COINTELPRO

I recently saw the film, COINTELPRO 101. As the title suggests, the film is meant as an introductory work, rather than an in-depth examination of the FBI’s secret war on left groups. The film is only 56 minutes long, presumably so it can be shown in classes. While I respect the producers’ intentions, it seems to me that the film should provide more details. For example, it gives the impression that COINTELPRO began in 1960. It actually began in 1956, and its intended target was the Communist Party. I think it is important for people to know this, so they are aware of the historical continuity between the government’s suppression of the CP and the attacks on left groups during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

One thing I did like about the film was that it talked about the FBI’s persecution of Puerto Rican nationalists, a topic that usually doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. It also talked about the FBI’s attacks on the American Indian Movement and the framing of Leonard Peltier for the killings of two FBI agents. There is a lengthy discussion of the FBI’s efforts to destroy the Black Panther Party.

One thing I found questionable was a section devoted to the murder of the Chicano activist, Ricardo Falcon. I couldn’t see the reason for including this, since the film offered no evidence that the FBI were involved. (And I don’t know that there is any evidence that they were.)

The film could have instead discussed the FBI’s attempts to undermine the Socialist Workers Party. This story at least has a happy ending of sorts, since the SWP eventually successfully sued the FBI for its harassment. The late Peter Camejo reported that when he ran for president on the SWP ticket in 1976, the FBI had sixty-six informants working in his campaign. This shows you the lengths they were willing to go to try to quash any political movement outside the two party duopoly.

At the screening I went to, Chuck Hunt, who was an anti-war activist during the 1960’s, got up to talk after the film was over. He pointed out that many of the illegal activities that the FBI carried out under COINTELPRO are now legal thanks to the USA Patriot Act.

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One Response to “COINTELPRO”

  1. Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall Says:

    The other important bit of information is that Cointelpro didn’t end in the 1970s – at least not in Seattle. Cointelpro never ended – at least not in Seattle. During the 1980s the FBI infiltrated CISPES and broke it up twice (documented by the Center for Constitutional Rights). They also infiltrated and broke up the support committee for the African American Museum three times. Then there was the time in 1981 they infiltrated the cannery workers union and collaborated with Marcos agents to gun down two Filipino union organizers named Domingo and Viernes (this came out as a result of a lawsuit filed by the family). And the Seattle postal worker and union activist who was brutally murdered in 1989 – only there was no homicide investigation because US intelligence (the Postal Inspectors) seized the evidence file from Seattle police. And oh yes, in 1997 the murder of the African American race car driver who publicized the fact that the DEA was laundering cocaine profits via the racing circuit.

    I write about my own problems with phone harassment, stalking, and break-ins (as a result of my political activities) in my recent memoir: THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE (www.stuartbramhall.com). I current live in exile in New Zealand.

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