With a genuine grassroots movement emerging in this country today, I can’t help but think of a time when this nation was exploding with new ideas and new movements that worked to bring about much needed change.
The Free Speech movement that was born on the campus of UC Berkely, and the movements that grew out of the Free Speech movement, the Anti-war Movement to end the atrocious war in Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement to bring equality and constitutionally granted rights to all people in the United States, the Women’s Movement to allow women the same opportunities as men, the LGBT Movement to bring the same rights to gay people, that straight people enjoyed, the Black Panther movement to bring about better neighborhoods and protections from violent discrimination against Afro-Americans in the inner cities across America, were under attack by our government in a covert war to discredit and put an end to them all.
After 9/11, with a whole new set of investigative laws encompassed within The Patriot Act, the great expansion of intelligence networks that arose from the creation of Homeland Security, and the considerable loss of privacy that resulted from all of this makes me wonder what sort of chance does the Occupy Wall Street movement have of succeeding.
In the early 1960s, the FBI created a covert program entitled COINTELPRO, to disrupt, discredit, and destroy these movements from within and without. Here are tactics they used to accomplish this evil end;
When congressional investigations, political trials, and other traditional legal modes of repression failed to counter the growing movements, and even helped to fuel them, the FBI and police moved outside the law. They resorted to the secret and systematic use of fraud and force to sabotage constitutionally protected political activity. Their methods ranged far beyond surveillance, amounting to a home front version of the covert action for which the CIA has become infamous throughout the world.
FBI Headquarters secretly instructed its field offices to propose schemes to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” specific individuals and groups. Close coordination with local police and prosecutors was strongly encouraged. Other recommended collaborators included friendly news media, business and foundation executives, and university, church, and trade union officials, as well as such “patriotic” organizations as the American Legion.
Final authority rested with FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Top FBI officials pressed local field offices to step up their activity and demanded regular progress reports. Agents were directed to maintain full secrecy “such that under no circumstances should the existence of the program be made known outside the Bureau and appropriate within-office security should be afforded to sensitive operations and techniques.” A total of 2,370 officially approved COINTELPRO actions were admitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and thousands more have since been uncovered. Four main methods have been revealed:
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 From the Outside: The FBI and police used myriad other “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.
3. Harassment through the Legal System 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” inter views, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters.
4. Extralegal Force and Violence: The FBI and police threatened, instigated, and themselves conducted break-ins, vandalism, assaults, and beatings. The object was to frighten dissidents and disrupt their movements. In the case of radical Black and Puerto Rican activists (and later Native Americans), these attacks-including political assassinations-were so extensive, vicious, and calculated that they can accurately be termed a form of official “terrorism.”