Evil at the FBI
Their evil, racist past-- how much has changed?
... FBI agents were directed to spy on King’s personal life and professional life and disrupt both. Ultimately, the FBI, over the course of more than a decade, collected hundreds of pages of surveillance on King, hours of secret recordings, and a trove of his public work—writings, and speeches alike. It even attempted to tarnish his reputation months after he was assassinated.
Under Hoover’s direction, in the months after the 1963 March on Washington and King’s most famous speech, FBI Assistant Director William Sullivan, head of the Intelligence Division, reported to Hoover that effective exploitation of the information gathered on King, “if handled properly, [could] take him off his pedestal… the Negroes will be left without a national leader of sufficiently compelling personality to steer them in the proper direction.”
King was not alone. Every major advocate for black people in the country had been targeted by the Bureau. In fact, there was little differentiation between ideological lines and black leadership. In a meeting with Lyndon B. Johnson, Hoover said in reference to black nationalist Malcolm X and integrationist King, “we wouldn’t have any problem if we could get those two guys fighting, if we could get them to kill one another off…”
The campaign against King is best understood as a continuum of government policies that pre-date King by decades. The FBI had been, like other American institutions, inextricably tied to the ideology of white supremacy. In the 1930s, everything from the military to restaurants officially discriminated nationwide. Challenges to that archaic and endemic belief were almost always considered subversive. The predecessor to the FBI, the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), targeted the Universal Negro Improvement Association and its leader Marcus Garvey. It also spied on Garvey’s ideological antagonist, W.E.B. Du Bois, as well as the NAACP.
Hoover’s behavior is often viewed as paranoid and even exceptional, but he operated with the full sanction of the wider state. During the civil rights movement, three U.S. presidents: John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon all supported Hoover’s efforts which were codified to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and neutralize” targeted organizations. This would be achieved through various and sundry tools, including illegal activities. COINTELPRO used informants, agent provocateurs, infiltrators, legal and illegal wiretaps, break-ins, false correspondence, and “bad-jacketing,” which was the act of making a legitimate member of a group appear to be a collaborator with the state.
Psychological warfare included calling the parents of young civil rights activists to inform them that their children had been murdered or kidnapped. FBI agents worked with journalists to plant stories in order to discredit leadership and organizations. Across the country, the Bureau collaborated with local police to repress targeted groups. Sharing resources and intelligence, activists were arrested, fired from jobs, expelled from schools and lost business contracts.
COINTELPRO even used switchboard operators and postal workers to spy on citizens, with or without court order. Though there was a special interest in civil rights groups, the FBI used its extensive resources to spy on and antagonize a wide range of communities. The Bureau established categories for various targets, which included everything from the anti-war and women’s liberation movements, to socialists, black nationalists, student groups, journalists, intellectuals, non-violent integrations and revolutionary nationalists. They were separated into the “Agitator Index,” the “Rabble Rouser Index,” and the “Security Index.”