The Return of COINTELPRO?
The Suppression of Dissent
For 15 years, from 1956-1971, the FBI ran a broad and centrally directed domestic intelligence / counterintelligence program known as COINTELPRO (COunter INTELligence PROgrams). What was deemed a justifiable effort to protect the US from Soviet and Communist threats and infiltration during the Cold War soon devolved into a program for suppressing domestic political dissent and spying on American citizens. Approximately 20,000 people were investigated by the FBI based only on their political views and beliefs. Most were never suspected of having committed any crime.
The reasoning behind the program, as detailed in a 1976 Senate report, was that the FBI had “the duty to do whatever is necessary to combat perceived threats to the existing social and political order.” The fact that the “perceived threats” were usually American citizens engaging in constitutionally protected behaviour was apparently overlooked. The stated of goal of COINTEPRO was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" any individual or group deemed to be subversive or a threat to the established power structure.
The FBI’s techniques were often extreme, including being complicit in the murder and assassination of political dissidents, or sending people away to prison for life. More “moderate” actions used were blackmail, spreading false rumors, intimidation and harassment. It has been argued that the US stands alone as the only Western industrialized democracy to have engaged in such a wide spread and organized domestic surveillance program.
The program only came to an end when it was threatened with public exposure. Or did it?
In a stunning revelation from the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), it appears that COINTELPRO is alive and well. Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, PCJF was able to obtain documents showing how the FBI was treating the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, from its inception, as a potential criminal and domestic terrorist threat. This despite the FBI’s own acknowledgement that the OWS organizers themselves planned on engaging in peaceful and popular protest and did not “condone the use of violence” at their protests.
The documents, while heavily redacted, give a clear picture of how the FBI was using its offices and agents across the country as early as August 2011 to engage in a massive surveillance scheme against the OWS movement. This was almost a month before any actual protests took place or encampments were set up, with the most famous site being New York City’s Zuccotti Park.
The FBI’s documents show a government agency at its most paranoid, considering all planned protests and the individuals involved as potential threats. Most disturbing of all, there is talk (page 61) of being ready to “engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary” and perhaps formulating a plan “to kill the leadership (of the protest groups) via suppressed sniper rifles.”
Furthermore, the documents reveal a close and intricate partnership between the Federal government and banks and private businesses.
On August 19, 2011, the FBI met with representatives of the New York Stock Exchange in order to discuss OWS protests that wouldn’t happen for another four weeks. In September, before OWS got into full swing, the FBI was notifying local businesses that they might effected by protests. It is not clear if while they were on Wall Street the FBI investigated the questionable lending practices and irresponsible behaviour of some of the largest banks on the planet, the direct cause of the worst financial crisis in 80 years.
We are also introduced to a creature called the “Domestic Security Alliance Council,” which according to the federal government is “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector.” A DSAC report tells us that any information shared between US intelligence agencies and their corporate partners should not be released to “the media, the general public or other personnel.”
In an interesting sidebar, 9 days after the PCJF’s embarrassing release of FBI documents, an interesting occurrence was reported by the New York Post. In a story dated December 31, 2012, it was stated that a 27 year old woman and her “Harvard grad and Occupy Wall Street” boyfriend, Aaron Greene, were arrested by the NYPD after an alleged cache of weapons and bomb making explosive were found in their Greenwich Village apartment. And what exactly led the police to this apartment? Was it credible actionable intelligence gathered from the FBI’s massive surveillance and infiltration of a potentially dangerous domestic terrorist group known as OWS? Hardly. New York City police were executing a search warrant related to a credit card-theft case.
But in a story about the same event in the New York Times, it was reported that “police said they did not believe that Mr. Greene was active in any political movements” and said that police had not found any “evidence of a planned terrorist attack” and that they hadn’t “made a connection to any known plot or any connection to any known terrorists,” There is no mention made of the suspect’s alleged ties to the OWS movement reported in the NY Post.
Curiously enough, in a more recent New York Post story it now states that Mr. Greene was a “Nazi-loving Harvard grad” and a reported “Adolf Hitler-wannabe.” No mention is made of his ties to OWS. This author made several attempts to contact the New York Post and the writers of the 2 articles in order to find out how they knew Mr. Greene was an OWS member and activist. I also wanted to find if the New York Post still believed if he was an active OWS member or if he was now only an “Adolf Hitler wannabe.”
The FBI’s stated mission is to “develop a comprehensive understanding of the threats and penetrate national and transnational networks that have a desire and capability to harm us.”
The American people would be far better served if their government expended a fraction of the resources that they have on harassing a non-violent group dedicated to social change and instead investigated and brought to justice the people who are responsible for engineering the destruction of the American economy, and by extension, American society.
You know, the real terrorists.
“COINTELPRO: The FBI’s Covert Action Programs Against American Citizens” Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, Book III, Final report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities, United States Senate, April 23, 1976. Accessed at:
“COINTELPRO: The Untold American Story”, by Paul Wolf with contributions from Robert Boyle, Bob Brown, Tom Burghardt, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Kathleen Cleaver, Bruce Ellison, Cynthia McKinney, Nkechi Taifa, Laura Whitehorn, Nicholas Wilson, and Howard Zinn. Presented to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa by the members of the Congressional Black Caucus attending the conference: Donna Christianson, John Conyers, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Cynthia McKinney, and Diane Watson, September 1, 2001. Accessed at:
“FBI Documents Reveal Secret Nationwide Occupy Monitoring” The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), December 22, 2012. Accessed at:
“Greenwich Village couple busted with cache of weapons, bombmaking explosives: sources” by Jamie Schram, Antonio Antenucci and Matt McNulty, December 31, 2012, The New York Post. Accessed at:
“Manhattan Couple Stored Bomb-Making Items, Police Say” by Wendy Ruderman, December 31, 2012, The New York Times. Accessed at:
“More About FBI Spying” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), June 25, 2010. Accessed at:
“NYC couple arrested after explosive substance find” December 31, 2012, CBS/AP. Accessed at:
“Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy” by Naomi Wolf, December 29, 2012, The Guardian. Accessed at:
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation – Mission” The Federal Bureau of Investigation. Accessed at:
“Village ‘bomber’ planned to blow up Washington Sq. Arch with high-grade explosives: cops” by Jamie Schram and Jessica Simeone, January 10, 2013, The New York Post. Accessed at: