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MLK and COINTELPRO


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Hello all,

I am starting an essay for college on COINTELPRO's against Martin Luther King. I am trying to get as many sources on this as possible. Does anyone know of some good documentary sources online relating to the FBI and King? I need documents and books.

Any help or suggestions would be most appreciated.

All the best,

John

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many docs (suggestion : synchronise to one level for offline content (XP)

http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/

___________

FINAL REPORT OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE TO STUDY GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS WITH RESPECT TO INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES

UNITED STATES SENATE

APRIL 23 (under authority of the order of April 14), 1976

COINTELPRO: THE FBI'S COVERT ACTION PROGRAMS AGAINST AMERICAN CITIZENS

http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/c...lreportIIIa.htm

_____________

enter King as surname for search as many entries are with variants first and second names

http://www.mdah.state.ms.us/arlib/contents/er/sovcom/

many docs from FBI sources, ex FRI personnell worked for the MSC

Edited by John Dolva
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many docs (suggestion : synchronise to one level for offline content (XP)

http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/

___________

FINAL REPORT OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE TO STUDY GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS WITH RESPECT TO INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES

UNITED STATES SENATE

APRIL 23 (under authority of the order of April 14), 1976

COINTELPRO: THE FBI'S COVERT ACTION PROGRAMS AGAINST AMERICAN CITIZENS

http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/c...lreportIIIa.htm

_____________

enter King as surname for search as many entries are with variants first and second names

http://www.mdah.state.ms.us/arlib/contents/er/sovcom/

many docs from FBI sources, ex FRI personnell worked for the MSC

som more links that may help:

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/FBI/Poli...unterintel.html

http://question-everything.mahost.org/Soci...ghtcontrol.html

http://www.well.com/user/jmalloy/gunterand...rces.html#refs2

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Thanks John.

This thing has to be 3,500 words and is due in by the start of May. I will post it up when it's done.

Does anybody have any book suggestions? I'm working off Pepper's 'An Act of State', Anthony Summer 'Private and confidential' and a few other books.

John

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  • 4 weeks later...

Here is a draft of my essay on the COINTELPROs against MLK. I know that this could have been done better, but I have been under time constraints of late.

I wrote the essay on microsoft word, so the footnotes appear to be missing. There are 23 footnotes in total. I will attempt to attach them to this post.

All the best,

John

Counter Intelligence Programs or COINTELPRO’s were used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under it’s director, John Edgar Hoover to monitor, influence and assess organisations, people and parties deemed to be possible threats to the U.S. Government, or at least the general status quo of the country. These programs can not be defined in any blanket way, as the methods employed were numerous and varied. The programs were also, at times, practiced illegally and used to circumvent individuals constitutional rights. COINTELPRO’s were used against members and supporters of the American Communist Party, the Black Panther Party, student activists, peace activists and members of the civil rights movement. The decision to put someone under surveillance ultimately fell to J. Edgar Hoover and it was at his discretion as to what methods of surveillance were to be employed. Hoover’s reasoning for investigating the civil rights movement was often justified by his belief that civil unrest was being stirred up by communists in the guise of civil rights activism. As Dr. Martin Luther King junior became the lynchpin of the civil rights movement, more attention was afforded to him by Hoover and the FBI. Hoover was deeply suspicious of King and thought it possible, if not probable, that King was influenced by communists within his inner circle. With the absence of any diary or memoir by Hoover it is difficult to ascertain whether his hounding of King was due to racism, a distaste for disturbing the social order or a genuine fear of the encroachment of communism into the civil rights movement. Hoover justified his investigation of King and the Southern Christian Leadership conference by alleging to his FBI subordinates that he knew several King associates that were either communists or communist sympathizers. King wrote a doctorate dissertation on the history of Marxism within Black movements, this would also have been a cause for concern for a man as paranoid as Hoover. The FBI investigation of King soon passed the stage of simple intelligence gathering and entered the realm of sabotage. King’s power within the black community, coupled with the emergence of the counter culture, in Hoover’s eyes, put the status quo under threat, so much so that in May 1962 Hoover placed King’s name on ‘Section A of the reserve index’ as a person to be rounded up in the event of a national emergency.#

Following the success of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting rights Act, King turned his attention to the war on poverty. It was King’s contention that one could be equal (or relatively so) under the law, but still not equal in economic terms. King now took up the cause of human rights, instead of civil rights. King had planned to hold a poor peoples march in Washington D.C. in 1968 to highlight the plight of the nations poor. As well as organizing huge demonstrations of this sort, King had also voiced his opposition to the war in Vietnam. These two positions of advocacy prompted an increase in FBI surveillance of King and led them to regard King as an increased threat. It was during 1962 that the FBI began its formal COINTELPRO investigation of Dr.King. The FBI alleged that it knew information “indicating that King’s advisors are Communist party members and that he is under the domination of the CP”.# The committee charged with investigating FBI COINTELPRO’s was the Church Committee, so called after its head, Frank Church. The Church Committee did a lot of work to expose the illegality of the FBI’s actions, but were unable to secure the release of all relevant documents and did not publish the testimony taken under oath during hearings. For these reasons, we can not see the list of names that the FBI purported to have naming Civil Rights leaders and advisors as members of the Communist party. In October of 1962, the FBI began to investigate the SCLC under a similar program known as COMINFIL, which was an investigation to determine to what extent they were under communist influence. The overlap of the COMINFIL and COINTELPRO operations exemplifies Hoover’s fear that covert communism was being practiced in these organisations. Hoover’s own personal racism can not be taken out of the equation, he was well known to have had little admiration for African Americas, indeed some of his closest allies and backers, including oil magnate H.L. Hunt, were segregationists.

The methods employed by Hoover and the FBI are best described by Senator Walter Mondale, who bore witness to the Church Committee and its testimony, “They included wiretapping. They included microphone surveillance of hotel rooms. They included informants. They included sponsoring of letters signed by phony names to relatives and friends and organizers. They involved even plans to replace him with someone else whom the FBI was to select as a national civil rights leader”#. The notion of replacing King with a more favorable civil rights leader is interesting, as the movement did suffer a downturn following King’s death. These are only the methods used that we know of , as attested to in the Church Committee report. It is likely that there were several ‘off the book operations’ conducted, as exemplified in Dr.William Peppers ‘An Act of State’. The legality of these operations was not a question, in fact Attorney General Robert Kennedy sanctioned the bugging of King’s home on the grounds that Hoover believed King to have communist advisors.# The FBI phrased the request so as to allow them to bug King’s home and any other subsequent address. They took ‘subsequent address to mean anywhere that King stayed, and so they had legal authority to bug King’s hotel rooms all over the country. The ultimate aim of the COINTELPROs was to discredit King and the SCLC and to ensure that their support would gain no more momentum. It was only Dr. King who was bugged, but also the SCLC offices, as the organization as a whole was the source of foot soldiers for King was also the place where the FBI suspected most communist sympathizers to be. Perhaps the best known and most shameless ploy of the FBI in their attempts to nullify Dr. King’s influence was the threatening letter they sent to him urging him to commit suicide. The FBI had taped a party, which King had attended, that was sexual in nature. King was barely audible on the tape, so Hoover ordered the FBI laboratory to improve the quality of or doctor the tape to make it more incriminatory for King. The tape was posted to Coretta Scott King from Florida, so as to allay suspicion that it was the Bureau that sent the tape. A follow up letter to King was sent telling him to commit suicide or face a media revelation of his sexual activities.# The letter was sent days before he was due to fly to Sweden to collect his Nobel prize. FBI surveillance of Dr. King extended as far as Sweden, where they bugged his hotel room.# The FBI had indeed gone to great lengths to ensure that King was constantly monitored. It is estimated that approximately 5,000/6,000 people were identified during the wire tapping. They were either in touch with Martin Luther King or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.# One FBI agent involved in the COINTELPROs directed against Dr. King, Arthur Murtagh, has since recounted his memories of the operations on numerous occasions. Murtagh said that there was a daily teletype report to the field office in Atlanta, where most of the operations were orchestrated. Murtagh alone had 18 informants working for him within the SCLC and Martin Luther King’s circle of advisors. Murtagh is adamant that the FBI knew were King was at al times and knew his schedule in advance, “they covered him day in day out”.# The gathering of information on Dr. King itself would not be enough to turn popular opinion against him, it would take media complicity and the assistance of Hoover’s allies to achieve this.

Hoover’s racism and personal vendetta against King is best exemplified by his treatment of King after his death. Hoover wanted to make sure that there would be no martyrdom for Dr. King. In March of 1969 there was a resolution to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday. Hoover recommended briefing members of the relevant committee because “they were in a position to keep the bill from being reported out of committee is they realize King was a scoundrel”.# It seems that Hoover was afraid of King’s influence as much in death as he was in life. The Church committee found evidence of another COINTELPRO to discredit Coretta Scott King and the deceased Dr. King, though the specific details of it were not presented by the FBI. It is apparent that Hoover personally oversaw most of the anti-King activity. Hoover ran a very strict organization and appointed only those who shared his paranoid beliefs to positions of influence. Many FBI agents involved in the COINTELPROs had initially carried out these tasks because of Hoover’s insistence that King was being influenced by communists, however, they soon realized that this was not the case. Hoover’s authoritarian leadership ensured that no subordinates would raise concerns about the illegality of their actions. William Sullivan, assistant director to Hoover made the comment that he “never heard anyone raise the question of legality or constitutionality, never”.# FBI agents were instructed not to listen to any of King’s speeches, lest they become propagandized. They were told that king did not write his own speeches. Although most of the intelligence gathering effort came out of the Atlanta FBI office, a considerable amount was also conducted in Washington D.C. and New York. Hoover used his connections in the media and among wealthy financiers to assist in the demolition of the King persona, but one relationship was more dangerous than any other. J. Edgar Hoover had a close relationship with wealthy oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, who was rabidly right wing and is believed to have funded the John Birch society. Hunt aide, John Curington, says that there was a close relationship between the two, including a direct line red telephone in Hunt’s desk drawer.# Hoover even suggested a former FBI agent, Paul Rothermel, as head of Hunt’s security detail. Hoover frequently met with Hunt to discuss King and also passed documentation to Hunt for his extreme right wing, daily nationally syndicated ‘Lifeline’ radio broadcasts.# Hunt’s other allies included Frank Costello, the mob liaison to Hoover. John Curington also noted that Sam Rayburn and President Lyndon Johnson were long time political assets of Hunt’s. Hunt’s frequent liaison with President Johnson was Booth Mooney, an FBI agent, who also wrote over half of the ‘Lifeline’ broadcasts, including many attacking Dr. King.# Hoover’s personal involvement in the program is again confirmed by a March 24th 1968 memo bearing his own signature, which was designed to influence King to stay at the Lorraine motel on April 3rd, the motel in which he was shot the following day. The memo went from G.C. Moore, Chief of the Racial Intelligence section to William C.Sullivan, Assistant Director in charge of the Domestic Intelligence Division. It recommended placing a news item with the Bureau’s friendly sources, which in part would read as follows,

‘The fine hotel Lorraine in Memphis is owned and patronized exclusively by negroes, but King didn’t go there after his hasty exit [from] the demonstration of March 28. Instead, King decided the plush Holiday Inn Motel, white-owned, operated and almost exclusively patronized, was the place to “cool it”. There will be no boycott of White merchants for King, only for his followers.’#

This would indicate that it was the wish of the FBI to have King staying in the Lorraine motel over this time period and would also indicate that this was where they wished to survey him while in Memphis. There are two reasons for the importance of this document, one being that it was only through the influence of the FBI that Dr. King stayed in the motel in which he was assassinated, the other is that it proves J. Edgar Hoover’s short leash upon projects and programs relating to King.

The FBI’s was well adept at gathering incriminating evidence against Dr. King, but their ability to utilize it, as demonstrated by the letter to Coretta Scott king, was somewhat lacking. The FBI has a number of journalists, editors and newspapers that were deemed reliable and were leaked information intermittently. This system is similar to Operation Mockingbird, which was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency following world war two to plant or identify friendly news sources to either publish favorable information or withhold stories detrimental to the agency. The FBI approached Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post, David Kraslow and Ralph McGill about writing stories about Kin’s sexual activities. It would not be presumptuous to assume that these journalists were considered reliable by the FBI because they had been used before on previous stories. Each of the three turned the stories down. Again, his incident is not only important because of its obvious implications, but because of subsequent related incidents. After Ben Bradlee had turned the story down, he brought it to the attention of Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, who in turn briefed President Johnson about it. Johnson reported Bradlee’s untrustworthiness to Hoover, who was a neighbour and close ally of his.# This would insinuate that Johnson was aware of Hoover’s investigation of King and approved of the leaking of such stories. It is also interesting to note the initial approval by one Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, and the cautiousness of his successor , Nicholas Katzenbach. As previously mentioned, Hoover funneled files and information about King to H.L. Hunt for his ‘Lifeline’ program. ‘Lifeline’ was a 15 minute daily program on 429 stations in the U.S. Hunt spent 2,000,000 on this propaganda between 1967 and 1968 wit money diverted from H.L.H Products, inc.# Following King’s assassination on April 4th Hunt received a phone call from Hoover informing him that he thought it best to call off the ‘Lifeline’ show that evening, which was directed at Dr. King.# At one point William C.Sullivan called in to the editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a relatively liberal publication, and divulged some of their findings to them.# There was a subsequent marked difference in the treatment afforded to Dr. King by that publication. The Atlanta Journal Constitution held a wide readership and could have increased support for King, had the reporting been objective. Media complicity was crucial for the FBI to wage an effective campaign against the Civil Rights movement and played a large role in shaping national perceptions of the movement. At times it was not the FBI’s action that proved detrimental, but rather their inaction. Former FBI agent Arthur Murtagh recounted how Hoover personally put the protection of civil rights activists in Georgia in charge of a racist drunk. While Hoover could be seen to be providing protection to the activists, he would, in fact, cripple the agents within his own organization that were genuinely concerned for the safety of members of the SCLC and other groups.

The presumption would be, knowing the extent of FBI surveillance of King, that the FBI were keeping tabs on King on April 4th 1968, the day of his assassination. One would expect this to be the case, considering the FBI suggested and pressured King into staying in the Lorraine motel. Former FBI agent Arthur Murtagh puts it best when he says “The FBI knew second by second everything that Martin Luther King did for 8 years before he died on a moment by moment basis, every move he made, except they say they don’t know anything about what happened in Memphis.”# Murtagh maintains that the FBI had an apartment in Peach street towers in Atlanta. This apartment was manned 24 hours a day to monitor King and the SCLC. #Not only did King come under pressure through FBI influenced journalists, but he also received an anonymous call repeating the sentiments contained in the news piece.# Dr. King’s room number (306) was also leaked to the press by an anonymous performer. The information was broadcast on television. The orchestration of this campaign in Memphis can not be seen as an isolated case, the FBI would have had a purpose in mind for attracting King to this destination. If the intention was to bring King to a room that was already bugged, the audio tapes of these wiretappings and audio recordings has not been released by the FBI. During a conversation between H.L. Hunt and J. Edgar Hoover, Hunt declared that he could finish King by continually attacking him. Hoover said that the only way to stop King would be to “completely silence” him. Following King’s assassination, Hunt acknowledged to his assistant, John Curington, that Hoover had won that argument.# William C.Sullivan, assistant director traveled to the Atlanta FBI office to coincide with a banquet in honour of King’s Nobel prize. Sullivan had called a field conference for security. A meeting did take place, but it was not on the topic of field security. One agent emerged from the meeting to tell a colleague “They’re going to get Zorro now! Sullivan’s in there and we’re really going to get him!”.# Zorro was King’s code name within the FBI. Such open hostility towards King and genuine enthusiasm for his downfall appears to have been endemic within the Atlanta field office and other sectors of the FBI, including Director J. Edgar Hover and assistant director William C. Sullivan.

An analysis of the COINTELPROs enacted against Martin Luther King shows that there was little, if any, basis to the initial reasoning behind the investigation. The primary reason behind the eight year surveillance of King was the perception that King was a threat, not as an agent of communism, but as a disruptor of the racial status quo. Hoover’s personal vendetta against King and his racism played a significant part in the hounding of Dr. King. Hoover’s control over American society was unrivalled, and King presented a challenge to his authority and his ability to maintain the status quo through the force of a club. Despite the hostility meted out to the FBI following the disclosure of some of the COINTELPRO records, similar operations remain in place today which target black community leaders. The African American rap artist Tupac Shakur was the subject of long standing FBI surveillance due to his anti establishment views and his mother’s previous involvement with the Black Panther Party. Legislation was brought to the U.S. Congress in 2006 in an attempt to uncover what has been termed the ‘new COINTELPRO‘. Many of the methods employed by the FBI in the 60s have now become common practice and the bureau now has the legal right to wiretap phones and carry out unwarranted surveillance under the Patriot Act. While Dr. King’s legacy of non-violent social change lives on in spirit, John Edgar Hoover’s legacy of state surveillance of it’s citizens lives on , and in a legally defined manner.

Bibliography

Theoharis, Athan , The FBI and American Democracy, (2004, Kansas)

Pepper, William , An Act of State, The execution of Martin Luther King, (2003, London)

Lane, Mark , Gregory, Dick , Murder in Memphis, The FBI and the assassination of Martin Luther King, (1993, California)

Who Killed Martin Luther King dir. Michael Parbot, ,

, (1989)

“COINTELPRO: The FBI’s covert action programs against American citizens. Final Report of the select committee to study Governmental operations”, Archival research page of Paul Wolf, ed. Paul Wolf, 2006, 6th May 2007, http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/c...lreportIIIa.htm

Summers, Anthony, ‘Private and confidential: The secret life of J.Edgar Hoover, (1994, London)

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John, last year I collated the data on where the FBI focused its attention and made the following graph*. Unfortunately I seem to have saved it in a lossy format but the unequal emphasis on the left as opposed to the right is stark.

Nice summary BTW. One thing I wonder about is whether you noticed/agree that Watergate, which in a sense is along the lines of a COINTELPRO op, overshadowed the Church committee COINTELPRO revelations. IOW an example of the media prioritising news, in this case making 'Tricky Dicky's' escapades, while shocking and newsworthy, probably surprised few, front page news while the FBI's destructive distortion of the left causes/persons took second stage?

* http://i27.photobucket.com/albums/c168/yan.../COINTELPRO.jpg

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