As I mentioned in a column last year: “From 1956 to 1971, the FBI operated a program called COINTELPRO, an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program. Initially established to spy on organizations suspected of communist ties, the program was expanded by J. Edgar Hoover to include the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the National Lawyers Guild and other left-leaning groups.
“A congressional committee, chaired by Senator Frank Church, issued a report that concluded, ‘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 protect the national security and deter violence.’”
The goal of COINTELPRO was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, or otherwise neutralize” organizations that the FBI deemed “subversive.” The FBI harassed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. until his final days.
Under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover and with the approval of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the FBI wiretapped King’s home and office telephones, decided not to tell King of credible threats on his life, taped what the FBI claimed were illicit sexual activities and mailed them to Dr. King’s wife.
And perhaps in its most disgusting move, as David Garrow recounts in Bearing the Cross, a Pulitzer-Prize winning book about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, the FBI tried to get the civil rights leader to commit suicide.
An anonymous letter and copy of taped sex recordings were mailed to King at his SCLC office in Atlanta. The letter said, “There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”
If anyone has reason to distrust the federal government’s monitoring of its citizens, it’s African-Americans. Yet, we continue to hope against hope, placing our trust in people and institutions that have sought to destroy us.
(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the NNPA. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.)
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