Agent Provocateur: Government Agencies (FBI and NSA and others) and Mass Media Provoking Riots in Ferguson To Increase Budgets and Ratings — Is Justice Department Under Holder Using The FBI As Agent Provocateurs? — Playing The Blame Game — Videos

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The Pronk Pops Show Podcasts

Pronk Pops Show 373: November 18, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 372: November 17, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 371: November 14, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 370: November 13, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 369: November 12, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 368: November 11, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 367: November 10, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 366: November 7, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 365: November 6, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 364: November 5, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 363: November 4, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 362: November 3, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 361: October 31, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 360: October 30, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 359: October 29, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 358: October 28, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 357: October 27, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 356: October 24, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 355: October 23, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 354: October 22, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 353: October 21, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 352: October 20, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 351: October 17, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 350: October 16, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 349: October 15, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 348: October 14, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 347: October 13, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 346: October 9, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 345: October 8, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 344: October 6, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 343: October 3, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 342: October 2, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 341: October 1, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 340: September 30, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 339: September 29, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 338: September 26, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 337: September 25, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 336: September 24, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 335: September 23 2014

Pronk Pops Show 334: September 22 2014

Pronk Pops Show 333: September 19 2014

Pronk Pops Show 332: September 18 2014

Pronk Pops Show 331: September 17, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 330: September 16, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 329: September 15, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 328: September 12, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 327: September 11, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 326: September 10, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 325: September 9, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 324: September 8, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 323: September 5, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 322: September 4, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 321: September 3, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 320: August 29, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 319: August 28, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 318: August 27, 2014 

Pronk Pops Show 317: August 22, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 316: August 20, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 315: August 18, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 314: August 15, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 313: August 14, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 312: August 13, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 311: August 11, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 310: August 8, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 309: August 6, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 308: August 4, 2014

Pronk Pops Show 307: August 1, 2014

Story 1: Agent Provocateur: Government Agencies (FBI and NSA and others) and Mass Media Provoking Riots in Ferguson To Increase Budgets and Ratings — Is Justice Department Under Holder Using The FBI As Agent Provocateurs? — Playing The Blame Game — Videos

Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – Dirty Tricks: Agent Provocateur

Preparing for violence in Missouri

Ferguson Nervously Awaits Grand Jury Decision

How police Agent Provocateur frame people

Provocateur Caught Throwing Bricks At Ferguson Police

John Sayles on New FBI Rules & Role of Agent Provocateurs in Disrupting Social Movements

FBI Warns of Ferguson Violence from ‘Extremists’ After Grand Jury Decision

Ferguson braces for grand jury decision

Biracial couple: We’re staying in Ferguson

Snipers Take Aim and Push Infowars Reporters

Combat Vet Ferguson Missouri Has Turned Into Fallujah Iraq

Infowars Shatters Multiple Mainstream Media Lies in Ferguson, MO

Infowars Recounts Ferguson Police State

Missouri Deploys National Guard

Occupy LA – Police Provocateurs Confirmed

Occupy LA has become victim to police provocateur (under cover cops causing violence) much like other cities around the world. What to look for:

The same boots,
black masks
black backpacks,
specific type of black bandana.

Police Provocateurs are not smart, and they are easy to spot. Do not let your 1st amendment rights be trampled by corrupt police.

LAPD Infiltrators and Agent Provocateurs Targeted Left and Panthers – Johnston on RAI – (2/4)

The Deep State and the Power of Billionaires – David Cay Johnston on Reality Asserts Itself (3/4)

Ferguson on the edge: RT America special on eve of grand jury ruling

Michael Brown Protests Turns Into RIOT…LOOTINGS…VIOLENCE(RIOT Police Called In)


Violence erupts in Ferguson

COINTELPRO 101 – The Sabotage Of Legitimate Dissent

Activists Who Stole FBI Documents in 1971 Revealing COINTELPRO Speak Out

Betty Medsger “The Burglary”

TREASON 101 FBI Cointelpro

COINTELPRO: The FBI’s War on Black America

BUSTED! Proof Missouri Riots Were Obama’s Attempt To Implement A Martial Law Police State!

FBI Agent Provocateur Suggested Terror Attack at Mosque

FBI – Don’t post that or I’ll be “livid”

Return of the Ferguson War Zone? Missouri Enacts State of Emergency Ahead of Mike Brown Grand Jury

 Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency in advance of the grand jury’s pending decision in the Michael Brown shooting case. On Monday, Nixon issued an executive order to activate the state’s National Guard in response to what he called “the possibility of expanded unrest.” Nixon cited the protests in Ferguson and the St. Louis area since Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was killed by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9. The grand jury has been meeting for nearly three months, and protests are expected to escalate if they choose not to indict. But while state officials say they fear violence, protesters say they fear a return to the militarized crackdown that turned their community into a war zone. As the grand jury nears a decision and all sides prepare for the unknown under a state of emergency, we are joined by two guests: Jeff Smith, a New School professor and former Missouri state senator whose new book is “Ferguson: In Black and White,” and Montague Simmons, chair of the St. Louis-based Organization for Black Struggle and a key organizer in the movement that has emerged since Brown’s killing.

Under Obama, U.S. personal freedom ranking slips below France

U.S. Secrets: Classified Intelligence, CIA,FBI,NSA,Secret Service, Edward Snowden


The No Ferguson protest group released its list of potential targets following the decision by the St. Louis County Courthouse on the Mike Brown case.

The published map shows expected landmarks like the Ferguson City Hall and the County Courthouse.

But it also marks things that have NOTHING to do with the Michael Brown situation, like Anheuser Busch and Boeing.
ferguson targets

Most telling thing is the mark for Emerson Electric. Emerson has been in Ferguson for at least 50 years, long before Ferguson became a minority municipality. Yet not only do they mark Emerson they make note of the CEO’s salary. Maybe they’re mutating into an extortion group straight out of the playbook of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition?

Below is the published list of potential St. Louis area targets.
Potential Action Locations

  • Robert McCulloch’s office
  • St. Louis County Justice Center
  • Stephanie Karr’s office
  • Olin Corporation Headquarters
  • Judge Maura McShane’s courtroom
  • St. Louis County Police Department
  • Governor Nixon’s Office (Wainwright Building)
  • Clayton School District Office
  • Department of Justice
  • Dean Plocher’s office
  • Ronald Brockmeyer’s office
  • Dan Boyle’s office
  • Thomas Flach’s office
  • Regal III Market
  • Canfield Green Apartments
  • Ferguson Police Department & Jail
  • West Florissant Quick Trip
  • Missouri Botanical Gradens
  • Powell Symphony Hall
  • Monsanto Headquarters
  • Peabody Energy Headquarters
  • Anheuser-Busch Headquarters
  • Emerson Electric Headquarters
  • Steve Stenger’s lawfirm
  • St. Louis Art Museum
  • Gateway Arch
  • Peabody Opera House
  • Ritz Carlton
  • Lambert International Airport
  • Mayor Slay
  • Boeing
  • St. Louis City Police Department
  • St. Louis Galleria
  • Plaza Frontenac
  • Six Stars Market
  • Colonel Jon Belmar
  • Senator Roy Blunt
  • Senator Claire McCaskill
  • St. Louis City Justice Center
  • St. Ann Police Department & Jail
  • Clayton City Hall
  • GCI Security, Inc.
  • St. Louis County Council
  • Clayton Police Department & Jail
  • Ferguson City Hall
  • Lacy Clay’s Office
  • Donors
  • Husch Blackwell LLP
  • Martin Insurance Group LLC
  • Stone, Leyton & Gershman
  • University Square Company
  • Stone & Alter Real Estate
  • Carey & Danis LLC
  • The Law Firm of Thomas C Antoniou LLC
  • Hammond & Shinners Law Firm
  • Collinsville Acquisitions Inc
  • Thompson Coburn
  • Commercial Bank
  • Sanctuaries
  • Greater St. Mark Family Church
  • Veterans for Peace Office
  • St. John’s Episcopal Church
  • Hospitals
  • St. Louis University Hospital
  • SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center
  • SSM St. Mary’s Health Center
  • Barnes Jewish Hospital
  • St. Alexius Hospital
  • Kindred Hospital
  • Southwest Medical Center

The Ferguson Mike Brown protesters are not ruling out violence or looting.

“Rioting and looting are the tools of those without a voice. The rioting and looting, while I didn’t participate in it, was necessary. Without it we would not be standing here today.”


No Indictment Planning



In preparation for a no-indictment decision, here is the important information to know.


On August 9, 2014, Mike Brown was killed by Officer Darren Wilson. For nearly 100 days, we have protested to demand an indictment. We are hopeful that Darren Wilson will be indicted for murder, but the recent signs do not seem that this outcome is likely.


We will update this page daily with key information regarding post indictment decision announcement planning. And this isn’t meant to replace twitter or the newsletter, but to be a central space for information that can be updated in real-time.


If you’d like to donate, please click here.


If you have not already done so, please read the last Protestor and Ally Open Letter entitled, “An American Horror Story,” by clicking here.


We are on the right side of justice. Stand with us.


// Netta (@nettaaaaaaaa) and DeRay (@deray)


P.S. To suggest additions to the site, please e-mail us at or

Possible Protest Spaces

Here is a map of possible protest spaces. Remember, we actively advocate and profess the importance of peaceful protest. We do not support, condone, or encourage violence.


Safe Spaces

These are spaces to escape police violence, get updated on protest plans and all are located near protest zones.


Shaw: St. John’s Episcopal Church, 3664 Arsenal, 63166


Ferguson: Greater St. Mark’s Church, 9950 Glen Owen Drive, 63136


Clayton: Veterans for Peace Office, 216 S. Meramec Ave., 63105



Day of Non-Indictment Decision Announcement

On the day of the non-indictment announcement, protestors are gathering at the #Ferguson PD Lot and at VonDerrit’s memorial site in Shaw.


Day AFTER Non-Indictment Decision Announcement

On the day AFTER the non-indictment announcement, protestors are gathering in Clayton. More information is forthcoming.


Grand Jury Announcement Text Alert

Click here to sign up to receive a text alert when the Grand Jury makes its decision regarding the killing of Michael Brown Jr. (Here’s the direct link:


Rules of Engagement

Protestors publicly proposed Rules of Engagement for police in the event of a non-indictment. Here is the link to the rules:


Law-Related Volunteers

Lawyers, Legal Workers, and Law Students — The Ferguson Legal Defense Fund, a coalition of St. Louis lawyers and firms, has issued an emergency call to action to find volunteers to assist with legal representation, jail supports and visits, legal research, legal observation, and legal observation and training. Click here to learn more and to volunteer.


Nationwide Actions Planned

Click here to learn more about the actions planned across the country in the event of a non-indictment. Actions are currently planned in 50+ cities across America.


Protest Preparation

For a primer and re-cap of the direct action trainings, click here to access the core materials. More information will be posted in the coming days.


Support With Safe House Supplies

All supplies are to be delivered to World Community Center at 438 N Skinker Blvd.

Apples, Oranges, Pretzels, Chips, Crackers, Peanut Butter, Jelly, Carrots, Granola Bars, Cookies, Chips & Salsa, Nuts, Bread, Jerky, Cheese, Hummus
Water, Coffee, Tea, Juice, Gatorade
Toilet Paper, Paper Towels, Disinfectant Wipes, Hand Soap, Disposable Plates, Cups, Napkins, Utensils, Trash Bags
Surge Protectors, Flashlights (w/ batteries), Cell Phone Chargers
Blankets, Hand Warmers
Flip Chart Markers, Pens, Pads of Paper



Safe Spaces and Sanctuaries

We will publish the list of Safe Spaces and Sanctuaries later this week.


Hospitals and urgent care: Name, address, approximate time by car from Canfield Green Apts, phone number, hours.

  • St Louis University Hospital: 3635 Vista Ave, STL. 25 min. 314-577-8000.
  • Concentra Urgent Care: 463 Lynn Haven, Hazelwood. 13 Min. 314-731-0448. M-F 8-5
  • Concentra Urgent Care — North Broadway. 8340 N Broadway, STL. 15 min. 314-385-9563. M-F 8-5.
  • St Luke’s Urgent Care: 8857 Ladue Rd, STL. 18 min. 314-576-8189. M-Su 8-8.



Protestor Action Kit:

  1. Jail support number written on your body with permanent marker
  2. Change of warm clothes
  3. Plastic gallon bags
  4. Snacks/Water
  5. Portable phone charger
  6. Paper map
  7. Medications
  8. Gloves, hat, scarf, hand warmers
  9. Shatter proof goggles
  10. Quick reference sheet with names (first, last) and date of birth for each member of your team/cohort and any important phone numbers and addresses
  11. Medical supplies: gauze, tape, L.A.W. (liquid antacid and water – Maalox and water), mask, cold pack


Support With Protest Supplies

All supplies are to be delivered to World Community Center at 438 N Skinker Blvd.

White Bed Sheets (for banners), Banners, Spray Paint
Gas Masks
2 liter plastic bottles, box cutters, duct tape, rubber foam, shoestrings, elastic bands, glue
Wooden Shields
Rubber hoses, ¾” and ½” Phillps screws, 11/32” plywood sheathing cut into 32X34” sections, electric drills or Phillips screwdrives

FBI Warns Ferguson Decision ‘Will Likely’ Lead to Violence By Extremists Protesters

Jeff Roberson/AP Photo
PHOTO: A protester kicks a smoke grenade that had been deployed by police back in the direction of police, Aug. 13, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

The bulletin cites a series of recent messages threatening law enforcement, including a message posted online last week by a black separatist group that offered “a $5,000 bounty for the location” of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who fired the shots that killed Brown on Aug. 9.

In interviews with ABC News, police officials said their departments have identified a number of agitators who routinely appear at mass demonstrations.

“How many of those sympathizers are actually sympathizers?” Rick Hite, the chief of the Indianapolis Metropolitan police department, wondered. Many of them see the protests as a way to “chime in with their own personal agenda,” he said.

In its new intelligence bulletin, obtained by ABC News, the FBI says “exploitation” of mass demonstrations “could occur both in the Ferguson area and nationwide.”

“All it takes is one.”

Overall, though, law enforcement officials contacted by ABC News – stretching from Los Angeles to the Atlanta area – remained confident that any protests in their cities would not be tainted by violence.

“We are not expecting any issues in our city,” said Billy Grogan, the chief of police in Dunwoody, Ga., outside Atlanta. “However, we are preparing just in case. I believe most departments are watching the situation closely and are prepared to respond if needed.”

A law enforcement official in Pennsylvania agreed, saying that while authorities there are not enacting any significant new measures they are “monitoring” developments out of Ferguson.

PHOTO: Plywood covers the glass front of a strip mall along West Florissant Street on Nov. 12, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo.

Scott Olson/Getty Images
PHOTO: Plywood covers the glass front of a strip mall along West Florissant Street on Nov. 12, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo.

In addition, police officials emphasized that efforts to address a big decision like the one pending in Ferguson actually begin well before that decision.

In Indianapolis, police have held two town-hall meetings in the past two months to discuss the Ferguson issue with concerned residents, and meetings like that help build a “bank of trust,” Hite said.

But it’s sometimes hard to build such trust between a community and the law enforcement officers working its streets.

With several recent cases involving allegations of excessive force by police officers, many in African-American communities can’t help but wonder why seemingly routine encounters escalate so dramatically.

PHOTO: A man watches as police walk through a cloud of smoke during a clash with protesters, Aug. 13, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

Jeff Roberson/AP Photo
PHOTO: A man watches as police walk through a cloud of smoke during a clash with protesters, Aug. 13, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

In a recent interview with ABC News, Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey said people in “communities of color” often “don’t view us as people who really have the right to enforce laws or tell them what to do,” and sometimes it’s because of “the way they’ve seen us conduct ourselves in the past.”

“Not all cops, but all it takes is one,” Ramsey said. “As human beings, we tend to remember the one bad incident, not the 10 good ones that we may have experienced.”

On the other side of the spectrum, there are some uncomfortable facts that may be influencing how some police respond to African-Americans they encounter on routine patrols.

In particular, African-Americans are disproportionally represented in crime. According to the FBI, 4,379 blacks were arrested for murder last year, while 3,799 whites were arrested for murder – even though census numbers show there are six times more whites than blacks in the United States.

But as Ramsey said, crime statistics are no excuse for police bias.

“Protest. But protest peacefully. Have your voices be heard.”

And now a grand jury in Ferguson and federal prosecutors are separately looking into whether that type of bias led to Brown’s death.

It’s unclear whether the facts of the case will lead to any prosecution. Indeed, it seems few pieces of evidence are without dispute.

The day after the encounter that resulted in Brown’s death, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters that Brown “physically assaulted” Wilson inside his police car and that “there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon.” At least one shot was fired inside the car, but the fatal shot was fired when both Wilson and Brown were outside the car, according to Belmar. At least one witness said Brown was shot “with his arms up in the air,” while the police claim Wilson fired because Brown was advancing towards him.

PHOTO: People raise their hands in the middle of the street as police wearing riot gear move toward their position trying to get them to disperse, Aug. 11, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

Jeff Roberson/AP Photo
PHOTO: People raise their hands in the middle of the street as police wearing riot gear move toward their position trying to get them to disperse, Aug. 11, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

Pressed in September to acknowledge that the Justice Department’s own civil rights investigation may not result in charges, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder would only say that “at the end of the day, it’s most important that we get it right.”

As for what’s ahead in Ferguson and communities across the country, Ramsey offered this piece of advice: “Protest. But protest peacefully. Have your voices be heard.”

The Wonderful American World of Informers and Agents Provocateurs

A New York City police officer near the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, July 11, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

This article originally appeared at To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from

Only Martians, by now, are unaware of the phone and online data scooped up by the National Security Agency (though if it turns out that they are aware, the NSA has surely picked up their signals and crunched their metadata). American high-tech surveillance is not, however, the only kind around. There’s also the lower tech, up-close-and-personal kind that involves informers and sometimes government-instigated violence.

Just how much of this is going on and in how coordinated a way no one out here in the spied-upon world knows. The lower-tech stuff gets reported, if at all, only one singular, isolated event at a time—look over here, look over there, now you see it, now you don’t. What is known about such surveillance as well as the suborning of illegal acts by government agencies, including the FBI, in the name of counterterrorism has not been put together by major news organizations in a way that would give us an overview of the phenomenon. (TheACLU has done by far the best job of compiling reports on this sort of spying on Americans.)

Some intriguing bits about informers and agents provocateurs briefly made it into the public spotlight whenOccupy Wall Street was riding high. But as always, dots need connecting. Here is a preliminary attempt to sort out some patterns behind what could be the next big story about government surveillance and provocation in America.

Two Stories From Occupy Wall Street

The first is about surveillance. The second is about provocation.

On September 17, 2011, Plan A for the New York activists who came to be known as Occupy Wall Street was to march to the territory outside the bank headquarters of JPMorgan Chase. Once there, they discovered that the block was entirely fenced in. Many activists came to believe that the police had learned their initial destination from e-mail circulating beforehand. Whereupon they headed for nearby Zuccotti Park and a movement was born.

The evening before May Day 2012, a rump Occupy groupmarched out of San Francisco’s Dolores Park and into the Mission District, a neighborhood where not so many 1 percenters live, work or shop. There, they proceeded to trash “mom and pop shops, local boutiques and businesses, and cars,” according to Scott Rossi, a medic and eyewitness, who summed his feelings up this way afterward: “We were hijacked.” The people “leading the march tonight,” he added, were

clean cut, athletic, commanding, gravitas not borne of charisma but of testosterone and intimidation. They were decked out in outfits typically attributed to those in the “black bloc” spectrum of tactics, yet their clothes were too new, and something was just off about them. They were very combative and nearly physically violent with the livestreamers on site, and got ignorant with me, a medic, when I intervened.… I didn’t recognize any of these people. Their eyes were too angry, their mouths were too severe. They felt “military” if that makes sense. Something just wasn’t right about them on too many levels.

He was quick to add, “I’m not one of those tin foil hat conspiracy theorists. I don’t subscribe to those theories that Queen Elizabeth’s Reptilian slave driver masters run the Fed. I’ve read up on agents provocateurs and plants and that sort of thing and I have to say that, without a doubt, I believe 100 percent that the people that started tonight’s events in the Mission were exactly that.”

Taken aback, Occupy San Francisco condemned the sideshow: “We consider these acts of vandalism and violence a brutal assault on our community and the 99%.”

Where does such vandalism and violence come from? We don’t know. There are actual activists who believe that they are doing good this way; and there are government infiltrators; and then there are double agents who don’t know who they work for, ultimately, but like smashing things or blowing them up. By definition, masked trashers of windows in Oakland or elsewhere are anonymous. In anonymity, they—and the burners of flags and setters of bombs—magnify their power. They hijack the media spotlight. In this way, tiny groups—incendiary, sincere, fraudulent, whoever they are—seize levers that can move the entire world.

The Sting of the Clueless Bee

Who casts the first stone? Who smashes the first window? Who teaches bombers to build and plant actual or spurious bombs? The history of the secret police planting agents provocateurs in popular movements goes back at least to nineteenth-century France and twentieth-century Russia. In 1905, for example, the priest who led the St. Petersburg’s revolution was some sort of double agent, as was the man who organized the assassination of the czar’s uncle, the grand duke. As it happens, the United States has its own surprisingly full history of such planted agents at work turning small groups or movements in directions that, for better or far more often worse, they weren’t planning on going. One well-documented case is that of “Tommy the Traveler,” a Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) organizer who after years of trying to arouse violent action convinced two 19-year-old students to firebomb an ROTC headquarters at Hobart College in upstate New York. The writer John Schultz reported onlikely provocateurs in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention of 1968. How much of this sort of thing went on? Who knows? Many relevant documents molded in unopened archives, or have been heavily redacted or destroyed.

As the Boston marathon bombing illustrates, there are homegrown terrorists capable of producing the weapons they need and killing Americans without the slightest help from the US government. But historically, it’s surprising how relatively often the gendarme is also a ringleader. Just how often is hard to know, since information on the subject is fiendishly hard to pry loose from the secret world.

Through 2011, 508 defendants in the United States were prosecuted in what the Department of Justice calls “terrorism-related cases.” According to Mother Jones’s Trevor Aaronson, the FBI ran sting operations that “resulted in prosecutions against 158 defendants”—about one-third of the total. “Of that total, forty-nine defendants participated in plots led by an agent provocateur—an FBI operative instigating terrorist action. With three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings.”

In Cleveland, on May Day of 2012, in the words of a Rolling Stone exposé, the FBI “turned five stoner misfits into the world’s most hapless terrorist cell.” To do this, the FBI put a deeply indebted, convicted bank robber and bad-check passer on its payroll, and hooked him up with an arms dealer, also paid by the bureau. The FBI undercover man then hustled five wacked-out wannabe anarchists into procuring what they thought was enough C4 plastic explosive to build bombs they thought would blow up a bridge. The bombs were, of course, dummies. The five were arrested and await trial.

What do such cases mean? What is the FBI up to? Trevor Aaronson offers this appraisal:

The FBI’s goal is to create a hostile environment for terrorist recruiters and operators—by raising the risk of even the smallest step toward violent action. It’s a form of deterrence.… Advocates insist it has been effective, noting that there hasn’t been a successful large-scale attack against the United States since 9/11. But what can’t be answered—as many former and current FBI agents acknowledge—is how many of the bureau’s targets would have taken the step over the line at all, were it not for an informant.

Perhaps Aaronson is a bit too generous. The FBI may, at times, be anything but thoughtful in its provocations. It may, in fact, be flatly dopey. COINTELPRO records released since the 1960s under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show that it took FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover until 1968 to discover that there was such a thing as a New Left that might be of interest. Between 1960 and 1968, as the New Left was becoming a formidable force in its own right, the bureau’s top officials seem to have thought that groups like Students for a Democratic Society were simply covers for the Communist Party, which was like mistaking the fleas for the dog. We have been assured that the FBI of today has learned something since the days of J. Edgar Hoover. But of ignorance and stupidity there is no end.

Trivial and Nontrivial Pursuits

Entrapment and instigation to commit crimes are in themselves genuine dangers to American liberties, even when the liberties are those of the reckless and wild. But there is another danger to such pursuits: the attention the authorities pay to nonexistent threats (or the creation of such threats) is attention not paid to actual threats.

Anyone concerned about the security of Americans should cast a suspicious eye on the allocation or simply squandering of resources on wild goose chases. Consider some particulars which have recently come to light. Under the Freedom of Information Act, thePartnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) has unearthed documents showing that, in 2011 and 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal agencies were busy surveilling and worrying about a good number of Occupy groups—during the very time that they were missing actual warnings about actual terrorist actions.

From its beginnings, the Occupy movement was of considerable interest to the DHS, the FBI and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies, while true terrorists were slipping past the nets they cast in the wrong places. In the fall of 2011, the DHS specifically asked its regional affiliates to report on “Peaceful Activist Demonstrations, in addition to reporting on domestic terrorist acts and ‘significant criminal activity.’ ”

Aware that Occupy was overwhelmingly peaceful, the federally funded Boston Regional Intelligence Center, one of seventy-seven coordination centers known generically as “fusion centers,” was busy monitoring Occupy Boston daily. As the investigative journalist Michael Isikoff recently reported, it was not only tracking Occupy-related Facebook pages and websites but “writing reports on the movement’s potential impact on ‘commercial and financial sector assets.’ ”

It was in this period that the FBI received the second of two Russian police warnings about the extremist Islamist activities of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the future Boston Marathon bomber. That city’s police commissioner later testified that the federal authorities did not pass any information at all about the Tsarnaev brothers on to him, though there’s no point in letting the Boston police off the hook either. The ACLU has uncovered documents showing that, during the same period, they were paying close attention to the internal workings of… Code Pink and Veterans for Peace.

Public Agencies and the “Private Sector”

So we know that Boston’s master coordinators—its Committee on Public Safety, you might say—were worried about constitutionally protected activity, including its consequences for “commercial and financial sector assets.” Unsurprisingly, the feds worked closely with Wall Street even before the settling of Zuccotti Park. More surprisingly, in Alaska, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Wisconsin, intelligence was not only pooled among public law enforcement agencies, but shared with private corporations—and vice versa.

Nationally, in 2011, the FBI and DHS were, in the words of Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, “treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity.” Last December using FOIA, PCJF obtained 112 pages of documents (heavily redacted) revealing a good deal of evidence for what might otherwise seem like an outlandish charge: that federal authorities were, in Verheyden-Hilliard’s words, “functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.” Consider these examples from PCJF’s summary of federal agencies working directly not only with local authorities but on behalf of the private sector:

• “As early as August 19, 2011, the FBI in New York was meeting with the New York Stock Exchange to discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests that wouldn’t start for another month. By September, prior to the start of the OWS, the FBI was notifying businesses that they might be the focus of an OWS protest.”

• “The FBI in Albany and the Syracuse Joint Terrorism Task Force disseminated information to…[twenty-two] campus police officials.… A representative of the State University of New York at Oswego contacted the FBI for information on the OWS protests and reported to the FBI on the SUNY-Oswego Occupy encampment made up of students and professors.”

• An entity called the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector,” sent around information regarding Occupy protests at West Coast ports [on November 2, 2011] to “raise awareness concerning this type of criminal activity.” The DSAC report contained “a ‘handling notice’ that the information is ‘meant for use primarily within the corporate security community. Such messages shall not be released in either written or oral form to the media, the general public or other personnel…’ Naval Criminal Investigative Services reported to DSAC on the relationship between OWS and organized labor.”

• DSAC gave tips to its corporate clients on “civil unrest,” which it defined as running the gamut from “small, organized rallies to large-scale demonstrations and rioting.” It advised corporate employees to dress conservatively, avoid political discussions and “avoid all large gatherings related to civil issues. Even seemingly peaceful rallies can spur violent activity or be met with resistance by security forces.”

• The FBI in Anchorage, Jacksonville, Tampa, Richmond, Memphis, Milwaukee and Birmingham also gathered information and briefed local officials on wholly peaceful Occupy activities.

• In Jackson, Mississippi, FBI agents “attended a meeting with the Bank Security Group in Biloxi, MS with multiple private banks and the Biloxi Police Department, in which they discussed an announced protest for ‘National Bad Bank Sit-In-Day’ on December 7, 2011.” Also in Jackson, “the Joint Terrorism Task Force issued a ‘Counterterrorism Preparedness’ alert” that, despite heavy redactions, notes the need to ‘document…the Occupy Wall Street Movement.’ ”

Sometimes, “intelligence” moves in the opposite direction—from private corporations to public agencies. Among the collectors of such “intelligence” are entities that, like the various intelligence and law enforcement outfits, do not make distinctions between terrorists and nonviolent protesters. Consider TransCanada, the corporation that plans to build the 1,179-mile Keystone-XL tar sands pipeline across the US and in the process realize its “vision to become the leading energy infrastructure company in North America.“ The anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska filed a successful Freedom of Information Act request with the Nebraska State Patrol and so was able to put TransCanada’s briefing slideshow up online.

So it can be documented in living color that the company lectured federal agents and local police to look into the use of “anti-terrorism statutes” against peaceful anti-Keystone activists. TransCanada showed slides that cited as sinister the “attendance” of Bold Nebraska members at public events, noting “Suspicious Vehicles/Photography.” TransCanada alerted the authorities that Nebraska protesters were guilty of “aggressive/abusive behavior,” citing a local anti-pipeline group that, they said, committed a “slap on the shoulder” at the Merrick County Board Meeting (possessor of said shoulder unspecified). They fingered nonviolent activists by name and photo, paying them the tribute of calling them “’Professionals’ & Organized.” Native News Network pointed out that “although TransCanada’s presentation to authorities contains information about property destruction, sabotage, and booby traps, police in Texas and Oklahoma have never alleged, accused, or charged Tar Sands Blockade activists of any such behaviors.”

Centers for Fusion, Diffusion and Confusion

After September 11, 2001, government agencies at all levels, suddenly eager to break down information barriers and connect the sort of dots that had gone massively unconnected before the Al Qaeda attacks, used Department of Homeland Security funds to start “fusion centers.” These are supposed to coordinate anti-terrorist intelligence gathering and analysis. They are also supposed to “fuse” intelligence reports from federal, state and local authorities, as well as private companies that conduct intelligence operations. According to the ACLU, at least seventy-seven fusion centers currently receive federal funds.

Much is not known about these centers, including just who runs them, by what rules and which public and private entities are among the fused. There is nothing public about most of them. However, some things are known about a few. Several fusion center reports that have gone public illustrate a remarkably slapdash approach to what constitutes “terrorist danger” and just what kinds of data are considered relevant for law enforcement. In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee learned, for instance, that the Tennessee Fusion Center was “highlighting on its website map of ‘Terrorism Events and Other Suspicious Activity’ a recent ACLU-TN letter to school superintendents. The letter encourages schools to be supportive of all religious beliefs during the holiday season.” (The map is no longer online.)

So far, the prize for pure fused wordiness goes to a 215-page manual issued in 2009 by theVirginia Fusion Center (VFC), filled with Keystone Kop–style passages among pages that in their intrusive sweep are anything but funny. The VFC warned, for instance, that “the Garbage Liberation Front (GLF) is an ecological direct action group that demonstrates the joining of anarchism and environmental movements.” Among GLF’s dangerous activities well worth the watching, the VFC included “dumpster diving, squatting, and train hopping.”

In a similarly jaw-dropping manner, the manual claimed—the italics are mine—that “Katuah Earth First (KEF), based in Asheville, North Carolina, sends activists throughout the region to train and engage in criminal activity. KEF has trained local environmentalists in non-violent tactics, including blocking roads and leading demonstrations, at action camps in Virginia.While KEF has been primarily involved in protests and university outreach, members have also engaged in vandalism.” Vandalism! Send out an APB!

The VFC also warned that, “although the anarchist threat to Virginia is assessed as low, these individuals view the government as unnecessary, which could lead to threats or attacks against government figures or establishments.” It singled out the following 2008 incidents as worth notice:

• At the Martinsville Speedway, “A temporary employee called in a bomb threat during a Sprint Cup race…because he was tired of picking up trash and wanted to go home.”

• In Missouri, “a mobile security team observed an individual photographing an unspecified oil refinery.… The person abruptly left the scene before he could be questioned.”

• Somewhere in Virginia, “seven passengers aboard a white pontoon boat dressed in traditional Middle Eastern garments immediately sped away after being sighted in the recreational area, which is in close proximity to” a power plant.

What idiot or idiots wrote this script?

Given a disturbing lack of evidence of terrorist actions undertaken or in prospect, the authors even warned:

It is likely that potential incidents of interest are occurring, but that such incidents are either not recognized by initial responders or simply not reported. The lack of detailed information for Virginia instances of monitored trends should not be construed to represent a lack of occurrence.

Lest it be thought that Virginia stands alone and shivering on the summit of bureaucratic stupidity, consider an “intelligence report” from the North Central Texas fusion center, which in a 2009 “Prevention Awareness Bulletin” described, in the ACLU’s words, “a purported conspiracy between Muslim civil rights organizations, lobbying groups, the antiwar movement, a former US Congresswoman, the US Treasury Department, and hip hop bands to spread tolerance in the United States, which would ‘provide an environment for terrorist organizations to flourish.’ ”

And those Virginia and Texas fusion centers were hardly alone in expanding the definition of “terrorist” to fit just about anyone who might oppose government policies. According to a 2010 report in the Los Angeles Times, the Justice Department Inspector General found that “FBI agents improperly opened investigations into Greenpeace and several other domestic advocacy groups after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and put the names of some of their members on terrorist watch lists based on evidence that turned out to be ‘factually weak.’ ” The Inspector General called “troubling” what the Los Angeles Times described as “singling out some of the domestic groups for investigations that lasted up to five years, and were extended ‘without adequate basis.’ ”

Subsequently, the FBI continued to maintain investigative files on groups like Greenpeace, the Catholic Worker, and the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh, cases where (in the politely put words of the Inspector General’s report) “there was little indication of any possible federal crimes… In some cases, the FBI classified some investigations relating to nonviolent civil disobedience under its ‘acts of terrorism’ classification.”

One of these investigations concerned Greenpeace protests planned for ExxonMobil shareholder meetings. (Note: I was on Greenpeace’s board of directors during three of those years.) The inquiry was kept open “for over three years, long past the shareholder meetings that the subjects were supposedly planning to disrupt.” The FBI put the names of Greenpeace members on its federal watch list. Around the same time, an ExxonMobil-funded lobby got the IRS to audit Greenpeace.

This counterintelligence archipelago of malfeasance and stupidity is sometimes fused with ass-covering fabrication. In Pittsburgh, on the day after Thanksgiving 2002 (“a slow work day” in the Justice Department inspector general’s estimation), a rookie FBI agent was outfitted with a camera, sent to an antiwar rally, and told to look for terrorism suspects. The “possibility that any useful information would result from this make-work assignment was remote,” the report added drily.

The agent was unable to identify any terrorism subjects at the event, but he photographed a woman in order to have something to show his supervisor. He told us he had spoken to a woman leafletter at the rally who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent, and that she was probably the person he photographed.

The sequel was not quite so droll. The Inspector General found that FBI officials, including their chief lawyer in Pittsburgh, manufactured postdated “routing slips” and the rest of a phony paper trail to justify this surveillance retroactively.

Moreover, at least one fusion center has involved military intelligence in civilian law enforcement. In 2009, a military operative from Fort Lewis, Washington, worked undercovercollecting information on peace groups in the Northwest. In fact, he helped run the Port Militarization Resistance group’s Listserv. Once uncovered, he told activists there were others doing similar work in the Army. How much the military spies on American citizens is unknown and, at the moment at least, unknowable.

Do we hear an echo from the abyss of the counterintelligence programs of the 1960s and 1970s, when FBI memos—I have some in my own heavily redacted files obtained through an FOIA request—were routinely copied to military intelligence units? Then, too, military intelligence operatives spied on activists who violated no laws, were not suspected of violating laws, and had they violated laws, would not have been under military jurisdiction in any case. During those years, more than 1,500 Army intelligence agents in plain clothes were spying, undercover, on domestic political groups (according to “Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics, 1967–70,” an unpublished dissertation by former Army intelligence captain Christopher H. Pyle). They posed as students, sometimes growing long hair and beards for the purpose, or as reporters and camera crews. They recorded speeches and conversations on concealed tape recorders. The Army lied about their purposes, claiming they were interested solely in “civil disturbance planning.”

Years later, I met one of these agents, now retired, in San Francisco. He knew more about what I was doing in the late 1960s than my mother did.

Squaring Circles

In 2009, President Obama told the graduating class at the Naval Academy that, “as Americans, we reject the false choice between our security and our ideals.” Security and ideals: officially we want both. But how do you square circles, especially in a world in which “security” has often enough become a stand-in for whatever intelligence operatives decide to do?

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The ACLU’s Tennessee office sums the situation up nicely: “While the ostensible purpose of fusion centers, to improve sharing of anti-terrorism intelligence among different levels and arms of government, is legitimate and important, using the centers to monitor protected First Amendment activity clearly crosses the line.” Nationally, the ACLU rightly worries about who is in charge of fusion centers and by what rules they operate, about what becomes of privacy when private corporations are inserted into the intelligence process, about what the military is doing meddling in civilian law enforcement, about data-mining operations that Federal guidelines encourage, and about the secrecy walls behind which the fusion centers operate.

Even when fusion centers do their best to square that circle in their own guidelines, like the ones obtained by the ACLU from Massachusetts’s Commonwealth Fusion Center (CFC), the knots in which they tie themselves are all over the page. Imagine, then, what happens when you let informers or agents provocateurs loose in actual undercover situations.

“Undercovers,” writes the Massachusetts CFC, “may not seek to gain access to private meetings and should not actively participate in meetings.… At the preliminary inquiry stage, sources and informants should not be used to cultivate relationships with persons and groups that are the subject of the preliminary inquiry.” So far so good. Then, it adds, “Investigators may, however, interview, obtain, and accept information known to sources and informants.” By eavesdropping, say? Collecting trash? Hacking? All without warrants? Without probable cause?

“Undercovers and informants,” the guidelines continue, “are strictly prohibited from engaging in any conduct the sole purpose of which is to disrupt the lawful exercise of political activity, from disrupting the lawful operations of an organization, from sowing seeds of distrust between members of an organization involved in lawful activity, or from instigating unlawful acts or engaging in unlawful or unauthorized investigative activities.” Now, go back and note that little, easy-to-miss word “sole.” Who knows just what grim circles that tiny word squares?

The Massachusetts CFC at least addresses the issue of entrapment: “Undercovers should not become so involved in a group that they are participating in directing the operations of a group, either by accepting a formal position in the hierarchy or by informally establishing the group’s policy and priorities. This does not mean an undercover cannot support a group’s policies and priorities; rather an undercover should not become a driving force behind a group’s unlawful activities.” Did Cleveland’s fusion center have such guidelines? Did they follow them? Do other state fusion centers? We don’t know.

Whatever the fog of surveillance, when it comes to informers, agents provocateurs, and similar matters, four things are clear enough:

• Terrorist plots arise, in the United States as elsewhere, with the intent of committing murder and mayhem. Since 2001, in the US, these have been almost exclusively the work of freelance Islamist ideologues like the Tsarnaev brothers of Boston. None have been connected in any meaningful way with any legitimate organization or movement.

• Government surveillance may in some cases have been helpful in scotching such plots, but there is no evidence that it has been essential.

• Even based on the limited information available to us, since September 11, 2001, the net of surveillance has been thrown wide indeed. Tabs have been kept on members of quite a range of suspect populations, including American Muslims, anarchists, and environmentalists, among others—in situation after situation where there was no probable cause to suspect preparations for a crime.

• At least on occasion—we have no way of knowing how often—agents provocateurs on government payrolls have spurred violence.

How much official unintelligence is at work? How many demonstrations are being poked and prodded by undercover agents? How many acts of violence are being suborned? It would be foolish to say we know. At least equally foolish would be to trust the authorities to keep to honest-to-goodness police work when they are so mightily tempted to take the low road into straight-out, unwarranted espionage and instigation.



COINTELPRO (an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram) was a series of covert, and at times illegal,[1][2] projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.[3] National Security Agency operation Project MINARET targeted the personal communications of leading Americans who criticized the Vietnam War, including Senators (e.g., Frank Church and Howard Baker), civil rights leaders, journalists, and athletes.[4][5]

The official COINTELPRO label took place between 1956 and 1971.[6][7] The FBI’s stated motivation was “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order.”[8]

FBI records show that 85% of COINTELPRO resources targeted groups and individuals that the FBI deemed “subversive”,[9]including communist and socialist organizations; organizations and individuals associated with the Civil Rights Movement, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others associated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, theNational Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Congress of Racial Equality and other civil rights organizations; black nationalist groups; the Young Lords; the Rainbow Coalition; the American Indian Movement; a broad range of organizations labeled “New Left“, including Students for a Democratic Society and the Weathermen; almost all groupsprotesting the Vietnam War, as well as individual student demonstrators with no group affiliation; the National Lawyers Guild; organizations and individuals associated with the women’s rights movement; nationalist groups such as those seeking independence for Puerto Rico, United Ireland, and Cuban exile movements including Orlando Bosch‘s Cuban Power and theCuban Nationalist Movement; and additional notable Americans (for example, Albert Einstein, who was a socialist and a member of several civil rights groups, came under FBI surveillance during the years just before COINTELPRO’s official inauguration).[10] The remaining 15% of COINTELPRO resources were expended to marginalize and subvert white supremist hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and the National States’ Rights Party.[11]

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover issued directives governing COINTELPRO, ordering FBI agents to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, neutralize or otherwise eliminate” the activities of these movements and their leaders.[12][13] Under Hoover, the agent in charge of COINTELPRO was William C. Sullivan.[14] Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy personally authorized some of these programs.[15] Kennedy would later learn that he also had been a target of FBI surveillance.[citation needed]


The FBI engaged in the political repression of “communism” almost from the time of the agency’s inception in 1908, at a time of widespread social disruption due to anarchists and labor movements. Beginning in the 1930s, antecedents to COINTELPRO operated during the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Trumanadministrations. Centralized operations under COINTELPRO officially began in August 1956 with a program designed to “increase factionalism, cause disruption and win defections” inside the Communist Party U.S.A. (CPUSA). Tactics included anonymous phone calls, IRS audits, and the creation of documents that would divide American communists internally.[16] An October 1956 memo from Hoover reclassified the FBI’s ongoing surveillance of black leaders, including it within COINTELPRO, with the justification that the movement was infiltrated by communists.[17] In 1956, Hoover sent an open letter denouncing Dr. T.R.M. Howard, a civil rights leader, surgeon, and wealthy entrepreneur in Mississippi who had criticized FBI inaction in solving recent murders of George W. Lee, Emmett Till, and other blacks in the South.[18] When the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was founded in 1957, the FBI began to monitor and target the group almost immediately, focusing particularly on Bayard Rustin, Stanley Levison, and, eventually, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.[19]

After the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Hoover singled out King as a major target for COINTELPRO. Under pressure from Hoover to focus on King, Sullivan wrote:

In the light of King’s powerful demagogic speech. … We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security.[20]

Soon after, the FBI was systematically bugging King’s home and his hotel rooms.[21]

In the mid-1960s, King began publicly criticizing the Bureau for giving insufficient attention to the use of terrorism by white supremacists. Hoover responded by publicly calling King the most “notorious liar” in the United States.[22] In his 1991 memoir, Washington Post journalist Carl Rowan asserted that the FBI had sent at least one anonymous letter to King encouraging him to commit suicide.[23] Historian Taylor Branch documents an anonymous November 21, 1964 “suicide package” sent by the FBI that contained audio recordings of King’s sexual indiscretions combined with a letter telling him “There is only one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”[24]

During the same period the program also targeted Malcolm X. While an FBI spokesman has denied that the FBI was “directly” involved in Malcolm’s murder, it is documented that the Bureau fostered the violent schism between Malcolm and the Nation of Islam that led to the black leader’s death. The FBI heavily infiltrated Malcolm’s Organization of Afro-American Unity in the final month’s of his life. The Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Malcolm X by Manning Marable asserts that most of the men who plotted Malcolm’s assassination were never apprehended and that the full extent of the FBI’s involvement in his death cannot be known.[25] [26]

Amidst the urban unrest of July–August 1967, the FBI began “COINTELPRO–BLACK HATE”, which focused on King and the SCLC as well as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), the Deacons for Defense and Justice, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and theNation of Islam.[27] BLACK HATE established the Ghetto Informant Program and instructed 23 FBI offices to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist hate type organizations”.[28]

A March 1968 memo stated the programs goal was to “prevent the coalition of militant black nationalist groups” ; to “Prevent the RISE OF A ‘MESSIAH’ who could unify…the militant black nationalist movement” ; “to pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralize them before they exercise their potential for violence [against authorities].” ; to “Prevent militant black nationalist groups and leaders from gaining RESPECTABILITY, by discrediting them to…both the responsible community and to liberals who have vestiges of sympathy…”; and to “prevent the long-range GROWTH of militant black organizations, especially among youth.” Dr. King was said to have potential to be the “messiah” figure, should he abandon nonviolence and integrationism;[29] Stokely Carmichael was noted to have “the necessary charisma to be a real threat in this way.” [30]

This program coincided with a broader federal effort to prepare military responses for urban riots, and began increased collaboration between the FBI, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and the Department of Defense. The CIA launched its own domestic espionage project in 1967 called Operation CHAOS. [31] A particular target was the Poor People’s Campaign, a national effort organized by King and the SCLC to occupy Washington, D.C. The FBI monitored and disrupted the campaign on a national level, while using targeted smear tactics locally to undermine support for the march.[32]

COINTELPRO–NEW LEFT was created in April 1968, in the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s assassination in Memphis and mass student protests at Columbia University.[33]

Overall, COINTELPRO encompassed disruption and sabotage of the Socialist Workers Party (1961), the Ku Klux Klan (1964), the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party (1967), and the entire New Left social/political movement, which included antiwar, community, and religious groups (1968). A later investigation by the Senate’sChurch Committee (see below) stated that “COINTELPRO began in 1956, in part because of frustration with Supreme Court rulings limiting the Government’s power to proceed overtly against dissident groups …”[34] Official congressional committees and several court cases[35] have concluded that COINTELPRO operations against communist and socialist groups exceeded statutory limits on FBI activity and violated constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and association.[1]

Program exposed

The building broken into by the Citizen’s Commission to Investigate the FBI, at One Veterans Square, Media, Pennsylvania

The program was successfully kept secret until 1971, when the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI burglarized an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania, took several dossiers, and exposed the program by passing this material to news agencies. Many news organizations initially refused to publish the information. Within the year, Director J. Edgar Hooverdeclared that the centralized COINTELPRO was over, and that all future counterintelligence operations would be handled on a case-by-case basis.[36][37]

Additional documents were revealed in the course of separate lawsuits filed against the FBI by NBC correspondent Carl Stern, the Socialist Workers Party, and a number of other groups. In 1976 the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities of the United States Senate, commonly referred to as the “Church Committee” for its chairman, Senator Frank Church of Idaho, launched a major investigation of the FBI and COINTELPRO. Journalists and historians speculate that the government has not released many dossier and documents related to the program. Many released documents have been partly, or entirely, redacted.

Since the conclusion of centralized COINTELPRO operations in 1971, FBI counterintelligence operations have been handled on a “case-by-case basis”; however allegations of improper political repression continue.[38][39]

The Final Report of the Select Committee castigated conduct of the intelligence community in its domestic operations (including COINTELPRO) in no uncertain terms:

The Committee finds that the domestic activities of the intelligence community at times violated specific statutory prohibitions and infringed the constitutional rights of American citizens. The legal questions involved in intelligence programs were often not considered. On other occasions, they were intentionally disregarded in the belief that because the programs served the “national security” the law did not apply. While intelligence officers on occasion failed to disclose to their superiors programs which were illegal or of questionable legality, the Committee finds that the most serious breaches of duty were those of senior officials, who were responsible for controlling intelligence activities and generally failed to assure compliance with the law.[1] 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 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.[34]

The Church Committee documented a history of the FBI exercising political repression as far back as World War I, through the 1920s, when agents were charged with rounding up “anarchists, communists, socialists, reformists and revolutionaries” for deportation. The domestic operations were increased against political and anti-war groups from 1936 through 1976.

Intended effects

The intended effect of the FBI’s COINTELPRO was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, or otherwise neutralize” groups that the FBI officials believed were “subversive”[40] by instructing FBI field operatives to:[41]

  1. create a negative public image for target groups (e.g. by surveilling activists, and releasing negative personal information to the public)
  2. break down internal organization
  3. create dissension between groups
  4. restrict access to public resources
  5. restrict the ability to organize protests
  6. restrict the ability of individuals to participate in group activities

Range of targets

The main target was the Communist Party.[42]

According to the Church Committee:

While the declared purposes of these programs were to protect the “national security” or prevent violence, Bureau witnesses admit that many of the targets were nonviolent and most had no connections with a foreign power. Indeed, nonviolent organizations and individuals were targeted because the Bureau believed they represented a “potential” for violence—and nonviolent citizens who were against the war in Vietnam were targeted because they gave “aid and comfort” to violent demonstrators by lending respectability to their cause.

The imprecision of the targeting is demonstrated by the inability of the Bureau to define the subjects of the programs. 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.” Thus, the nonviolent Southern Christian Leadership Conference was labeled as a Black Nationalist-“Hate Group.”

Furthermore, the actual targets were chosen from a far broader group than the titles of the programs would imply. The CPUSA program targeted not only Communist Party members but also sponsors of the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee and civil rights leaders allegedly under Communist influence or deemed to be not sufficiently “anti-Communist”. The Socialist Workers Party program included non-SWP sponsors of anti-war demonstrations which were cosponsored by the SWP or the Young Socialist Alliance, its youth group. The Black Nationalist program targeted a range of organizations from the Panthers to SNCC to the peaceful Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and included every Black Student Union and many other black student groups. New Left targets ranged from the SDS to the InterUniversity Committee for Debate on Foreign Policy, from Antioch College (“vanguard of the New Left”) to the New Mexico Free University and other “alternate” schools, and from underground newspapers to students’ protesting university censorship of a student publication by carrying signs with four-letter words on them.

Examples of surveillance, spanning all presidents from FDR to Nixon, both legal and illegal, contained in the Church Committee report:[43]

  • President Roosevelt asked the FBI to put in its files the names of citizens sending telegrams to the White House opposing his “national defense” policy and supporting Col. Charles Lindbergh.
  • President Truman received inside information on a former Roosevelt aide’s efforts to influence his appointments, labor union negotiating plans, and the publishing plans of journalists.
  • President Eisenhower received reports on purely political and social contacts with foreign officials by Bernard Baruch, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.
  • The Kennedy administration had the FBI wiretap a congressional staff member, three executive officials, a lobbyist, and a Washington law firm. US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy received the fruits of an FBI wire tap on Martin Luther King, Jr. and an electronic listening device targeting a congressman, both of which yielded information of a political nature.
  • President Johnson asked the FBI to conduct “name checks” of his critics and members of the staff of his 1964 opponent, Senator Barry Goldwater. He also requested purely political intelligence on his critics in the Senate, and received extensive intelligence reports on political activity at the 1964 Democratic Conventionfrom FBI electronic surveillance.
  • President Nixon authorized a program of wiretaps which produced for the White House purely political or personal information unrelated to national security, including information about a Supreme Court Justice.

The COINTELPRO documents show numerous cases of the FBI’s intentions to prevent and disrupt protests against the Vietnam War. Many techniques were used to accomplish this task. “These included promoting splits among antiwar forces, encouraging red-baiting of socialists, and pushing violent confrontations as an alternative to massive, peaceful demonstrations.” One 1966 COINTELPRO operation tried to redirect the Socialist Workers Party from their pledge of support for the antiwar movement.[44]

The FBI claims that it no longer undertakes COINTELPRO or COINTELPRO-like operations. However, critics have claimed that agency programs in the spirit of COINTELPRO targeted groups such as the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador,[45] the American Indian Movement,[6][46] Earth First!,[47] the White Separatist Movement,[48] and the Anti-Globalization Movement.[citation needed]


Body of Fred Hampton, national spokesman for the Black Panther Party, who was killed by members of the Chicago Police Department, as part of a COINTELPRO operation.[49][50][7][51]

According to attorney Brian Glick in his book War at Home, the FBI used four main methods during COINTELPRO:

  1. Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit and disrupt. Their very presence served to undermine trust and scare off potential supporters. The FBI and police exploited this fear to smear genuine activists as agents.
  2. Psychological warfare: The FBI and police used myriad “dirty tricks” to undermine progressive movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists. They used bad-jacketingto create suspicion about targeted activists, sometimes with lethal consequences.[52]
  3. Legal harassment: The FBI and police abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, “investigative” interviews, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters.[49]
  4. Illegal force: The FBI conspired with local police departments to threaten dissidents; to conduct illegal break-ins in order to search dissident homes; and to commit vandalism, assaults, beatings and assassinations.[49][50][7][53] The object was to frighten or eliminate dissidents and disrupt their movements.

The FBI specifically developed tactics intended to heighten tension and hostility between various factions in the black militancy movement, for example between the Black Panthers, the US Organization, and the Blackstone Rangers. This resulted in numerous deaths, among which were San Diego Black Panther Party members John Huggins, Bunchy Carter and Sylvester Bell.[49]

The FBI also conspired with the police departments of many U.S. cities (San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Philadelphia, Chicago) to encourage repeated raids on Black Panther homes—often with little or no evidence of violations of federal, state, or local laws—which resulted directly in the police killing many members of the Black Panther Party, most notably Chicago Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton on December 4, 1969.[49][50][7][54]

In order to eliminate black militant leaders whom they considered dangerous, the FBI is believed to have worked with local police departments to target specific individuals,[55] accuse them of crimes they did not commit, suppress exculpatory evidence and falsely incarcerate them.[citation needed] Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt, a Black Panther Party leader, was incarcerated for 27 years before a California Superior Court vacated his murder conviction, ultimately freeing him. Appearing before the court, an FBI agent testified that he believed Pratt had been framed, because both the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department knew he had not been in the area at the time the murder occurred.[56][57]

Some sources claim that the FBI conducted more than 200 “black bag jobs“,[58][59] which were warrantless surreptitious entries, against the targeted groups and their members.[60]

J. Edgar Hoover

In 1969 the FBI special agent in San Francisco wrote Hoover that his investigation of the Black Panther Party (BPP) had concluded that in his city, at least, the Panthers were primarily engaged in feeding breakfast to children. Hoover fired back a memo implying the agent’s career goals would be directly affected by his supplying evidence to support Hoover’s view that the BPP was “a violence-prone organization seeking to overthrow the Government by revolutionary means”.[61]

Hoover supported using false claims to attack his political enemies. In one memo he wrote: “Purpose of counterintelligence action is to disrupt the BPP and it is immaterial whether facts exist to substantiate the charge.”[62]

In one particularly controversial 1965 incident, white civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo was murdered by Ku Klux Klansmen, who gave chase and fired shots into her car after noticing that her passenger was a young black man; one of the Klansmen was Gary Thomas Rowe, an acknowledged FBI informant.[63][64] The FBI spread rumors that Liuzzo was a member of theCommunist Party and had abandoned her children to have sexual relationships with African Americans involved in the Civil Rights Movement.[65][66] FBI records show that J. Edgar Hoover personally communicated these insinuations to President Johnson.[67][68] FBI informant Rowe has also been implicated in some of the most violent crimes of the 1960s civil rights era, including attacks on the Freedom Riders and the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.[63]According to Noam Chomsky, in another instance in San Diego, the FBI financed, armed, and controlled an extreme right-wing group of former Minutemen, transforming it into a group called the Secret Army Organization that targeted groups, activists, and leaders involved in the Anti-War Movement, using both intimidation and violent acts.[69][70][71]

Hoover ordered preemptive action “to pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralize them before they exercise their potential for violence.”[12]

Illegal surveillance

The final report of the Church Committee concluded:

Too many people have been spied upon by too many Government agencies and too much information has been illegally collected. The Government has often undertaken the secret surveillance of citizens on the basis of their political beliefs, even when those beliefs posed no threat of violence or illegal acts on behalf of a hostile foreign power. The Government, operating primarily through secret and bias informants, but also using other intrusive techniques such as wiretaps, microphone “bugs”, surreptitious mail opening, and break-ins, has swept in vast amounts of information about the personal lives, views, and associations of American citizens. Investigations of groups deemed potentially dangerous—and even of groups suspected of associating with potentially dangerous organizations—have continued for decades, despite the fact that those groups did not engage in unlawful activity.

Groups and individuals have been assaulted, repressed, harassed and disrupted because of their political views,social believes and their lifestyles. Investigations have been based upon vague standards whose breadth made excessive collection inevitable. Unsavory, harmful and vicious tactics have been employed—including anonymous attempts to break up marriages, disrupt meetings, ostracize persons from their professions, and provoke target groups into rivalries that might result in deaths. Intelligence agencies have served the political and personal objectives of presidents and other high officials. While the agencies often committed excesses in response to pressure from high officials in the Executive branch and Congress, they also occasionally initiated improper activities and then concealed them from officials whom they had a duty to inform.

Governmental officials—including those whose principal duty is to enforce the law—have violated or ignored the law over long periods of time and have advocated and defended their right to break the law.

The Constitutional system of checks and balances has not adequately controlled intelligence activities. Until recently the Executive branch has neither delineated the scope of permissible activities nor established procedures for supervising intelligence agencies. Congress has failed to exercise sufficient oversight, seldom questioning the use to which its appropriations were being put. Most domestic intelligence issues have not reached the courts, and in those cases when they have reached the courts, the judiciary has been reluctant to grapple with them.[72][73]

Post-COINTELPRO operations

While COINTELPRO was officially terminated in April 1971, critics allege that continuing FBI actions indicate that post-COINTELPRO reforms did not succeed in ending COINTELPRO tactics.[74][75][76] Documents released under the FOIA show that the FBI tracked the late David Halberstam—a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author—for more than two decades.[77][78] In 1978, then-acting FBI Director William H. Webster indicated that, by 1976, most of the program’s resources has been rerouted.[79][better source needed]

“Counterterrorism” guidelines implemented during the Reagan administration have been described as allowing a return to COINTELPRO tactics.[80][pages needed] Some radical groups accuse factional opponents of being FBI informants or assume the FBI is infiltrating the movement.[81]

According to a report by the Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI improperly opened investigations of American activist groups, even though they were planning nothing more than peaceful protests and civil disobedience. The review by the inspector general was launched in response to complaints by civil liberties groups and members of Congress. The FBI improperly monitored groups including the Thomas Merton Center, a Pittsburgh-based peace group; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); and Greenpeace USA, an environmental activism organization. Also, activists affiliated with Greenpeace were improperly put on a terrorist watch list, although they were planning no violence or illegal activities.

The IG report found these “troubling” FBI practices between 2001 and 2006. In some cases, the FBI conducted investigations of people affiliated with activist groups for “factually weak” reasons. Also, the FBI extended investigations of some of the groups “without adequate basis” and improperly kept information about activist groups in its files. The IG report also found that FBI Director Robert Mueller III provided inaccurate congressional testimony about one of the investigations, but this inaccuracy may have been due to his relying on what FBI officials told him.[82]

Several authors have accused the FBI of continuing to deploy COINTELPRO-like tactics against radical groups after the official COINTELPRO operations were ended. Several authors have suggested the American Indian Movement (AIM) has been a target of such disturbing operations.

Authors such as Ward Churchill, Rex Weyler, and Peter Matthiessen allege that the federal government intended to acquire uranium deposits on the Lakota tribe’s reservation land, and that this motivated a larger government conspiracy against AIM activists on the Pine Ridge reservation.[6][46][83][84][85] Others believe COINTELPRO continues and similar actions are being taken against activist groups.[85][86][87] Caroline Woidat says that, with respect to Native Americans, COINTELPRO should be understood within a historical context in which “Native Americans have been viewed and have viewed the world themselves through the lens of conspiracy theory.”[88] Other authors note that while some conspiracy theories related to COINTELPRO are unfounded, the issue of ongoing government surveillance and repression is real.[39][89]

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