The COINTELPRO Papers
Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars
Against Dissent in the United States
by Ward Churchill & Jim Vander Wall
South End Press ISBN 0-89608-359-4
COINTELPRO - New Left
If [SDS] or any group was organized on a national basis to subvert our society, then I think Congress should pass laws to suppress that activity. When you see an epidemic like this cropping up all over the country - the same kind of people saying the same kinds of things - you begin to get the picture that it is a national subversive activity ... [SDS and other new left activists] should be rounded up and put in a detention camp.
- Richard G. Kleindienst -
U.S. Deputy Attorney General
The "new left" was a primarily white, campus-based, initially non-marxist oppositional movement which emerged in the aftermath of the 1950s ("McCarthyite") repression of "old left" political formations such as the CP,USA. Beginning with the establishment of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) by a handful of college radicals including Al Haber and Tom Hayden during 1960-61, the new left had by the end of the decade come to encompass a multiplicity of organizations and literally hundreds of thousands of participants. 1 Along the way, it had engaged itself in a range of issues and activities including the pursuit of a vision of "participatory democracy," support to civil rights and black liberation groups like SNCC and the BPP, socio-economic reform in the inner cities, transformation of the educational process, attempts to hammer out a "new working class theory," anti-Vietnam war endeavors and, ultimately, a neo-marxian form of anti-imperialism. 2
In his memoirs, COINTELPRO head William C. Sullivan claims that as of the spring of 1968 - when an SDS-led student action closed prestigious Columbia University - "we didn't know the New Left existed." 3 As Sullivan tells the story:
I teletyped the New York office and asked them what was behind all this and demanded to know what information they had. That afternoon I received a memorandum from New York that had attached to it a number of newspaper articles. I teletyped New York again, saying, "I don't want newspaper clippings. I want to know what you have in the files about the student uprising at Columbia University." New York got back to me again with the terse response, "We don't have anything." 4
As with many of the assertions contained in the FBI assistant director's "history" of COINTELPRO, the account is less than truthful. At least as early as mid-1965, J. Edgar Hoover had asked for, and Attorney General Nicholas deB. "Katzenbach [had] approved requests for taps on SDS." 5 There is also solid evidence that by this point, the Bureau had already begun to systematically infiltrate the student organization. 6 Such ELSURS and informant activity vis a vis SDS was an integral part of a more generalized FBI "political intelligence" emphasis during the period 1964-68 which saw the installation of more than 800 wiretaps and some 700 bugs (facilitated by at least 150 surreptitious entries), and an unknown number of informants and infiltrators, all utilized in "non-criminal investigations." 7 The Bureau had also been availing itself of the proceeds concerning SDS and other new left organizations deriving from CIA "mail covers" since at least as early as 1964. 8 Far from the Bureau's being unaware of the new left's existence until 1968, Hoover himself had gone on record in February 1966 describing SDS as "one of the most militant organizations" in the country and claiming that "communists are actively promoting and participating in the activities of this organization." 9 The same sort of perspective prevailed, albeit in somewhat less pronounced fashion, with regard to other new left individuals and organizations.
Friends of SNCC
Actually, the Bureau's interest in the new left had been lively since as early as 1961, when white activists, often referred to as "Friends of SNCC," began to accompany that group's civil rights workers on "Freedom Rides" into the Deep South. The objective of the rides was to integrate public transportation facilities coming under interstate transport regulations in states such as Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia, as well as to draw public attention to the Jim Crow laws still governing interracial affairs in the region and the lack of federal action to address the situation. 10 Kenneth O'Reilly recounts the performance of the FBI as the second of two buses arrived at Anniston, Alabama, about 60 miles from Birmingham, on May 13,1961 (the first one, a Greyhound, having already been destroyed by local klansmen shortly before):
The FBI watched as the second bus, the Trailways, pulled into Anniston within an hour. Eight toughs boarded, demanded the black riders move to the rear, and then beat two of the white riders, Dr. Walter Bergman and James Peck ... The sixty-one-year-old Peck, a retired school administrator, suffered permanent brain damage. When the bus arrived at its terminal in Birmingham about fifty minutes later, a mob of about forty Klansmen and members of the National States Rights Party [a neo-nazi group] greeted the Freedom Riders. Most carried baseball bats or chains. A few had lead pipes. [The FBI looked on again as] one of them knocked down the unfortunate Peck once more. 11
Although the Bureau had been "aware of the planned violence for weeks in advance, the FBI did nothing to stop it and had actually given the Birmingham police [headed by the notorious segregationist Eugene "Bull" Connor] details regarding the Freedom Riders' schedule, knowing full well that at least one law enforcement officer [Thomas H. Cook] relayed everything to the klan." 12 The Bureau, as journalist I.F. Stone observed at the time, "live[d] in cordial fraternity with the cops who enforce[d] white supremacy." 13 More, the FBI had a paid employee, Gary Thomas Rowe, among the klansmen who actually participated in the beatings administered at the Birmingham bus terminal Such performance by the Bureau, which falsely claimed to be "neutral" and to lack "enforcement jurisdiction" in civil rights matters, remained consistent throughout the early '60s; 14 at best the FBI simply watched as activists were brutalized, at worst it assisted in orchestrating the brutalization. 15
At the same time the Bureau was actively foot-dragging in its responsibilities to protect civil rights workers engaged in efforts to secure such fundamental social prerogatives for black people as voting and using public restrooms, it was busily investigating the victims themselves:
Under the pressure of events that began with the Freedom Rides and continued over the next two years, Hoover escalated FBI intelligence gathering activities. Earlier, in the mid-1950s, the Bureau conducted investigations of racial disturbances, particularly demonstrations and clashes arising out of school desegregation, but generally did not file reports with the [Justice Department] Civil Rights Division. Instead, the Bureau sent its reports to the Department's Internal Security Division, where the Division bumped them back over to Civil Rights after five or ten days. By organizing information from the FBI "around the requirements of internal security surveillance rather than civil rights protection," this procedure focused the Civil Rights Division's attention on the activities of the Communist party and not disenfranchisement, segregated schools and transportation, and other obstacles to black equality. 16
Between March 1959 and January 1960, the FBI distributed 892 separate reports on "racial matters" - none having to do with the klan or other white racist organizations, but many of them dealing with support to the civil rights movement accruing from the budding new left - not only to the Justice Department, but to the various military intelligence agencies, as well as state and local police forces. 17
[FBI Section Head Courtney] Evans' [Special Investigation] Division ran the names of hundreds of individuals through the files at the request of Kennedy administration officials. The subjects of these searches ranged from the National Negro Congress, a communist front that had been dead for fourteen years, to James Baldwin, William Faulkner, and fifty other Nobel Prize laureates whose names graced a White House dinner invitation list - part of John and Jacqueline Kennedy's program to encourage and honor cultural and intellectual achievement. In Faulkner's case, the Bureau noted his statement to the Civil Rights Congress, another communist front and successor to the National Negro Congress, on behalf of Willie McGhee, convicted of raping a white woman in Laurel, Mississippi, in 1945. (McGhee exhausted all possible appeals by March 1951, when the Supreme Court refused to hear his case, and to the day the state executed him the FBI seemed most interested in exploring the "Communist connections" of one of his noncommunist lawyers, Bella Abzug). 18
Under such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that when three young activists - James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman - disappeared in Neshoba. County, Mississippi on June 21, 1963, the FBI had active "subversive" files open on one of the two whites, Schwerner as well as Chaney, a 21-year-old black man. As it turned out, the three were in the area as part of a joint "Mississippi Freedom Summer" project being run by SNCC and CORE, registering voters in preparation for the sending of a black "Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party" (MFDP) delegation to the 1964 Democratic convention in Atlantic City, a significant step toward dismantling the Jim Crow structure of the "regular" state party hierarchy. On the fateful morning, they had driven from CORE headquarters in the sizable town of Meridian, Mississippi to the village of Longdale in order to investigate the beatings of three local blacks and burning of the Mt. Zion Church by the klan shortly before. On their return trip, they were arrested - ostensibly for speeding - by Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price and jailed in nearby Philadelphia, Mississippi. The deputy held them until approximately 10 p.m., released them, followed them out of town, and then stopped them again. This time, he turned them over to a group of klansmen who killed all three and then buried the bodies beneath a local dam construction project. 19
The FBI had long since received informant reports that state klan leader Sam Bowers, Jr., had advised his followers - which included a high percentage of the state's law enforcement personnel - of how they might "legitimately" respond to the "nigger-commie invasion:" "catch [activists] outside the law, then under Mississippi law you can kill them." 20 The results of Bowers' suggestion had been immediately forthcoming. By the Bureau's own count, SNCC suffered some 1,000 arrests and at least 35 murders while engaged in constitutionally protected activities during Freedom Summer. 21 But the Bureau did absolutely nothing to protect the activists. Instead, it escalated its investigations of the intended victims, reporting many of the results of its intelligence gathering to the very police/kIan amalgam which was perpetrating the violence. When the disappearance of Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman was reported to FBI agent Hunter E. Helgeson at the Jackson resident agency (nearest the murder scene), neither he nor his colleagues made any move to intervene. 22
To the contrary, the FBI's sole agent in Meridian, John Proctor, is known to have accepted an invitation to drink contraband liquor with Deputy Price on the afternoon following the murders. 23 It was more than 48 hours, after heavy Justice Department pressure had been exerted because the potential for major negative publicity attending the case had emerged, that New Orleans SAC Harry Maynor finally sent a mere five agents to "see if we can find those guys." 24 Meanwhile, SNCC leader Robert Moses had already announced the obvious: "The kids are dead." Schwerner's wife, Rita, and Chaney's mother demanded to see both Mississippi Governor Paul Johnson and President Lyndon Johnson concerning the fate of their loved ones, a matter which prompted television anchorman Walter Cronkite to describe the case during the Six O'Clock News on June 25 as being "the focus of the whole country's concern." 25 Unsatisfied that the FBI's paltry performance would blunt the force of rising criticism, President Lyndon Johnson himself ordered Hoover to up the ante, dispatching FBI Assistant Director Alex Rosen to Mississippi, followed by Roy K. Moore (designated as SAC of a new field office in Jackson, established solely in response to the presidential ultimatum), Associate Director Cartha D. DeLoach and a total of 153 agents. 26 Finally, on July 10, Hoover himself put in a brief appearance to push things along. 27
FBI Inspector Joseph Sullivan, who was named to head up the investigation in the field, ultimately commanded 258 agents and captioned his operation MIBURN (a contraction of 'Mississippi Burning," in reference to the torching of the Mt. Zion Church which had led to Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman's fatal trip). While it may be true that Sullivan was well-intentioned, "FBI agents resigned rather than go to Mississippi" as part of the investigation, and those who did go could not overcome "the Bureau's prior performance, its deference to the rule of white over black and its indifference to the rule of law." 28 Most of the time was spent poking about in area swamps, trying to locate the bodies, a "process which turned up several black corpses and parts thereof - including a torso clad in a CORE t-shirt." 29 The remains were finally found on August 4, after the Bureau promised immunity from prosecution and paid $30,000 to Delmar Dennis, one of the klan participants in the murders. The Bureau, however, sandbagged even then, filing reports which contained "no evidence which [could] form the basis for an indictment for these murders." 30 As a result, on October 27,1967, seven of the 19 remaining murderers (including klan leader Bowers and Deputy Price) were convicted only of conspiring to deprive their victims of their civil rights and sentenced to serve three-to-ten years in federal prison. Charges against the other twelve were dropped or they were acquitted altogether. As U.S. District Judge Harold Cox put it at the time of sentencing: "They killed one nigger, one Jew, and a white man. I gave them what I thought they deserved." 31
The Bureau later claimed that, in the wake of MIBURN, a major COINTELPRO was mounted against the klan. As William Sullivan put it:
Toward the end of the summer of 1964, Roy Wall, the special agent in charge of [the Philadelphia, Mississippi] office, called me. I told Roy, "Let's destroy these fellows, just utterly destroy them." I trusted Roy; he was an outstanding agent. He said that in Mississippi there were three different Klan organizations and that we were in a position either to keep them separated and have them compete and fight with each other for support, or to merge them into one organization. I asked Roy, "If we merge them into one, can you control it and if necessary destroy it?" Roy said, "Yes, we can do that." I told him to go ahead and merge them, through the use of informants. From that time on, the Klan never again raised its head in Mississippi. 32
Sullivan's interpretation of events is novel, to say the least, insofar as each of the Mississippi klan organizations were part of a much larger apparatus, all of which was heavily infiltrated by the FBI and presumably under Bureau control by the end of 1964. The FBI claimed to have more than 2,000 informants, or some 20% of overall klan membership across the South, by 1965. 33 Yet, far from never again raising its head, the klan continued to perpetrate considerable violence - in Mississippi and elsewhere - during the latter year. In his autobiography, Friend of SNCC organizer Abbie Hoffman described the situation in McComb, Mississippi during the summer of 1965:
The Ku Klux Klan was so strong they once held a rally in the middle of Route 80. Cars had to pass the meeting on side roads. It was hard to believe, but there they were: two hundred white sheets, flaming cross and all. [Twenty-four] years ago, the Klan was no outmoded joke. A faceless nightmare, they were furnished by police with a list of our license-plate numbers, and they patrolled the borders of each black community, gunning for organizers. "Coon huntin'," the local whites called it ... Daily picket lines were scenes of vicious Klan beatings. Once I was thrown to the curb and kicked repeatedly. An FBI agent leaned over and asked sarcastically if my civil rights had been violated. No one ever got arrested except SNCC workers. 34
A classic outcome of FBI assistance to the klan concerns Viola Liuzzo, a white mother of three and Friend of SNCC worker from Detroit, who was shot in the head and killed by a carload of klansmen near Selma, Alabama on March 25, 1965. One of the four men in the klan car was Gary Thomas Rowe, the FBI plant who had helped beat Freedom Riders in Birmingham during 1963, and who was a prime suspect in several bombings -including the infamous blast at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church which killed four black children - during the same year. 35 The infiltrator was placed by the Bureau in its "witness protection program" rather than on trial, despite evidence that it was he who had actually fired the shot which killed Liuzzo. 36 Again, the FBI's investigation purportedly netted no evidence of use in a murder prosecution, and Rowe's colleagues - Collie Leroy Wilkins, Eugene Thomas and William 0. Eaton - were sentenced only to ten-year sentences after being convicted of violating their victim's civil rights in December of 1965. 37
While thus proving itself spectacularly unable or unwilling to come to grips with klan violence, the Bureau was simultaneously devoting its resources to harassing civil rights and new left activists, and in commissioning whitewashes of its conduct in the South. The former resulted in at least one major lawsuit against three FBI officials - Roy K. Moore, James 0. Ingram and Hunter E. Helgeson- while the latter engendered such "authorized" (and celebratory) "historical works" as Don Whitehead's Attack on Terror: The FBI Against the Klan in Mississippi and its subsequent production as a television movie. 38 Meanwhile, the FBI helped to destroy the MDFP initiative at Atlantic City, an entirely legitimate effort into which thousands had poured their time and energy - and upon which they had pinned their best hopes for achieving some form of nonviolent, "due process" change in American society - and for which Chaney, Schwerner, Goodman and scores of others had died.
Even though the MDFP delegation had received the required votes to be seated at the convention, replacing Mississippi's Jim Crow delegation altogether, party regulars (headed by President Lyndon Johnson) contrived to block these legal rights, preserving the segregationist status quo. In accomplishing this, Johnson utilized a special 31-person task force of FBI agents - who infiltrated the convention floor itself, utilizing phony NBC press credentials - commanded by Bureau Assistant Director DeLoach to wiretap and bug such civil rights leaders as Martin Luther King and Fannie Lou Hamer, as well as CORE's James Farmer and Julius Lester, and SNCC's Stokely Carmichael, James Forman, Cleveland Sellers, and Ivanhoe Donaldson. 39 Not only were the Johnson forces thus made privy to the MDFP's external communications with Democratic Party dignitaries such as Robert Kennedy, but the group's internal communications - with each other, and with various new left advisors - as well. 40 Needless to say, the political process was aborted under such conditions, a matter which inculcated an increasing sense of futility within much of the civil rights movement.
Under this cumulative cloud of disillusionment with "the system," the arena of the new left moved northward, an adjustment which paved one of the major routes to Columbia. Also by early 1965, SNCC itself had shifted much of its focus from the rural South to organizing within the vast black ghettoes of northern cities such as New York, Newark, Washington, D.C., Detroit and Chicago. Correspondingly, SDS placed increasing emphasis upon its Economic Research and Action Project (ERAP), initiated during the summer of 1964, moving cadres into the inner cities and attempting to build "an interracial movement of the poor." 41
Movement Against the War
The geographical change meshed nicely with developments which began on September 14, 1964, when the administration of the University of California at Berkeley, headed by Chancellor Clark Kerr, attempted to prohibit activities on campus concerning "off-campus political causes." The student response, galvanized by Friend of SNCC organizer Mario Savio (who correctly saw the administration rule as a move to deny new left support to civil rights groups), was to launch the "Free Speech Movement," a short-lived entity which forced a reversal of the institutional position as of January 3, 1965. Ultimately, Kerr was forced from his job as the result of the massive student refusal to forfeit their rights in the face of his arbitrary power. In the interim:
[S]tudents carried confrontation with authority to the point of spontaneously surrounding a police car for thirty-two hours to prevent the young man inside [Jack Weinberg] from being taken to jail; the sit-in tactic was successfully transferred from Southern lunch counters ... to the halls of ivy on three separate occasions, first with 200 students, then with 400, and finally with 1000; the police were called in, for perhaps the first time ever on a major university campus, to arrest, with proven brutality, 814 students who had engaged in a sit-in; undergraduates, joined by graduate students and a portion of the faculty, declared a successful strike of classes that went on for five days, the first time that tactic had been used at a single university ... Here, ab ovo, were all the elements of student protest that were to become familiar at so many campuses in the next six years. 42
Within months, the events at Berkeley and their outcome had captured the imagination of student radicals across the nation and had been transformed into a generalized demand for "student power" within the institutional context. In simplest terms, the idea was that in redistributing power within the university, students would be taking a concrete step towards a much broader alteration of social power, an argument which could hardly be ignored in SDS circles. 43 Another of the primary tactical and emotional avenues leading to the insurrection at Columbia barely three years later had thus been paved.
As this was going on, moreover, the undeclared U.S. war in Vietnam heated up dramatically with the landing of a Marine expeditionary force at Danang on March 8,1965. 44 Given the resulting upsurge in student anti-war sentiment, SDS elected to at least temporarily divert much of its energy to playing a key role in organizing the first mass demonstration protesting the U.S. role in Indochina; the event, held on April 17, attracted perhaps 25,000 people (the organizers had expected, at most, 5,000), and featured a landmark speech by SDS president Paul Potter. 45 In December, SDS co-founder Tom Hayden accompanied Yale historian/anti-war activist Staughton Lynd and CP theoretician Herbert Aptheker to North Vietnam to explore the extent to which "the other side" was inclined toward peace. 46 AIthough there was a distinct lack of consensus among SDS veterans as to whether and to what extent the organization should become permanently engaged in the "single issue" anti-war movement, an emphasis on such activity largely assumed a life of its own, at least at the local chapter level. 47 By December 1966, SDS had pledged itself to make opposition to the war a major agenda item and develop "anti-draft unions" on campuses throughout the country. 48 The third road to Columbia had been opened up.
Although it is unlikely the FBI director (or anyone else, for that matter; the nation had simply never before been confronted with increasing numbers of its youth actively rejecting the values and policies of the status quo) realized the full import of these events, he ordered intensified coverage of SDS as of April 1965 in order that the Bureau "have proper coverage similar to what we have ... [on] the Communist Party." The directive shortly manifested itself in the large-scale infiltration of SDS chapters, a crudely ostentatious program of "interviewing" as many organizational members and supporters as could be identified, and the reinforcement of "cooperative arrangements" between the FBI and campus police and administrators. This was followed, in February of 1966, by a directive that agents investigate all "free university" activities associated with student power advocates insofar as the director had "reason to believe" these to be sponsored by "subversive groups" (mainly SDS). This led almost immediately (in April 1966) to distribution of a Bureau study of such activities in Detroit to military intelligence, the Secret Service, the State Department and the Justice Department. Another report, prepared in Philadelphia at about the same time and based upon information provided by no less than thirteen infiltrators, was similarly disseminated. In May of 1966, Hoover ordered that such scrutiny of the new left be both intensified and expanded. 49
No doubt contrary to Hoover's intentions, such overt FBI harassment seems if anything to have angered the "militants," stimulating them to higher levels of activity. The trend towards white radicals organizing around issues within their own rather than black communities also received sharp reinforcement in the spring of 1966 with the election of Stokely Carmichael as the president of SNCC, the formal articulation of that organization's black power position, its abandonment of nonviolence as a philosophical posture, and its determination that it needed henceforth to be "an all black project." 50 In clearest terms, Carmichael explained the need for new leftists (whom Carmichael described as "liberals") to transform their own home ground:
I have said that most liberal whites react to "black power" with the question, What about me?, rather than saying: Tell me what you want and I'll see if I can do it. There are answers to the right question. One of the most disturbing things about almost all white supporters of the movement has been that they are afraid to go into their own communities - which is where the racism exists -and work to get rid of it. They want to run from Berkeley and tell us what to do in Mississippi; let them look instead at Berkeley. They admonish blacks to be nonviolent; let them preach nonviolence in the white community. They come to teach me Negro history; let them go to the suburbs and open freedom schools for whites. Let them work to stop America's racist foreign policy; let them press the government to cease supporting the economy of South Africa [and the war in Vietnam]. 51
Although SDS was never to abandon the priority it had maintained on collaborative relations with what was rapidly becoming the black liberation movement, it subsequently concentrated more and more of its energy upon campuses populated largely by white students, developing the notion of student power into the concept of "youth as a social class," and striving to create a truly massive popular opposition to the war. 52 As it did so, "activating" an ever-greater proportion of Euroamerican youth in dissident politics, the FBI homed in with increasing intensity, albeit with little ability to tell the new left frorn the old at this juncture. For instance, both the FBI and the "friendly journalists" to whom it habitually fed information at U.S. News and World Report persisted in confusing both the CP, USA's campus based W.E.B. DuBois Clubs and the SWP's Young Socialist Alliance with new left organizations for some time. 53 Similar misidentifications concerned the Maoist Progressive Labor Party (PLP) and its anti-war "youth group," the May 2 Movement (M2M). 54
Meantime, by the spring of 1967, SDS membership had mushroomed to at least 30,000, with active chapters on more than 250 campuses nationally. 55 The national SDS organization, in combination with an array of ad hoc, localized or special-focus organizations such as the Vietnam Day Committee in Berkeley, Spring Mobilization Against the War, and War Resisters League - most of which found local SDSers at the core - was proving that the new left could mount a steadily escalating campaign of opposition to the war effort while simultaneously developing a sense of "community self-empowerment." In April, some 200,000 people turned out for an anti-war march in New York City while at least 65,000 others marched in San Francisco, several hundred draft age men burned their Selective Service cards in Central Park during the New York demonstration. 56 During the summer, more than 30,000 students fanned out into cities across the North to engage in a "Vietnam Summer" project of anti-war and draft resistance education in local communities. 57 By fall, as the Johnson administration made it clear that it intended to pursue the war regardless of the magnitude of "acceptable" forms of public protest - and with the Indochina theater commander, General William Westmoreland, requesting that the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam be increase to 543,000 - SDS tactics became more militant. 58
On October 18, to kick off a national "Stop the Draft Week," several thousand demonstrators at the University of Wisconsin at Madison announced that representatives for the Dow Chemical Corporation - manufacturers of the napalm utilized by U.S. forces in Vietnam - would no longer be allowed to recruit on campus. Chancellor William Sewell, as part of his new "get tough" arrangement with the FBI, dispatched riot police to break up the previously peaceful demonstration. His police, apparently getting tough in turn, used tear gas to disperse protestors for the first time on a major college campus. Unexpectedly, the crowd fought back with fury, growing rather than diminishing as the day wore on. In the aftermath of the clash a general boycott of classes was proclaimed, and endorsed even by the conservative student government, until Dow recruiting at Madison was canceled. As with Kerr, Sewell was forced to resign. 59 The action in Madison was followed, on October 20, by a demonstration in which an estimated 10,000 people marched on the army induction center in Oakland, California. Finding themselves in a head-on confrontation with local riot police, the demonstrators forced them to retreat. 60 On October 21 and 22, the National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam brought together the largest anti-war demonstration in the history of the nation's capital up to that point. Some 100,000 people marched to the seat of military authority at the Pentagon where many of them clashed physically with the large force of troops and federal marshals which had been assembled to "secure" the premises. 61
A month later, on November 14, an action organized by the Fifth Avenue Peace Parade Committee was utilized by Columbia SDS leaders Ted Gold and Ted Kaptchuk to spark a confrontation designed to prevent Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara from speaking at the New York Hilton. 62 On at least 60 campuses, major demonstrations occurred during the remainder of 1967 and beginning of '68, all of them aimed at ending ROTC programs, or recruitment by the military, defense corporations and CIA. 63 Additionally, SDS chapters on some 50 campuses researched and made public the secret contracts obtaining between the defense/ intelligence community and the "neutral" scientists working on their campuses. 64 The ability of the U.S. government to conduct a war for reasons other than those provided to the public, and through a complex of other official lies and secret arrangements, was being seriously challenged. 65 One sign of how seriously the government had begun to take the anti-war opposition came in January 1968, when the
Justice Department under the 'liberal" Attorney General [Ramsey] Clark initiated the single most repressive overt act of the Johnson administration - the indictment of William Sloane Coffin, chaplain of Yale University, nationally known pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock and three other anti-war leaders [Harvard graduate student Michael Ferber, writer/activist Mitchell Goodman and Marcus Raskin, director of the Institute for Policy Studies] ... for conspiracy to "council, aid and abet" violations of the draft and to interfere with administration of the draft ... There is very strong circumstantial evidence that the indictment was intended as a warning to all anti-war demonstrators and spokes[persons] that they might well face similar charges. All the overt actions cited in support of the indictment were public activities, such as signing statements and making speeches against the war, along with collecting draft cards turned in by other persons and forwarding them to the Justice Department. During the trial, the position of the Justice Department was that all twenty-eight thousand signers of an anti-draft statement, all persons who voiced support or even applauded at rallies where the defendants spoke, and even news[people] who reported the defendants' speeches could be indicted as members of the conspiracy. At one point, government prosecutors stated that the publishers and booksellers of a book which printed anti-draft statements could also be indicted ... The outcome of the trial was that one of the defendants [Raskin] was acquitted and [the convictions of the remaining four set aside because of government misconduct during the trial; two were thereupon freed from further prosecution due to lack of evidence upon which charges might reasonably have been brought in the first place]. 66
For his part, J. Edgar Hoover - having deployed his agents to gather "evidence" for prosecution of those who had by then come to be known as the "Boston Five" went on to sum up the Bureau perspective with the amazing contradiction of first announcing that "New Left organizations such as the Students for a Democratic Society work constantly in furtherance of the aims and objectives of the Communist Party throughout the nation," then describing SDS as "anarchistic and nihilistic." 67 In January of 1968, the FBI instituted its "Key Agitators Index," a roster in which SDS leaders and others in "anti-war groups" who were "extremely active and most vocal in their statements denouncing the United States and calling for civil disobedience" featured prominently. Field agents were instructed to maintain "high level informant coverage" of "key [new left] activists," with emphasis on their "sources of funds, foreign contacts and future plans." 68 By March 1968, the Bureau was routinely sending reports to the White House concerning new left demonstrations and demonstrators. 69 And then came Columbia. Obviously, contrary to Sullivan's version of events, by this point the Bureau's intelligence files on the new left were brimming, and the apparatus through which the FBI would undertake its COINTELPROs against that poorly-defined entity was well established.
The COINTELPRO Begins
The student explosion at Columbia University during April of 1968 incorporated all three strains of issues underlying new left activism: 1) institutional racism, as manifested in university construction of a gymnasium on land previously devoted to low-rent housing occupied by impoverished black and Puertorriqueno families, 2) institutional support to the U.S. "war machine," as specifically demonstrated in the relationship of the university to the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), and 3) student power concerns, as expressed in popular resistance to the university administration's arbitrary dispensation of "discipline" - probation, suspension, expulsion and the like - to student radicals. 70 When a series of meetings between the campus SDS chapter and University President Grayson Kirk, conducted through the spring semester, resulted in no change in policy, the students undertook direct action, first occupying the gym construction site on April 23, and then occupying several university buildings over the next few days. 71 Their action effectively brought Columbia to a standstill, a matter they announced would not change until a list of demands - including the university's severing its ties with the "military-industrial complex," halting its gym construction project, and allowing students a meaningful voice in institutional governance - were met. 72
Although the Columbia administration ultimately resorted to the massive use of local rather than federal police force to "restore order," 73 the FBI responded to the events at the university - as is shown in the accompanying May 9,1968 memo from C.D. Brennan to W.C. Sullivan -by inaugurating a formal COINTELPRO campaign against the new left. As with other domestic counterintelligence operations, this one was designed to seize every opportunity to "expose, disrupt, and otherwise neutralize the activities of the various New Left organizations, their leadership and adherents" by frustrating "every effort of these groups and individuals to consolidate their forces or to recruit new and youthful members" by capitalizing "upon organizational and personal conflicts of the leadership," spreading disinformation through "cooperation of reliable news media," and to otherwise "inspire action where circumstances warrant." Another internal Bureau memo, written at about the same time, specified the justification for the COINTELPRO as being the fact that "certain New Left individuals" were "calling for revolution in America" and "for the defeat of the United States in Vietnam," and had upon occasion "viciously and scurrilously attacked the Director and the Bureau in an attempt to hamper our investigation of it and to drive us off the college campuses." 74
Kickoff document: memo calling for initiation of a formal COINTELPRO against the new left and neutralization of its key leaders. Note these individuals are described as subject to ongoing investigation, contrary to the assertion of William C. Sullivan in his autobiography, Recommendations for action follow in the second document.
The Bureau's new COINTELPRO effort was quickly linked to illegal (under its charter) CIA domestic surveillance programs such as Project MERRIMAC, Project RESISTANCE and Operation CHAOS, which collectively amassed and in some cases circulated "intelligence information" in the form of "watchlists" on "radical students, antiwar activists, draft resisters and deserters, black nationalists, anarchists and assorted 'New Leftists.'" 75 Before the last of these programs was allegedly terminated in 1974, they had caused "national security files" to be opened on at least 23,500 U.S. citizens, as well as organizations including SDS, Women's Strike for Peace, the BPP, Clergy and Laity Concerned About the War in Vietnam, and Grove Press, Inc. In the process of running Operation CHAOS alone, the CIA generated some 3,500 "domestic security" memos for its own internal use, another 3,000 which were sent to the FBI as "action items," and "about forty memos and studies which were sent to the White House and high level executive officials." 76 Similarly, the Bureau also tied its new left counterintelligence operation to the National Security Agency's (NSA's) illegal international telephone and telegram monitoring of citizens, code-named Project MINARET, which targeted watchlisted names of individuals who "ranged from members of radical political groups to celebrities, to ordinary citizens involved in protests against the government," and a number of organizations which were "peaceful and nonviolent in nature." 77 The FBI also hooked its anti-new left information-gathering to an illegal surveillance net established by the Army Intelligence Corps:
According to Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Froehlke, in testimony before a Senate subcommittee in 1971, Army directives called for information collection on any category of information related even remotely to people or organizations active in a community in which potential for a riot or disorder was present." Before the program was terminated in 1971 due to public exposure and criticism, Army intelligence had about fifteen hundred plainclothesmen assigned to collect political information on what the Senate Intelligence Committee later termed "virtually every group seeking peaceful change in the United States." Index cards were gathered on more than one hundred thousand civilian protesters and on more than seven hundred and sixty thousand organizations and "incidents." In addition to centralized Army intelligence files maintained at bases near Washington, D.C. local army units carried on their operations and investigations, with little central control. Thus, Fourth Army headquarters at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, had its own collection of one hundred twenty thousand file cards on "personalities of interest." 78
Meanwhile, HUAC helped establish the tenor for severe repression by issuing a "report" claiming that new left and black liberation formations were "seriously considering the possibility of instituting armed insurrections in this country," and that SDS was actually planning "guerrilla-type operations against the government." Although the committee could come up with precious little by which to substantiate its allegations, it nonetheless proceeded to recommend utilization of the Internal Security Act's concentration camp provisions to effect the "temporary imprisonment of warring guerrillas." 79 HUAC's recommendations resulted in a formal review by a Justice Department committee headed by Attorney General Ramsey Clark of federal "emergency detention guidelines," intended to increase "flexibility and discretion at the operating level." The resulting revision of the 1950 statute's implementation procedures allowed for the "preventive detention" of anyone who evidenced "membership or participation in the activities of a basic revolutionary organization within the last five years," leadership or "substantive participation" in a "front organization" within the past three years, or anyone else who "could be expected" to utilize a national emergency as a format in which to engage in "interference with or threat to the survival and effective operation" of the government, whether or not they could be shown to have committed "overt acts or statements within the time limits prescribed." 80
Within the context of such official sensibilities, among the activists designated by the Bureau as being "key" to the new left, and therefore targeted for rapid COINTELPRO neutralization, were - as the accompanying June 10, 1968 memo from Hoover to the Newark SAC reveals-SDS founder Tom Hayden and long-time pacifist organizer David Dellinger, a leader of the National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam (Mobe). Hayden, Dellinger and a number of other new left activists were also subpoenaed by HUAC as a result of their FBI "extremist" designations. 81 Hayden himself was already being subjected to a concerted effort to bad-jacket him, as may be readily seen in the accompanying May 27,1968 memo from the Newark SAC to Hoover. Such immediate attention was undoubtedly paid to the pair-as well as self-defined anarchists Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, who had recently founded a largely mythical organization dubbed Youth International Party (Yippie!) - not on the basis of their supposed "guerrilla" activities, but because of their expressed intent to bring about massive street demonstrations during the Demo cratic Party's national convention, set for August in Chicago. The purpose of these demonstrations being to demand an end to the U.S. war in Southeast Asia, the FBI appears to have viewed them as an insistence upon "defeat." 82
Memo identifying Tom Hayden and David Dellinger as "Key Activists."
Memo outlining plan to bad-jacket Tom Hayden.
By July 5, 1968 (the date of the accompanying letter from Hoover to the SAC, Albany), therefore, the Bureau had assembled a 12-point "master plan" through which it intended to destroy the new left opposition. This was coupled to a Justice Department initiative, spearheaded by Attorney General Clark, to consolidate what was called the Interdivisional Information Unit (IDIU) to coordinate "all information" on organizations and individuals "who play a role, whether purposefully or not, either in instigating or spreading civil disorders, or in preventing our checking them." 83 By 1970, the IDIU computer was being utilized to coordinate a flow of more than 40,000 intelligence reports per year concerning "civil disorders and campus disturbances" involving over 10,000 "anti-war activists and other dissidents." Organizations targeted for IDIU attention included groups ranging from the NAACP and Urban League to SDS and the BPP. Individuals included under its rubric spanned the range from United Farm Workers organizer Cesar Chavez to black entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., from folk singer/activist Joan Baez to an unnamed "bearded militant who writes and recites poetry." 84
The FBI's 12 -point master plan for COINTELPRO - New Left.
Memo detailing plan to disrupt SDS at Temple University through use of cartoons, pamphlets and anonymous letters.
COINTELPRO-New Left had, in the meantime, gotten well under way, as is evidenced by the accompanying May 29, 1968 memo from Hoover to his Philadelphia SAC, calling upon that office to undertake specific counterintelligence activities - including the generation of cartoons a la the materials being circulated with lethal results as a part of COINTELPRO-BPP at about the same time - to disrupt SDS within its area of operations. By late July, as is indicated in the accompanying August 9, 1968 letter from Hoover to the SAC, Los Angeles, the sending of anonymous letters had entered the arsenal of tactics being applied against SDS. All such efforts seem to have had the short-term objective of preventing the actualization of unified and coherent anti-war demonstrations in Chicago during early August. The longer term goal, of course, was to eliminate the new left as a factor in the U.S. political equation.
First of the cartoons produced and distributed by the Philadelphia FBI office as part of its COINTELPRO to destroy SDS at Temple University. The caption, in a parody of the rhetoric of Sen. Joseph McCarthy reads: "I have in my hand a list of 200 names of people who don't advocate the violent overthrow of the government."
As at Columbia, during the convention itself the burden of physically and overtly repressing the demonstrators - who were, after all, merely exercising constitutionally protected rights to speech, assembly and petition - was passed to the tactical units of the Chicago police, a "duty" the CPD performed with a relish later described even by an official government commission as constituting a "police riot." 85 In the aftermath, however, with the election of Richard Nixon, the FBI and Justice Department moved in to "legally" eliminate their quarry by leveling at them an essentially baseless set of "conspiracy" charges. As Robert Justin Goldstein has observed:
The Nixon administration instituted an extraordinary series of conspiracy trials against anti-war leaders - in fact, together with the Spock-Coffin trial of the Johnson administration, the Nixon administration prosecuted virtually every prominent anti-war leader. What was perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the prosecutions was that the major charges brought either all collapsed during the judicial process, or the cases were thrown out due to illegal government activities or refusal to disclose records of illegal wiretapping ... While the prosecutions failed in one sense - historian William Manchester termed them "an unparalleled series of judicial disasters for the government" - they succeeded sensationally in another. Namely, they succeeded in tying up huge amounts of time, money and energy that the antiwar and radical movements could have used to expand rather than expend on protracted and costly defense struggles. 86
The first major conspiracy trial, the so-called Chicago Conspiracy or Chicago Eight trial, resulted from indictments handed down in March, 1969 of eight anti-war leaders under the 1968 Anti-Riot Act for conspiring to cross state lines with intent to incite a riot ... On March 20, 1969 [a) Chicago grand jury returned indictments against ... eight demonstrators, six of whom were highly visible radical leaders, including pacifist David Dellinger, Black Panther Party Chairman Bobby Seale, [former] SDS leaders [now key members of the Mobe] Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis, and "Yippie" leaders Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman [the other two defendants were little-known SDS members John Froines and Lee Weiner] ... Seale's case was severed in mid-trial (and never retried) when Federal Judge Julius Hoffman found him in contempt of court and summarily sentenced him to an unprecedented four years in prison, as a result of repeated outbursts by Seale following Judge Hoffman's refusal to either allow Seale to defend himself or have the services of a lawyer of his own choosing. After a tumultuous trial - which at one point featured Seale tied to a chair with a gag in his mouth - the remaining seven defendants were found innocent of the conspiracy charge ... two charged with teaching the use of incendiary devices were acquitted, and the other five were found guilty of crossing state lines with intent to incite a riot. Judge Hoffman ... sentenced the five to five years in [prison] and $5,000 fines, and then added 175 contempt sentences ranging from two and a half months to over four years against all seven defendants and two of their lawyers [William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass]. Many of the contempt charges were based on the flimsiest possible grounds; for example, Dellinger was sentenced to six months for calling the judge "Mr." Hoffman, and Davis was sentenced to twenty-nine days for applauding at one point and laughing at another. Eventually both the contempt and substantive convictions were overturned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals [but the damage had been done]. 87
Barely had the Chicago conspiracy trial ended than another began, in December 1970, in Seattle. In this case, eight leaders of an organization calling itself the Seattle Liberation Front - predictably, they were described as the "Seattle Eight" - were accused of having conspired to damage federal property, the result of a February 1970 demonstration protesting the contempt sentences handed down in the Chicago trial which ended with windows broken and slogans spray-painted on the walls on the Seattle federal building. Although it was obvious that the February demonstration was a purely local affair, the planning for which had begun barely ten days prior to the event, four of the defendants were also charged under the 1968 anti-riot statute used against the Chicago Eight with having crossed state lines with intent to incite riot the preceding December, while a fifth was accused of having utilized interstate telephone lines for the same purpose. 88 Although the presiding judge, George H. Boldt, eventually declared a mistrial in these ludicrous proceedings, he followed the lead of his Chicago colleague in meting out harsh contempt sentences, based on the "totality" of the defendants' behavior during the trial. By this point, the once-vibrant Seattle new left movement was completely wrecked. 89
This was followed in 1971 by the leveling of conspiracy charges against Catholic priests Phillip and Daniel Berrigan, along with six others, claiming that they had conspired to raid draft boards, blow up heating tunnels in Washington, D.C., and kidnap presidential advisor Henry Kissinger. The case had been devised by the Bureau, but upon review by Justice Department attorneys was deemed so weak that it could not even be presented to a grand jury. However, on November 27,1970, J. Edgar Hoover personally testified before an "appropriations subcommittee" represented only by a pair of long-time Hoover admirers - Senators Robert C. Byrd (D., West Virginia) and Roman L. Hruska (R., Nebraska) - as to the existence of the "plot," thus forcing matters into court. 90 At trial, however, the Bureau's "case" turned out to be based exclusively on the testimony of a single infiltrator/provocateur, Boyd Douglass, who had been paid some $9,000 for his "services" by the FBI and certified by a federal psychiatrist as a "sociopath and pathological liar." 91 Although the defense declined to present a single witness, the jury deadlocked ten to two for acquittal on all major counts with which the Berrigans and their colleagues had been charged, voting to convict the accused only of having smuggled letters to one another during previous incarcerations. 92 Eventually, an appeals court overturned six of the seven convictions which were obtained even on this minor charge, given that Douglass had served as courier of the forbidden mail, and had done so on the express instructions of the FBI and at least one prison warden. 93 Ultimately, after all the smoke borne of sensational headlines had cleared, only Father Phillip Berrigan went briefly to prison, the only U.S. citizen ever sentenced by a court for sending or possessing "contraband" letters. 94
Another conspiracy case brought in 1971 involved Daniel Ellsberg, a former high-level defense consultant with a government think tank, the Rand Corporation, who had shifted from staunch support of the Vietnam War to near absolute condemnation of it, and his colleague, Anthony Russo. 95 The government charged that the pair had conspired to deny the government "its lawful function of withholding classified information from the public," by virtue of their removing several thousand pages of secret documentation (the so-called "Pentagon Papers") concerning the government's systematic deception of the U.S. public with regard to the country's Indochina policy from Rand facilities. They then passed the material along to New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan, who saw to it that selections appeared in the paper. Among other things, Ellsberg and Russo were charged with violating the 1917 Espionage Act, a wartime statute said to be in effect because President Harry Truman's invocation of it in 1950 - at the onset of the Korean War - had never been revoked (!). 96 Although the government was unable to establish that the Ellsberg/ Russo "conspiracy" in any way jeopardized valid national security interests - to the contrary, federal prosecutors unsuccessfully argued at trial that no such jeopardy was required under the law - or even that the government possessed a statutory basis from which to contend that its classification and withholding of information from the public was "lawful," the case was taken to court. 97
The Pentagon Papers trial was marked by a series of virtually unbelievable instances of government misconduct, including attempts by the government to suppress internal memoranda and studies casting doubt on the national security significance of the papers, an apparent government denial of any wiretaps and then an admission that Ellsberg and someone connected with the defense had both been overheard on taps directed at other persons, and the secret offer of the directorship of the FBI [Hoover being dead by this point] to presiding Judge Matthew Byrne by White House Domestic Advisor John Ehrlichman in the middle of the trial. The most sensational revelation was that persons associated with the White House Special Investigations Unit [the so-called "Plumbers," including former FBI agents G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord] ... had burglarized the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist [Dr. Louis Fielding] after the indictment was handed down ... White House papers released in the course of the Watergate investigation revealed that the purpose of the burglary was to obtain information which could be used to create a "negative press image" of Ellsberg in an attempt to, as White House Counsel Charles Colson said, to "plumber" Howard Hunt in one telephone conversation, "put this bastard into one hell of a situation and discredit the New Left." With the final straw the government's temporary inability to uncover its wiretap records on Ellsberg, Judge Byrne ordered a mistrial and dismissed the case in April, 1973. 98
The year 1972 witnessed yet another conspiracy extravaganza with the indictment of the so-called "Gainesville Eight" - thus designated as a result of the site of trial being set for Gainesville, Florida - all leaders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). The defendants were charged with conspiring to disrupt the 1972 Democratic and Republican Party national conventions in Miami through use of weapons ranging from "fried marbles" and ball bearings glued to cherry bombs (effectively constituting low-powered fragmentation grenades) to "wrist slingshots," crossbows, automatic weapons and incendiary devices. The timing of the federal grand jury which led to the indictments, and to which all eight defendants were called, was such as to effectively gut any VVAW demonstrations - including peaceful ones - at the Democratic convention, while the holding of four of the accused without bond for refusing to testify, and the arraignment of all eight during the Republican convention ruined their plans for that one as well. At trial, government witnesses broadened the array of weaponry the eight allegedly planned to use to include anti-tank weapons such as bazookas, but it emerged that police infiltrators rather than the defendants had been the primary discussants of higher-powered weapons such as machineguns. The only physical evidence prosecutors could produce in this regard were slingshots available at any sporting goods store. 99 The government's supposed star witness, an FBI infiltrator named William Lemmer, turned out to have been threatened with a psychiatric discharge by the army, and recently ordered held for a sanity hearing at the request of his wife after he wrote her a letter blaming VVAW for the breakup of his marriage explaining that if he decided to "get" the defendants, it would be silently, in "tennis shoes" and with a "length of piano wire." 100 He had also been only recently released by local police after they arrested him in possession of a loaded rifle and pistol, and an examining doctor recommended he receive psychiatric help. The jury deliberated less than three and a half hours before acquitting all eight defendants of all charges against them, but by then VVAW had ceased to function as an effective organization. 101