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Cointelpro - the History and Background

Autor:   •  February 3, 2019  •  2,426 Words (10 Pages)  •  611 Views

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it’s power and actually posed a threat to the health and safety of people by lacing fruit with laxatives. Additionally, these illegal actions were not being taken in direct response to a violent threat, but rather, to weaken the support and influence of nationalist groups as a whole.

​Rather than investigate the Black Panther’s supply of weapons, the FBI chose to scrutinize their Free Breakfast for Children Program which they saw as a means of exposing children to Panther Propaganda. The Bureau saw the schools as being “run so that anti-white propaganda can be continued” and believed the children were being taught to hate all police and white men (source). In September of 1970, the Bureau reported that it had anonymously mailed Black Panther Coloring books to the management at the restaurant Jack-in-the-Box to “attempt to impede their contributions to the BPP Breakfast Program” (test 1, page 7). The coloring books contained graphic pictures depicting violent acts being committed towards white people, and the FBI believed that by leading others to believe that this kind of violence was being taught to young children, the support for the Breakfast for Children Program would diminish, weakening the educational system. The FBI which was meant to be an objective investigative agency, was secretly engaging in spreading propaganda intended to turn white support against the black nationalist movement. Education is one of the most important ways of imparting ideas collectively and transforming a society. By preventing black groups from offering education to black children, the government tried to block African Americans from influencing their youth who could potentially mobilize a powerful and lasting resistance against the vestiges of white domination.

​The fact that the FBI targeted the civil rights movement and its leader, the nonviolent Martin Luther King, reveals that defending national security was simply a pretext for the Bureau’s larger goal–to silence the rising voices demanding equality. Shortly before his death in 1968, Martin Luther King was planning a “Washington Spring Project” for which he requested donations in order to feed and house the marchers, most of whom were impoverished. In a report published on March 26th, the Bureau lay out plans to publish reports that falsely stated King had received enough donations from churches in D.C. to continue the march and no more were needed; this plan titled the “Cooper News Report” was intended to “derail the Martin Luther King spring march” (source,txts). Martin Luther King, a well-known ardent supporter of non-violence could not have proven a threat to national security, yet the FBI still maintained a file on his activities and conspired to block not just his activism but also his humanitarianism. Furthermore, the FBI’s actions reveal that they were not just spying on those individuals or groups with a history of violence but on all black leaders, even if they were moderate and pacifist in an attempt to prevent any uprising by the black community. Recognizing that the civil rights movement posed no threat to national security, the FBI attempted to justify its scrutiny of the movement, writing “the Bureau must strive to eliminate the facade of civil rights and show the American public the true revolutionary plans and spirit of the Black nationalist movement” (source, txts 249). The FBI’s association of the black nationalist movement with the nonviolent civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King exposes the deeply racially motivated nature of its investigations. All black groups were bunched together and labeled as a threat or “revolutionary” with scant regard to the differences between the groups. This type of blanket labeling of all members of a group occurs when individuals are targeted simply for belonging to a racial group as during the Japanese internment in America, a period in which all Japanese were targeted as being potential traitors. Such events are clearly a display of government supported racism.

​In their quest to cut off funding for black nationalist groups, the FBI grossly violated the privacy of individual citizens, jeopardizing their personal lives. A report written by the Los Angeles division proposed to publicize the pregnancy of Jean Seberg, a well know white movie actress, to humiliate her and injure her reputation. The report justifies this action, noting that she had been a financial supporter of the Black Panther Party, deserving her to be “neutralized”. (source txt, 13). The FBI was acting not as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but rather, as the Federal Bureau of Interception. The actions of the FBI impacted her personal life and career and her basic rights of liberty and justice were grossly trampled upon as she was not free to decide who she chose to support. The Bureau surreptitiously threatened those who stood by organizations they opposed, and this is a blatant violation of an individual’s freedom of expression that is guaranteed by the constitution.

​The Federal Bureau of Investigation is known even to this day to be the nation’s foremost national security organization, and its mission is to protect and defend the United States against terrorist threats, as well as uphold and enforce criminal laws. However in certain instances, the FBI has failed in this duty, and has violated the very tenets its stands to protect; the COINTELPRO papers on black extremist groups is an ideal example of this failure. The argument has arisen that nationalist groups such as the Black Panther Party and Nation of Islam threatened violence and provoked law enforcement which called for the interference of the FBI. However, upon assessing the various circumstances surrounding their reports, it is clear the Bureau overstepped its boundaries in dealing with extremist groups, and used the pretext of protecting national security in order to carry out covert and often illegal activities. The FBI was an agency created to protect national security. Instead, they broke the law, flouted the constitutional rights of the citizens, and on many occasions, actually threatened the security of American citizens by deliberately causing conflict between varied groups of people. The FBI failed to serve its purpose and do its job in an honorable manner. Unless a system of checks and balances is put into place, Americans continue face the risk of unfettered abuse of power by government agencies like the FBI. The economic, social, and psychological impact of the Bureau’s racist policies can be seen even today. In 2016 the “Black Lives Matter” movement is gaining rapid momentum, a clear indication that as a society, America still remains divisive; for a movement against injustice to gain traction, injustice must exist. True equality has eluded us. Half a century later, a widely supported presidential candidate


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