative is that the .223
casing was planted in the trunk of Coler's car either before its discovery
by the investigating agents or by the agents who reported its discovery.
The other alternative is that a non-matching casing was originally found
in the trunk and sent to the FBI laboratory, only to be replaced by a
matching casing when the importance of a match to the Wichita AR-15
became evident ... We recognize that there is evidence in this record of
improper conduct on the part of some FBI agents, but we are reluctant to
impute even further improprieties to them [emphasis added]. 205
Thus, the appellate court left Peltier in the midst of a double-life sentence
for "crimes" both it and the trial prosecutor acknowledged had never been
proven rather than delve more deeply into the illegal FBI activities
attending his case. The defense immediately petitioned for reconsideration
by the full Eighth Circuit Court rather than the three member panel -composed
of judges Gerald Heaney, Donald Ross and John Gibson -which
had rendered the decision. 206 The en banc hearing was denied
several months later, a development which left the appeals team with no
alternative but to once again petition the Supreme Court. 207 On October 5,
1987, the high court refused, for the second time and again without
explanation, to review the case of Leonard Peltier. 208 Judge Heaney later
described the decision as the most difficult of his legal career because, in
his view, "the FBI was at least as responsible for what happened as
Leonard Peltier. " 209 The judge failed to explain why, if this is the case,
only Peltier is sitting in prison - without legal recourse - while the FBI
agents involved have been allowed to simply go on about their business.
Implications of COINTELPRO-AIM
In many ways, the stark unwillingness of the federal government to accord
Leonard Peltier even a modicum of elementary justice is symbolic of the
entire AIM experience during the 1970s and, more broadly posed, of the
U.S. relationship to American Indians since the first moment of the
republic. The message embedded, not only in Peltier's imprisonment, but
in the scores of murders, hundreds of shootings and beatings, endless show
trials and all the rest of the systematic terrorization marking the FBI's
anti-AIM campaign on Pine Ridge, was that the Bureau could and would
make it cost-prohibitive for Indians to seriously challenge the lot assigned
them by policy-makers and economic planners in Washington, D.C. The
internal colonization of Native America is intended to be absolute and
Thus it was that AIM, arguably the most hopeful vehicle for some
meaningful degree of indigenous pride and self determination in the U.S.
during the late 20th century was destroyed as a viable national political
organization. In the end, as Dennis Banks has observed:
The FBI's tactics eventually proved successful in a peculiar sort of way.
It's remarkable under the circumstances - and a real testament to the
inner strength of the traditional Oglalas - that the feds were never really
able to divide them from us, to have the traditionals denouncing us and
working against us. But, in the end, the sort of pressure the FBI put on
people on the reservation, particularly the old people, it just wore 'em
down. A kind of fatigue set in. With the firefight at Oglala, and all the
things that happened after that, it was easy to see we weren't going to
win by direct confrontation. So the traditionals asked us to disengage, to
try and take some of the heaviest pressure off. And, out of respect, we
had no choice but to honor those wishes. And that was the end of AIM,
at least in the way it had been known up till then. The resistance is still
there, of course, and the struggle goes on, but the movement itself kind
of disappeared. 210
The logic of COINTELPRO, as evidenced in this excerpt from a 1976 document
concerning the basis for an "investigation" of AIM and its supporters. Note the
mention of the deliberate fostering of "paranoia" among AIM leaders through the
use of informers, and insistence that the right of government to suppress dissent
outweighs the rights of citizens to "privacy and free expression."

http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/copap7c.htm (30 of 45) [8/19/2003 3:16:22 AM].
        "The real weapons of mass destruction": "on average 500,000
        people were killed each year by armed violence - roughly one
        victim a minute."
        Thu, 9 Oct 2003 23:18:58 -0400
        clayton w munsey <cmunc@juno.com>